Will the seas be kind to me? …Yes and No.

7 Nov

Little Marci...big Ship.

For our second night in Punta Arenas, we had the pleasure of sleeping on the Gould, that is, the Research Vessel (RV) Lawrence M. Gould, AKA my water taxi to Palmer Station.  The LMG, owned by Edison Chousest Offshore, was build in 1997 as a ‘multi-diciplinary research platform’ for year-around polar operations.  It primarily supports research in the Antarctic Peninsula and is the main transportation for staff and cargo between South American ports and Palmer Station.

If you’ve been following along, you know that my second night in PA was another late night, so crawling into bed had a whole new meaning when it was on the top bunk of a state room on the LMG.  Thankfully, I had quit drinking early enough in the night to be able to even find my room on the boat.

How could I not try a place with the name like this?

The following morning came around way too quickly, but I had made plans so I was up and ready to go by 9am.  I met some friends to head to Chocolatta, a quaint little cafe with lots of homemade goodies and delicious hot beverages.  Some of the Palmer staff highly suggested this place and really talked up the BYO Hot Chocolate.

The infamous BYO Hot Chocolate...it just makes me feel warm and toasty inside.

This BYO drink was quite the experience.  Fortunately, we had someone with us that schooled us on the process.  You receive a bowl full of dark chocolate ‘nuggets,’ a glass of hot milk, and of course a little tea cookie on the side.  You add as much as of the chocolate to your hot milk and let it sit and melt.  You stir and drink.  It’s this creamy, luscious, chocolatey, mouthwatering concoction that is so rich, you can only drink one sip at a time.  It’s AMAZING!  So, even though I was up much earlier than I should be on a non-workday, this beverage was a great start.

Knowing we needed to be back on the boat by early afternoon to set sail, I took advantage of getting more fresh air (on land) and walked around town a bit more.  I stopped at the grocery store and picked up a few treats (of course not knowing what they were, but the packaging made them look tasty).   I headed back to the ship and got settled into my room.

Remember bunbeds? I am not so excited now that I am an adult and NOT at camp.

The desk...that I will do all of great thinking (okay-maybe not) and our 'closets.' Notice the latches that keep our items securely inside? They are meant to remain closed when the boat starts 'a-rockin.'

The loo; small, but clean. And unbeknownst to me, a place I would become intimately close with.

After getting situated in my new pad, it was time for another safety and security briefing.  We learned about the different signals we would hear and what they would indicate in the event of an emergency.  We also tried out our ‘floatcoats’ in the event we needed to evacuate. 

Judy, our friendly logistician, modeling the latest runway fashionable floatcoat.

These sexy outfits were designed to keep us fairly dry in the unfortunate event we were in the water.  They came with gloves, attached booties, and all sorts of other safety features.  We also got a chance to check out the lifeboats. 

This orange beast would keep us safe in rough waters...or so I am told.Inside the orange beast...it's almost spacious inside and VERY clean.

 
These lifeboats were designed to hold 44 people for several days.  They looked small for so many people, but I was comforted in the fact that the crew were very confident and knowledable in how to manuever these water vessels. 
 
Shortly after the briefing, we set sail and began our journey south.  

What lies ahead...open seas.

The planned course to take us to Palmer Station was scheduled to take five days, 647 nautical miles (744 land miles), arriving on Saturday, September 17th.  We would head east through the Straits of Magellan, south through the Drake Passage, and then along the Antarctic Peninsula to Palmer Station.  The amount of time we would be at sea would greatly depend on the weather conditions. 
 

Such a nice view in the later afternoon on Day One.

 
The rest of the afternoon on Tuesday was pretty much smooth sailing.  There were movies watched, card games played, and a few of us indulged in some workout time on the ships’ gym.  Running was challenging, but a fun experience.  Dinner time came and I had the opportunity to sample boat cuisine.  It was tasty.  I was pleasantly suprised and hopeful for the next few days.  The evening brought on more movies and card playing.  I could tell that this was going to be an interesting few days. 
 
