- Albert Beintema from The Netherlands
- Alision “Ali” Liddle from England
- Anna Hicks from England
- Andrew Bishop from Australia
- Simon Cook from England
Chief Steward: Lillian (Rinie’s wife) from Poland
Ship’s Captain: Nikolay Parfenyuk from Russia
- Protect Antarctic Wildlife
- Respect Protected Areas
- Respect Scientific Research
- Be Safe
- Keep Antarctica Pristine
- “Birders”, mostly from a club in The Netherlands and some from Canada.
- “Country Counters”, mostly from the US and Europe:
- - members of the Travelers Century Club (TCC)
- - subscribers to the International Travel News (ITN)
- - members of the Most Traveled People (MTP)
- “Animal lovers”
Dinner was served at 19:30. I had the ham and egg over refried potatoes. For desert they served a crepe in chocolate sauce which was very good but difficult to eat without a knife to cut the crepe. I sat across from an Englishman named Bob who was one of the “Birders” on the cruise. We found we had a lot in common. He had worked in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Singapore that we could compare notes on.
After dinner I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal.
April 3, 2012, Tuesday, Day 6 scheduled visit to Paulet Island: When I awoke at 06:30 and looked out the window I saw heavy seas with white caps and lots of ice. The ship has a display on the TV that shows the location of the ship, the speed and direction. The display showed the ship headed in a North West direction away from our scheduled stop at Paulet Island so I guessed that there would not be a trip ashore as scheduled.
Paulet Island has a large Adelie penguin colony near the ruins of the Nordenskjöld Expedition from the beginning of the 20th century. But we were not able to visit there on this cruise.
After breakfast I returned to my room and lay down waiting for Rinie’s meeting to inform us of the day’s revised schedule. At 09:00 we were called to meet in the Lounge. Rinie told us that the Captain was returning past Hope Bay to the Bansfield Strait to get out of the ice. During his talk the ship became completely surrounded by ice and we could hear the ice banging on the hull as the ship plowed through the ice field. The decks were off limits and the windows were covered in ice so it was impossible to get a clear picture of the ice field.
For lunch the Chef celebrating the 100th anniversary of the race to the South Pole, prepared an “Explorers Hoosh”. Which is a stew originally prepared by Ernest Shackleton over a methylated spirit burner. It was a hearty combination of fat – rich pemmican and oats enhanced with penguin meat.
The Plancius Chef’s version was corn beef hash with potato and chicken chucks (in place of the penguin meat the explorers used), oats and seasoning. I am not a fan of hash but the meal was good. There were several empty tables at lunch indicating the rough seas were bothering some of the passengers. All the members of our group came to lunch.
Following lunch the staff closed the dining room windows with heavy storm doors. I returned to my cabin and turned on my laptop to write in my journal when a large wave crashed the ship and knocked me backwards, chair and all. I banged my elbow but otherwise was alright. I decided to abandon my plan to write in my journal and instead I lay down on my bunk and listened to music on my Nano.
Albert gave a presentation at 15:30 on the history of exploration in the south Atlantic with emphasis on the Falkland Islands. In 2009 the Argentine government assigned the Islas Malvinas to be included in the state of Tierra de Fuego with Ushuaia as the capital. Albert told us he was on a British research ship last year that was denied landing in Ushuaia. He gave an informative presentation but one without a conclusion but weighted towards the Argentine being the rightful owner of the islands.
I retuned my cabin and did a little computer work. I have a cruise summary spreadsheet and I had entered the trip’s schedule in advance so it needed to be adjusted for the cancellation of the stops at Deception Island and Paulet Island.
Bob and Cathy hosted their 18:00 get-together. They were in cabin 606 so we called those get-togethers “6 at 606”. At 19:00 Rinie gave his daily recap in the Lounge. Three ropes had been secured between poles in the Lounge so the passengers have something to hang on to as they moved to a seat in the Lounge.
For dinner we were served a delicious rib eye steak and Crème Brule for dessert. After dinner I wrote a little in the journal and retired before 22:00.
April 4, 2012, Wednesday, Day 7 at sea: When I awoke to Rinie’s wake-up announcement I saw on the TV the ship was still in the same general area we were when I went to bed. Rinie had told us that the Captain was trying to “run-away” from the ice and to give us a smoother ride. Everyone from our group appeared at breakfast so we are riding out the rough seas very well. They say you eventually get “sea legs” and I had no upset stomach at this point but having to hold on all the time was getting very boring.
Our group all made it to breakfast, so we were weathering the storm very well. The windows in the dining room were still covered so we could not see out to judge the sea swells. At one point one of the passengers yelled out the name of a bird and the dozen “Birders” on board left their breakfast and ran out of the dining room to view the bird. The motivation and mix of people on the ship to take this cruise is interesting.
Rinie gave us a quick outlook for the day at 09:00 in the Lounge. He cancelled his 11:00 scheduled talk on “The forgotten story of Nordenskjold’s Swedish Scientific Expedition”. He explained that the reason we were heading North West for a while was to find smoother seas free of ice and to stay close to a Chilean Antarctica station because there was a sick passenger on board and they may had to evacuate him to shore for a rescue plane to take him to a South American hospital. He didn’t disclose the illness but reported that the passenger had recovered enough to continue on the cruise.
I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal. The seas had died down a lot and we were back to just a gentle roll.
At 10:00 I attended a showing of the BBC special titled “The Blue Planet” in the dining room. It had been shown in the US on the Discovery channel. It was an excellent documentation of life in the sea for the many creatures that live in the sea.
When I returned to my cabin after the show the sky had cleared and the sun was out for the first time. The ice on the ship started to melt and the windows were clearer.
For lunch we were served “Nasi Goreng” Filipino Style Stir Fried Rice with Pork, Vegetables and Egg. It was very tasty. Cathy approved although she had Bob return to their cabin and bring back her Hot Sauce and Soy Sauce. At lunch Mike told us that his cabin window had been covered with ice and the ice had fallen off with one big crash.
When we boarded the ship in Ushuaia we turned in our passports for Argentine Immigration to check before we could depart the port. The ship’s staff retained the passports and at Esperanza they took them ashore and had them stamped to show we had entered Antarctica. Somewhere along the line one our group members, Jamie’s, passport went missing. Cathy has helped search the ship for it and it was not found. It will not be a problem until we reach Cape Verde.
After lunch the sun disappeared and the seas became rough again. At 15:00 I attended another Discovery Chanel show in the Dining Room titled “The Frozen Planet”. During the show the seas became rougher and on several occasions my chair sided across an aisle and I crashed into Linda, Bob crashed into me and the fellow next to Cathy fell over completely. On my way back to my cabin after the show I banged my elbow again as I was thrown into the hall wall. We are making up for the rather smooth crossing of the Drake Passage.
Several of the group met in Bob and Cathy’s cabin for the “6 in 606” daily get together. Rinie’s 18:30 daily recap was cancelled due to the rough sea and the fact he had nothing new to report. At 19:00 we went to dinner. Most of us had the lemon trout. It is amazing that in the rough seas the kitchen staff could prepare such great meals and the waitress and waiters could deliver them without spilling. They had completely deboned the trout which was a feat in smooth conditions but to do it in the rough conditions was outstanding. For dessert they served a banana split.
April 5, 2012, Thursday, Day 8 scheduled visit to South Orkney Islands - We were planning on a visit to Orcadas station, an Argentinean base located in the South Orkney Islands. The friendly base personnel would have showed us their facilities and we could have enjoyed the wonderful views of the surrounding glaciers. But, due to the weather the stop was cancelled and we were cruising north east towards the South Georgia Islands.
Therefore, I awoke to the rough seas and disappointment of not being able to stop at the South Orkney Islands with its history as the oldest station in the Antarctica. The evening had been particular rough and a number of people did not show for breakfast.
I returned to my cabin after breakfast and found the rocking and rolling so severe that I decided to pass on writing in my journal and checking email and instead lay in bed for an hour. At 10:30 Ali gave an introductory talk on the South Georgia Islands. She spent the first year of her marriage on the Islands and had some great pictures of the settlements and the seals and penguins we should expect to see there.
