I enjoyed another silky sleep and woke refreshed and excited about the possibilities for today.
When I drew back the curtains this morning, at first, I noticed the green-grey leaden sea with the occasional white lacy edge on some of the rollers. I stepped out onto the balcony and knew there was a spot of mild wind, although in my thick white Polant bathrobe it wasn’t cold. The further south we travel today the stronger that wind is likely to be, and the more the temperature is likely to reduce. Since I normally live in the Roaring 40s there are no surprises for me, but I suspect some passengers may be bothered by the wind. One man, that I met a few days ago, has been under the doctor with mild seasickness for the past 36 hours so I hope the medications will have settled him – the future is only one of higher crests and deeper troughs, and more imbalance for susceptible stomachs. I suspect what I am seeing this morning is as good as it gets after the almost flat calm of yesterday. As the moments pass, more white crests cap the rollers across the seemingly endless sea. These are becoming the norm. Have a look here and compare with the short video of the sea made at this time yesterday.
A full day’s program out of the cabin started this morning with my normal oats and fruit breakfast, then the stretching class extended me in ways that yesterday’s class did not. I couldn’t face the subsequent Pilates class feeling enough was enough for the moment (maybe I will use the treadmill in the gym later- well I have looked at it and that didn’t burn the calories, so some action is required there).
It has been a slow rush all day with events to attend and things to do one after the other. Following breakfast, we listened to a mandatory briefing on the protocols associated with the IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tourism Operators) and Antarctic Treaty matters in general, and I thought of Andrew and his PhD thesis covering the negotiations associated with the changing Antarctic protocols and treaties last century.
The focus then changed to the means for travelling onto shore and back to the ship. We learnt about the processes to access and use the Zodiac crafts. At that point we received our life jackets and went off to adjust them to size. Being warm and safe is paramount even if the look isn’t beautiful.Soon after, our onshore boots were fitted and distributed, and we had extensive coverage on bio-security practices which will be required of us by South Georgia Island’s (read British) governor (their government is based on the Falklands Islands thousands of kms away and only a governor lives on SGI). With tiny feet in comparison to large calves I am wearing a boot that almost has room for my foot again, and the leg sides are folded down in half. I hope not to trip – you know the outsized shoes that clowns tend to wear; think about those and you will have some idea of the ‘look’. That is, the boot will arrive before I do. I had just enough time to race up to the ship bridge which was open to guests for the only time this voyage; had a chat with the Captain and learnt we won’t be the first tourist ship into the South Georgia Islands. Another is already there but thankfully it will leave before we arrive so we can pretend we are the first after winter – unless there are footprints.
Then there are non-consequential details like the flag at the stern is the flag of France but at the bow it is the flag of Brittany; and the flags must be replaced each week because they become wind torn. Have a look at what I saw today here. Found the pigeon holes on the bridge contained flags for many countries.Liked seeing some of the rules for bilge waters, food wastes, and more being carefully prescribed.Then I was back to eating – lunch – more lovely vegetables and salads. Phil and Jenny from Canberra were very good company.
A stall selling oversized postcards related to the Antarctic enticed me. Three lucky people (the photos show gorgeously pristine vistas and are stunning) can expect to receive a card stamped in Antarctica. It will be interesting to see how long they take to arrive in Oz.
Mid-afternoon I took all the pieces of outerwear and bags (which are not brand new and never used), that I expect to take to shore, for mandatory bio-security cleaning. Vacuuming and more. My back pack has never been so clean!
The 5.30pm cha cha class allowed me to revisit my cha cha skills. Possibly handled this dance class better from prior experience than at my debut with Salsa dancing yesterday. But with the rolling of the boat, when you are mid step, the strangest things can happen. Loads of fun. Exhausted at the end, grabbed a sparkling wine (which the bartender pointed out was actually Champagne), and drifted out the back of the boat to see what one of the naturalists was photographing/filming. He was watching the medium sized Sooty Albatross not flying at all but drifting on all the air currents – just like a cyclist in Le Tour de France gets into the slipstream of a front rider and takes a rest. I watched her/him for 20 or more minutes and even half an hour later s/he was gliding past my cabin balcony from time to time. While out there the naturalist also pointed out petrels and prions. Marvellous!!!!
It had to come – today’s schedule announced the Captain’s Gala evening with a welcome cocktail followed by a Gala dinner where Veuve Clicquot would be served. During the day I sounded out an Israeli couple who I quite liked and they were not much for fancy formal dinners either, so we agreed to meet at the cocktail reception and then let others go to the main dining room and we would go to the smaller more casual restaurant. Well the dressing up of the staff and of some women and men had to be seen to be believed. Lots of silk and classic evening wear styles. By contrast the Australians dressed with verve and colour and looked contemporary. Although not me in my comfortable forever travelling clothes. But I did get to chat and be photographed with the Captain.The Veuve Clicquot flowed, the canapes were colourful (although none vegan – I didn’t care. I am not moving enough to need the amount of vegetables I am eating at meals anyway), there were speeches mostly in French and the English French was often almost as opaque. As much as I would have liked to photograph people, I did get a twinge that told me it could be invasive. Meanwhile I have been befriended by some Indonesians (that I keep meeting and who call me by my name, but I always forget theirs), accompanied by Australian Greg, and we had a chatty time.
Eventually, that whole tedious glamour business was over, and I met my Israeli ship-board friends Tagita and David. Both professional architects running a business out of Haifa and Tel Aviv. I learnt a lot about Israeli history and for the first time I have some inkling of the true complexity of the problems both Israel and Palestine have. I had always thought that post World War II ‘the world’ created the two states. I had not understood that the colonialist forces of particularly England and France had been manipulating and determining all sorts of powers in that area for the preceding century. For me it was a history lesson and one I found fascinating. We agreed to talk about more pleasant things next time we meet.
I am very glad to have my writing to occupy me between events. Tagita perhaps feels a little trapped because she is eager to be doing or learning more things; she is not negative simply keeping her eyes open for more. I guess we both expected more lectures on board each day, and for them to be delivered by seasoned experts.
Like my early-to-bed nights recently, yet again I missed the after-dinner movie even though connected to the theme of this voyage, and I missed the late evening piano recital.
Note below the band where the ‘roaring forties’ winds operate. In a day or so we will be cruising through the ‘furious fifties’ further south; our first destination South Georgia Island is situated within that band (a white dot way east of the bottom of Argentina on this map).