Day Two:  I woke up rather early after an okay night’s sleep.  Not only sleeping on the top bunk, but sleeping on a moving ship took some adjustment.  I constantly had the feeling I was going to roll right off the top bunk.  Since I was feeling adventurous, I decided to shower.  This too, took some getting used to.  Let’s just say that it’s a good thing there were the ” OH SH*T” bars available in the shower.  Since waking up, my stomach was not feeling 100%.  I decided that a very light breakfast of a banana and some graham crackers would be appropriate.  I headed to the Lounge and threw in Airplane (the 80’s movie with Leslie Nielson).  I thought it would keep me smiling and help me in feeling better.  Well, it didn’t last too long, and neither did breakfast.  After about 10 minutes into the movie, I politely excused myself and started my prayer to the porcelain god.  Fortunately, I made it to my room before the prayer session began.  I never thought that a banana and/or graham crackers could do so much damage coming up, but I was done for.  Bearing in mind my current status, I decided a nap would be a good move.  I put on my headphones and some relaxing music and went to my ‘happy place’ in my head.  I ended up sleeping until the early afternoon and felt a bit better when I woke up.  I am always a fan of the nap.  The waters were still smooth when I woke up, but my stomach was still a bit iffy. 
 
During the afternoon, we had a drill to practice mustering in the proper location as if there was a ‘man overboard’ call.  Just as a reminder, we discussed what would happen in the event of a real emergency.  Even though this drill interrupted my valuable napping time, it was nice to know the crew took these drills seriously. 
 
That  afternoon, I joined in a game of Spades; well atleast the explanation of how to play.  We were gathered in the dining room and learning the rules.  I thought I was feeling better so I thought I could play.  Again, I was wrong.  Immediately after the first practice hand was dealt, I politely excused myself and headed back to my room.  And just in time, I prayed again to the porcelain god.  The crazy thing was that I hadn’t eaten anything since this mornings incident.  It wasn’t pleasant.  Napping was again, the natural progression following my prayer session.  As things were going, this was going to be a very religious experience. 
 
Later that evening, I got some fresh air off the stern and it was really thinking I was feeling better.  I was able to remain vertical long enough to watch a movie, but that was my limit.  I was in bed before 10pm. 
 
Day Three:  I slept really well last night and was thinking I was turning the corner and things would improve from here.  To be proactive, I took the recommended antiseasickness drug, meclizine.  It was known to put folks into a bit of a stuper, but should make the seasickness effects subside.  I even tempted fate and ate some toast with jelly.  I was pleased that it was all good and the toast didn’t make a reappearance.  I spent most of the day watching movies, napping, doing Sudoku, and frequently getting some fresh air.  It was pretty cool to see the water, snow, ice, and conditions of the boat while we were in the Drake Passage. 

It was COLD outside.

Cool views of the ice as we traveled.

Pancake Ice...isn't it really spectacular looking. Boy...I love nature!

 
Most of the day, I laid low since I was still not 100% yet.  Fortunately, I was able to keep the toast down AND remain vertical.  This was good news and I was feeling optimistic.  Still feeling well into the evening, I even tried some Ramen noodles.  And I had success.  I was feeling so much better that I stayed up watching movies until midnight feeling like Wonder Woman.  I was now invincible.  Okay, not really, but feeling so much better than a few days ago. 
 
The strange thing about not feeling so hot is that our time in the Drake Passage was extremely calm.  There were some small swells, but nothing compared to the horror stories I’d heard about folks being thrown out of bed or off the couch with 50 foot swells.  People talk of times when you can’t do anything but lie in bed because the seas are so rough. 
 
The Drake Passage is the body of water that connects the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean with the southern part of the Pacific Ocean and extends into the Southern Ocean.  The 500 mile wide passage is the shortest crossing from Antarctica to the rest of the world.  Although it’s a great area for seeing wildlife, it’s also known for it’s extreme conditions being known as one of the roughest stretches of ocean.   The reason for such trecherous conditions are due to fact that the fast moving Southern Ocean is squeezed between the continental land masses of South America and Antarctica.   It’s even referred to as either the Drake Lake, being calm and smooth (relatively speaking) or the Drake Shake (you can imagine what that means).  Being three full days into this boat ride, I was pleased to say that we were enjoying the Drake Lake.  I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if we experienced the Drake Shake.
 
