Friday, December 30, 2011

Antarctica Day 1 - Ushuaia, Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

People do not decide to be extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things”
--- Sir Edmund Hillary

I find it very odd that today I am leaving for Antarctica. I don’t know why because it’s as easy as buying a package vacation to some Caribbean all inclusive snore fest. Just saying Antarctica conjures up thoughts of adventure and mystery. Regardless today we set off for the land of ice and penguins.

Normal checkout time of the Cruz del Sur hostel is 10.  I did not need to be on the dock until 4 so they let me hang around in the common area, use the WiFi and cook my lunch. I left at 1:30, made a very important 20 minute phone call at 2:00 and then wandered down to the pier.  I had all my paperwork and vouchers ready to go and oddly enough a few butterflies in my belly. Check in was a breeze, tossing my bags onto a scanner and I was waved through. A second full scan 20 feet later (?) with the most old and bored drug sniffing dog on the planet sent me on my way. I think if that dog did actually sniff anything out his heart rate would have increased and he would have dropped dead right there on the spot. My ID was not checked until I arrived at the ship so no vouchers were really needed.  However they took and are holding my passport for security reasons. Security reasons!! How about my Passport separation anxiety bitches!!
My double room is big enough and I am sharing it with a German named Wolfgang, how awesome is that? A German named Wolfgang.  I have the top bunk which has a portal so I can look at the ocean watch the swells and it brings some light into the room. I am not sure about getting into that bunk during high seas or after to much time in the bar but I have no choicve. The shower is hot, the tap water is drinkable and the bar is open. There is no Wifi so I will be cut off from the world for 10 days.
The MV Ushuaia built in 1970 and is and was originally a research vessel so it does not have a tourist feel to it. The ship being smaller than most allows us to get into too places that none of the larger ships can get to, whatever that means.

We left right on time, 6pm and everyone myself included were running around the ship checking it out, meeting others and taking way to many photos or nothing in particular. We had our welcome briefing with champagne and snacks. We were introduced to the crew and the doctor got the biggest round of applause. Take your sea sickness pills because when we leave the Beagle Channel and get into the Drake Passage, some of the worst waters in the world. We were to get there around 5 am and the swells could get to 10 metres....that is 30 freaking feet! I did not have any pills but was given a few patches that contained Dramamine. You put them behind your ear so I am looking like all the other fools walking around with a patch behind my ear. The things you do!

We also had a security briefing which like all security briefings nobody was paying attention. We did have a “live drill” and the siren scared the crap out of me even as I was expecting it. The drill seemed silly as we waddled around with over sized life jackets but the importance was obvious.
It was a great feeling to be cruising towards Antarctica. The waters were calm, it was a nice evening and there was a sunset. Little did I know that this would be the last sunset I would be seeing for the next 10 days. I never even thought of 24 hours of daylight as we moved south.
** Fun fact of the day. If you fall into the ocean you have between 10 and 15 minutes before hypothermia sets in followed by death, depending on the person**

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