Well today was an absolute write off. The tablets I’m taking for seasickness absolutely floor me. I actually take them for overnight bus rides because firstly they let me read on the bus without risking pebble dashing the seat in front of me with my partially digested dinner, but they also ease me gently into a coma. The trouble is the drowsiness stays with you for several hours the next day. I must have left dinner and gone to bed at around 8pm and I still managed to sleep through breakfast. So did Tarrant, she’s taking different tablets but they still temporarily lobotomise her.
She’d popped into the room after dinner to bring me a lemon and ginger tea and to Drakeproof the room which was a good job or I think everything would have ended strewn across the floor. I know I nearly did. I woke up several times sliding around my mattress, then the hangers sliding around the wardrobe woke me up, then a book slid off the side and quite frankly, fuck the Drake Passage.
It was gone 9.30am by the time we managed to keep our eyes open for long enough to leave the room for a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits to see us through until lunch. There was hardly anyone in the lounge and apparently there wasn’t a good turn out for breakfast. Keith had postponed his morning lecture on the climate of Antarctica due to the conditions too. The ship was violently rolling and I silently congratulated myself on taking yet more tablets, albeit different ones which you dissolve under your tongue and are meant to taste like strawberry. Obviously whoever decided that had never eaten a fucking strawberry.
Sarah didn’t cancel her lecture, however, so we got to learn a bit more about humpback whales and their breeding and feeding habits. The southern hemisphere whales breed between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn in the winter then in summer they head south to Antarctica for feeding. The northern hemisphere whales breed between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer then head north in the summer to feed in the Arctic. It’s pretty rare that these whales switch hemisphere, and the songs the males sing vary according to which coast of which continent of which hemisphere they breed in.
After lunch we went back to the cabin for a nap which ended up being over two hours long. I regret nothing. We were awake in time to watch Katie’s fascinating lecture on the Antarctica Treaty of 1959 then we had the traditional evening briefing from Mario who assured us the wind was looking much better and hopefully it’d be calmer but I’ll believe that when I see it. I already miss Mario’s voice in the morning, he only wakes us up on operation days and they were finished. You can hear his smile as he speaks, even over the PA, he’s such a lovely bloke.
Massive kudos to the galley staff too, I asked them how they coped with this and they just shrugged and said it wasn’t even that bad today. They’re carrying huge trays of food as the ship pitches and rolls, no fucks given. Tonight at dinner the ship would suddenly lurch every now and then and we’d lose a jug of water or something. Apparently this morning they were taken by surprise and lost a third of their plates. I was quite thankful the table was bolted down and the chairs were chained to the floor or we’d all have ended up across the room, likely wearing our lamb chops as a hat.
Y’know, I’d been gazing out across icy bays at our ship with adoration. I’d grown so fond of our temporary home, I loved being on board it and I’ve got so many photos of it. Today though? Today all ships can fuck right off and if I never set foot on one of the floaty bastard demon devices never again it’ll be too soon.
Considering the amount I slept yesterday I’m pretty chuffed with that fact I slept like a cat last night. I woke up actually quite refreshed and the Drake had stopped trying to relocate our belongings so we’re calling it a win. The calmer conditions meant the lectures could go ahead too so Keith told us all about ice cores and climate change which was equal parts fascinating and terrifying, and Katie walked us through Shackleton’s doomed 1914 expedition on board the Endurance. What an absolute dude.
After the ship was trapped in pack ice and crushed he took four other men on a tiny lifeboat across some insane seas to get from Elephant Island to South Georgia where they then crossed the island over the mountains on foot in the middle of fucking winter, then tried four times to get back to Elephant Island to rescue his crew. He never gave up, and whilst one chap lost half his foot to frostbite there wasn’t a human life lost.
We divided our time between lectures, wandering out on deck to admire the Beagle Channel which we reached today, and starting drinking at a very respectable 2pm. I’d been trying to be a bit careful with booze on this trip, being acutely aware that I was on a ship and I’m a lightweight and I wanted to be able to enjoy the activities, but fuck it. This was our last night and we absolutely made the most of it.
We were in port by dinner time and you do have the option to leave the ship and go out in Ushuaia but nah, fuck that. We had a perfectly good bar here. We stuck around. Craig, the ship’s musician, was on top form. He knows his stuff and he knows how to get a crowd going. It was such a good night and a great way to see everyone off. I mixed several drinks until I realised if I drank much more my brain cells would leak out of my ear and I slunk off around midnight.
I feel like everything about this tour has fallen into place. Sure, other ships might have had better conditions and done more landings but what they didn’t have were these exact humans on board. The staff have been phenomenal from the expedition crew to the galley staff, housekeeping to the guys who help you on and off the zodiacs and no doubt do a hundred other essential things. But it’s the other guests, the people we shared these few days and these incredible experiences with. Everyone always says they’ll keep in touch but I genuinely hope we all do, and not just because my existing friends will disown me because I won’t stop banging on about Antarctica.
It was about 2am when Tarrant stumbled to bed this morning and I know this because I got up for a wee and thought, “She’s going to be fucked if she only gets four hours sleep” minutes before she came in. To be fair she functioned quite well at breakfast, as did the others that stayed up drinking and dancing until the wee hours.
This was the moment none of us were looking forward to. Disembarkation day. It was emosh, guys. We said goodbye to our new friends, the expedition staff waved us off onto the bus and I genuinely had to force drops of fluid back into my eyeholes before anyone saw. Traitorous tear ducts!
We’re staying slightly out of town again on account of the fact renting an apartment was cheaper than two dorm beds. Nowhere was open when we were deposited all hungover and forlorn outside Hotel Albatros, wondering what we were going to do with our days now we didn’t have Lyn, Keith, Sarah, Katie and the rest to give us lectures and tell us cool shit about awesome things. Then we proceeded to spend much of the day stood in some manner of queue or other. Welcome back, then.
It took an hour to collect the cash we’d sent to Western Union and over ninety of your Earth minutes to buy a fucking bus ticket. I’m glad we didn’t fuck it off in favour of naps though, we got the last two seats out of Ushuaia on our chosen day. We popped to the shops for groceries now we had to fend for ourselves again, stood in yet another queue, then shuffled off to our home for the next few days to try and process everything that had happened to us. Oh, and an old woman randomly hit Tarrant with a stick and shouted at us in Spanish so we’re definitely back in Argentina now and ready for the next leg of the trip.
🇦🇶 🇦🇷 The Drake Passage, Beagle Channel & Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina