Sunday, March 14, 2010

Any Port in a Storm

The Drake continues to shake, though at breakfast only two glasses break. No tables are empties of their contents. People begin to recover.

The dinner that was so haphazardly glossed over, yesterday, now comes back to my memory as one that was fraught with problems and disaster. Unlike the first breakfast, no chairs broke and no people were sent flying over tables – however, wine bottles, and glasses, did smash to the floor as the boat pitched. Near the end of supper as the service staff was stacking up dishes on a table to clear them away, that table's cloth was frictionlessly tempted to fall to the floor, taking all those items piles on to with it. And jugs of water placed precariously near the edge of service stations, boarded by coffee cups? These items didn't all make it either. But, at least the water jugs were made of plastic.

I wonder if we'll ever see statistics about the things broken on this vessel?

Cape Horn was passed as we all stood in the bridge, being thrown hither and thither. What fun! Closed toed shoes are advised.

After breakfast we are told that the ship is bouncing around too much for some of the morning lectures. I once more begin to power through my novel, trying to offload whatever weight I can before I fly.

One by one we are called down to settle our tab. My visit to the doctors ran me 29USD. Not all that bad to prevent the trip from being the most disastrous thing I'd ever experienced. Sea-sickness. This is not a pleasurable thing. And the amount of people still locked in their rooms as the Drake continues to quake, speaks wonders for how important any sort of pill, tab, or patch to remedy the situation can be.

Lunch time, a final lunch, with a final dessert. This lunch is good, but not nearly as exciting as the hamburgers and hot dogs from the day of the wedding proved to be. Meal time conversations run their course, as all things start to come to a rest.

It is announced that today's engine room tours are canceled. It is said that this is due to some sort of crisis in the engine room. I imagine the first engineer just can't be bothered. And I don't blame him one bit.

In the lounge, before dinner, the stashes of vodka we all thought we would need are collected together. A bottle of tangerine, one of peach, and one of raspberry. None of us drank as we thought we might. There was so much to do, and so much to see, and even a moment hung over would mean missing part of the adventure. But here, in the final hours, we gathered and attempted to make a dent in the collection. Vodka, it turns out, is not any of our favourite drinks. Unless it's Ukrainian. And made at Antarctic research stations. Then it's bloody magic.

At dinner I try to sit at a table with some folks I know, for a final chat. I get looks from the two sitting on the end of this table. They promptly evict me, telling me seats are reserved for two others. There has never, this whole trip, been such nonsense, and it's always sit where you will when you will. This is why we all carry books to the table, to save our seats. But – one speaks up. I can honestly say there have only been two people on this trip I've felt some hostility towards, but on a boat, we keep our mouths shut. When I am evicted, I smile, and move one table over – peopled with a group of similarly delightful people who I've come to enjoy. One nods towards the lady who sent me packing, and quietly mouths to me, “she's a cow!”

Someone else having said it, I can smile in reply, and move on.

Now, it may seem petty to have added this – but it illustrates an important aspect of the trip: Two weeks is a long time to keep idle politeness in check.

This table change has led to some great education, I might add. The island of Guernsey. One of the British Isles. I had no idea such a place existed, but now come to realize that while under British rule, they have their own government, currency, and closed off culture that leads – it would seem – to cultural madness. It is quite an amazingly unique part of the world, as are the other islands around it, and ones that i will look into closer in due time.

It's strange to be informed of places that you had no concept of even existing – it's like being told there's an eighth continent, and wondering how you'd missed it all these years.

Midway through our meal, the boat stops shaking, the forks come to a rest, coffee stops leaping from within the cups. And outside, there is no longer open seas, and endless horizon. Outside are the city lights of Ushuaia. Outside is the proof that we are home. Antarctica is behind us, and real life only a threshold away.

For some this means work, and family, and daily routine. For others it means travel where thought needs to be made as to where sleep will come, and how food is to be gathered.

The dream has nearly ended. But not quite.

After dinner, a final dinner, we head to the lounge where a movie starts to play. “What's it about,” I ask. She – whom I slid across hallways with on the first day rolls her eyes at me and replies, “Antarctica.” Of course.

The bottle of Raspberry vodka is grabbed, and we head off to the Polar Bear Bar.

It's the first time that I've been there this trip for any purpose other than simply looking outside through their glass walls. Sprite is used as a mixer, and over the next five hours the bottle is emptied between all those who wish to drink from it. It is the perfect ending to the trip. It is the necessary ending to the trip.

For some time the sense of mope-mope-mope that often accompanies the closing of one chapter was threatening to fall upon me. But this evening proved to be the closing that was required to make passing on perfectly acceptable.

Long conversations were held with all the right people, while jaw dropped faces, and open eyed expressions were passed on from those completely trapped between tables and walls by intoxicated conversationalists recounting the same discussion had twelve times over.

Openings, and chiming, “hellos,” were timed between passing moments of, “smell ice do ya?!”

Photographers, often locked away in sleep from nine pm stayed awake through talks of relationships, the following of passions, and lives to be lives – well until the morning had set in. Promises to get in touch when cities were passed through, made, and doctors explaining why lack of commitment is the perfect way to carry on between moments of dropping that sea sick patches might just be placebos paved the way for some to carry on to bed.

And finally officers discussed drinks by the liters, death is one engine stops, and strange sounds coming from the roof.

Pink bottle carried away, empty, by bar staff and clocks ringing four, it was finally time, after all moments had reached their optimum conclusion, for sleep. Back in my room I laid my head to pillow for the next ninety minutes that would be granted as rest.

Tiger hats, and yellow caps – photographers new and old – vodka from the continent – ice, penguins, whales, and dolphins – games invented – landings missed – waters tossed – blues never seen.

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