After Ali’s talk I returned to my cabin and showered and shaved will some difficulty do to the rocking and rolling. I managed to complete the shower and get dressed and decided to head for the Lounge. My journal and other files I have been using on the trip are stored in my Dropbox so every time I connect to the Internet I burn up a lot of megabytes. It finally dawned on me that if I used the ship’s laptops to check email that it would use less of my purchased megabytes, so I checked my email using the ship’s laptop. Judy had a good report on our dog which indicated that she was not going to have to put him down.
I responded to her email report and then sat in the lounge talking to Bob Bonifas, who is the third most traveled person on the Most Traveled People list. Bob owns a security alarm company and has a staff that allows him to travel a lot. He has a Blackberry, iPhone, laptop and satellite phone and is burning up his megabytes as fast as I am. He has some interesting stories on how he visited some of the places on the MTP list. During our conversation Rinie announced that it was now alright to walk outside.
Lunch was an interesting dish they called “Spanish Potato Frittata with Chorizo and capsicum Couli”. It looked like a deep dish quiche.
At 15:30 I attended the show of Part 2 of the BBC The Frozen Planet in the Dining Room. After the show I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal and updated my cruise spreadsheet to document that we by-passed the South Orkney Islands.
At 18:00 I went up to Bob and Cathy’s for the “6 in 606” get-together, which was followed by Rinie’s daily recap in the Lounge. He told us not expect to get to the South Georgia Island for two more days. Rinie also told us the story of Otto Nordenskjolds Swedish Scientific Expedition where three groups were stranded for a winter in Antarctica and why Hope Bay was named and the story behind the stone building we saw at Esperanza.
Dinner was again interesting. The appetizer was a warm stuffed fig with blue cheese dressing on a bed of greens. The main course was Turkey Schnitzel on top of a warm potato salad. Dessert was Stracciatella Mousse. I had never experienced any of the three courses. Again I have to marvel at the Chef’s meals and the kitchen staff’s ability to cook and serve in the rough seas.
After dinner I checked my email and received the bad news that my dog was “put down”. He had developed a large tumor in his chest and was in a great deal of pain. I like to think that he had lived a good life. I am really going to miss him.
Rinie broadcast an announcement that at 22:00 the ship’s clocks would be moved an hour ahead to Mid-Atlantic time. I have a Casio G-Shock watch which you can easily change time zones but because there are no major cities in the Mid-Atlantic (GMT minus 2 hours) time zone they didn’t program the watch for Mid-Atlantic, so I will have to remember that my watch is off by one hour.
April 6, 2012, Friday, Day 9 at sea: At sea, on the way to South Georgia. Rinie woke us at 07:45, and the Dining Room opened at 08:00 for breakfast. After breakfast I returned to my cabin and updated my journal and watched an episode of the TV show “The Good Wife”.
At 10:30 I returned to the Dining Room to listen to Albert’s presentation “Penguin Research on Elephant Island”. Albert was a member of the Dutch Antarctic research team which was small in comparison of other countries research teams. He talked about the various penguins they studied while residing with the Brazilian research team on Elephant Island. He had some interesting pictures in his presentation. One of his pictures of a lone penguin became very popular and has been used on people’s business cards, logos and patches.
Rinie called a meeting of all passengers at 12:30 to brief us on rules and regulations for visitors to the South Georgia Islands. We had to vacuum our gloves, parkas and pants again plus dip our boots in soapy water to insure we are not carrying any seeds that could be introduced to the islands. He posted a list of do’s and don’ts on the wall next to a map of South Georgia that had replaced the map of the Antarctic Peninsula. He had a very nice South Georgia packet of information he handed out. It contained a detailed map of the islands, lists of the birds and other life that can be seen on the island with an estimate of the population and estimate of the chances to see them.
Following Rinie’s talk lunch was announced. We were served “Herb poached Meatballs with Caper Sauce and Rice”. It was very delicious.
After lunch I took my garments to the lounge to be vacuumed. I then visited the bridge. Most of the cruise the bridge is open to all passengers. It is a fairly large area. When there was a lot of ice in the area, passengers were asked to leave.
At 15:30 I attended the show of Part 3 of the BBC The Frozen Planet in the Dining Room. After the show I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal.
