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Saturday
Nov272010

Southbound on the LM Gould vessel

As I type on my laptop in the “muster room,” the living room of the ship, I have to grab books and notepads, which keep sliding across the table as the ship rolls back and forth. Undulates. It’s very quiet here, despite the 34-odd passengers and crew members.  I suspect several are sick in their rooms or napping under the influence of anti-nausea drugs. Luckily, my Transderm Scop Patch – or sheer luck—is keeping seasickness at bay, though I’m feeling groggy and very dry mouthed.

We’re riding through the 1,000-kilometer-wide Drake Passage portion of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which flows from west to east. We’re heading to the Western Antarctic Peninsula, and ultimately to Palmer Research Station on Anvers Island, where we’re expected to arrive on Monday and where I’ll stay for two weeks.  We’re now closer to the Peninsula than to Cape Horn. Last night I watched pods of Magellanic penguins  frolicking in the boat’s current,  as well as snowy Sheathbills catching the boat’s air current, and gray-brown albatross swooning in the wind.

I had braced myself to be hurled out of my twin bunk bed (I took the bottom bunk for its easier escape features in case seasickness overcame me) last night once the Passage’s notoriously huge swells kicked in.  It didn’t happen, though any unsecured luggage, water bottles and wastebaskets did slide and bounce their way across the tiny room. As one who has avoided being on a boat-for more than a couple hours (put me instead in a kayak for hours), I’m surprised I’m holding out. Beyond the drugs, I attribute my good fortune so far to the eclectic, generous and fun cluster of scientists, technicians and other crew members, as well as two other journalists, Jennifer Bogo and Jane Qui, and a poet named Kate Coles.

Several crew members have worked together for years on this and other vessels. They consider it more their home than wherever they live in the U.S. or elsewhere.  “This group puts the ‘fun’ in “dysfunctional,” quipped Kris Merrill, an emergency medical technician who, at 28, has already worked and lived on Antarctica vessels for a few years. “I’d consider this my home more than anywhere else.” She was ending her stint on a different LM Gould cruise just as we were boarding the boat.

Among the other characters who call the Gould are Herb Baker. Many consider him the most important crew member not because he’s the MPC (that’s Marine Projects Coordinator), which means he takes care of just about everything on the boat. Rather, it’s because he’s also the Chief Latte Maker. The one latte machine sits securely in his office. As he was demonstrating how to make a latte yesterday someone came in and slipped him some chocolate. “I guess you could say people bribe me for good coffee,” he quipped. “They know I love chocolate.”

The tone on the boat is alternately silly, serious and sleepy. Yesterday Herb quickly gathered everyone in the muster room for an emergency drill: what to do if we are forced to abandon the ship. While waiting for stragglers to come, Melissa Rider, a biologist who’s here to conduct a census of Adelie and other penguins on the Peninsula, said deadpan: ”Does anyone know how to circumcise a whale?” Pause. “Send down four skin divers.”

Here's a shot of the ship docked at Palmer from the NSF web site. 



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Reader Comments (1)

Susie,
We missed you and Tom at the Dunes for Thanksgiving, but loved your thoughts about your mom. Therese read them to us - just beautiful! It was another "best ever" Thanksgiving - tons of food, walks, tennis, basketball, bocce ball, Settlers of Cataan, and a new game called "Werewolf" that took center stage for much of the weekend. Well, actually, I'd say Sarah and 0.1 truly took center stage - 0.1 was very, very active!
We're enjoying following along on this brand new adventure of yours via your blog posts - your life seems to be a neverending unfolding adventure! In the photo you posted, that Extreme Weather gear that you're wearing doesn't seem to have much bulk to it, but it must be warm - you're smiling. I had no idea you are so prone to motion sickness, but it sounds like you are doing fine - maybe even better thatn most! Good luck with the exploring, the writing, and the rocking and rolling...
Take care,
Charlene

November 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlene

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