Day Four: Sleep was slowly getting better.  I was trying to ’embrace’ the gentle rocking while I was in bed.  The beds were not meant for great lumbar support, so I occassionally would wake up pretty stiff, but I was tough.  I could just walk it off now that I was feeling better.  The happy state I was in encouraged a shower (it’s about time-right?).  It felt so good.  I also indulged in a banana again (I know-shocking!) and some cereal.  I was also still taking the meclizine.  I had no issues saying YES to these drugs. 
 
Since I was feeling better today, I ventured outside more, even heading up to the Bridge to check out the views and find out more about where we were and how we were going to get to Palmer.
 
Sights from the Bridge:

On the Bridge...where all the action happens. The Captain and some of his crew.

 

A view from the Bridge

 
 

This is what is called a 'bergie bit,' a part that has broken off of an ice berg. Pretty sweet looking!

 

This is like right out of a National Geographic series. It was breathtaking.

 
To maintain my feel good status, I made sure to fit in nap time, a few movies, and some card playing today. 
 
Later in the evening from the Bridge:

Although it was cloudy, the scenery was still incredible.

Not sure why the lights were on, but it created a great photo op.

 
 

A few from behind the bridge...the waters look so calm and peaceful.

 
It was later in the evening that we were informed that our five day adventure would now be a six day trip.  There was a GPS station that we were going to pass that needed some maintenance.  Depending on the weather conditions, we would only be delayed one day and plan on arriving at Palmer on Sunday morning.
 
Day Five:  We started our Saturday morning with Boating One class.  This is the class that is required for all folks who will ever sit in a boat, recreational or otherwise while at Palmer.  The class reviewed the basics on what a boat should contain, reviewed the boundaries of the boating area, and how to access the emergency caches in the event you can’t make it back to the station.  This got me really excited just thinking about ‘recreational boating.’   I mean how many jobs allow you to cook during the day and go boating in Antarctica during the evening?  It’s really the good life. 
 
After school was out, I decided that it was time to eat with others during meal times and try real food.  It’s been several days since that had happened since the smell of food alone would made me nauseous.  I’d been fine so far with eathing Ramen, crackers, and the occassional bowl of cereal when my body told me I was hungry.  I was nervous about this, but feeling like I was ready.  And thankfully, all went well.  I ate some rice (which I now found out was available at EVERY meal-for people like myself) and some veggies.  Everything remained in tact and I felt okay.  I do think the drugs helped, too!  
 
The rest of the day was filled with more movies, more card playing and more napping.  The views outside were pretty limited and it was getting colder the farther south we traveled.  
 
Day Six:  I woke up early in preparating for our arrival.  I showered (and boy that felt so good) and ate.  It’s amazing how much better I was doing.  I decided I didn’t need the drugs any longer, but had some with me just in case.  We crept closer and closer to Palmer and finally arrived around 9am. 

Morning views prior to seeing Palmer Station.

 
 

More cool ice...the colors were spectacular.

 
 

As we got closer, the wildlife began to appear.

 
 

You can barely see the station, but it's there. And did you notice the big glacier in the backdrop? Yeah, that's in our backyard.

 
 

The first view of Palmer Station..my new temporary home...it's cute.

One of the fuel takes with the well known Palmer Station symbol.

As we pulled into the pier, we were greeted by the Winter folks, all dressed in their red, fashionalbe float coats.  They pulled us in and tied us up.  We received a greeting by the winter station manager and off we went to be orientated. 

LET THE FUN BEGIN…
 
    
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One Response to “Will the seas be kind to me? …Yes and No.”

  1. Denise August 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    Great descriptions! it read like I was there with you.

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