At 18:00 I went up to Bob and Cathy’s for the “6 in 606” get-together, Rinie stopped in for a shot of vodka. He told us how he gets along with his wife who was also working on the ship in the kitchen. His wife is Polish and when they are not working a cruise they live in Poland. He has been a Cruise Director the Arctic and Antarctic for twenty years. At 18:30 we adjourned to the Lounge for Rinie’s daily recap. He reminded everyone to read the South Georgia rules and regulations and sign a sheet that states that you have read them. Ali then gave a presentation on the rat ratification in South Georgia. Rats are not native to the islands but came from ships over the years and have caused an unbalance of the native wildlife especially small birds. After her presentation on how they eradicate rats and the initial success in the areas around the Grytviken Research Station, she asked for donations of $140 each to fund the effort into other areas of the island.
Dinner was another amazing dish for this size ship and the rough weather the kitchen staff has to work in. The appetizer was assorted cocktail bits with a spicy dipping sauce. For the main course I had New England Style Fish Hot Pot Selection of Seafood and Fish with chunky Root vegetables and a creamy Dill Sauce. For dessert they served Chilled Berry Soup with Ice Cream. It was an outstanding meal.
After dinner I returned to my cabin to update my journal and retire early. It was very rough going as I fought for my balance while changing into my sleeping attire. I was thrown all around the bathroom as I was trying to brush my teeth. This rough sea is getting very tiring!
April 7, 2012, Saturday, Day 10 at sea: On the way to South Georgia. The cruise was one day behind the schedule. The wake-up call was 07:45 for breakfast at 08:00. The ship is still rolling a lot but I was able to sleep through most of the night. When I did get up I saw that the ship was cruising at 11 knots trying to make up for lost time. I had an interesting discussion with Bob Bonifas at breakfast. He sets aside two weeks each month for his world travel and flies to most of the destinations on the Most Traveled People list. He was not happy that the cruise had missed so many of the planned stops.
The 10:30 presentation was titled “Glaciers are Cool”, presented by Andrew. He had some good slides depicting the formulation of glaciers but I didn’t learn anything new. Still, it killed some time.
After his presentation I returned to my cabin and showered and shaved. It is a challenge to accomplish a shower and shave when the ship was rolling so much. After getting dressed I went up to the Lounge to use one of the ship’s laptops to check my e-mail only to discover I had used up my megabytes. As much as I like the flexibility of Dropbox it is a megabyte eater so I am now going to limit my logging on from my laptop and instead use the ship’s laptops.
When I tried to purchase more megabytes I found no one at the reception desk so I had to track down the Hotel Manager in the kitchen. Rinie’s wife was able to sell me another block of megabytes. Armed with my new log on code I returned to the Lounge and logged on.
I found that Judy was having a tough time because for various reasons she can’t visit either Wendy or Robin at this time. I hope she can arrange it in a week or so. As I finished checking my email we were called to lunch. Lunch was an “Assortment of Pizza Baguettes”. It was interesting looking and tasty. The fruit basket had oranges which it didn’t have at breakfast so I had an orange for dessert. I sat at a table with a couple from England and we discussed their travels in the US.
After lunch I returned to my cabin to write in my journal before the afternoon presentation. The afternoon presentation was presented by Rinie on the subject “The importance of the Southern Ocean to Antarctic wildlife”. Rinie was very animated and informative on the subject. It was by far the best presentation I had experienced on the cruise. He started by discussing the role of Phyto Plankton or Algae in the sea that are abounded in sea water but are too small to see and how that led to Zooplankton (Krill, Copepods, etc.) that feed on them. In turn Squid and fish feed off the Zooplankton and then Whales, Seals and seabirds feed off the Squid and fish and Orca and Leopard Seal’s feed off the Whales, Seals and Seabirds. He then discussed the flow of the ocean currents, showing us how the Arctic Bottom Water flows down the land mass under the ice caps and is replaced by North Atlantic Deep Sea Water which divides at the surface Convergence points with some flowing under the ice while half becomes the Antarctic Intermediate Water which flows below the Sub-Antarctic Surface Water. The nutrients in the sea are “upwelled” to feed the creatures near the surface.
After Rinie’s talk I stayed and listened to Lynn Williams tell us about the research that he is funding at Yale University that transforms plankton into fuel oil. Lynn described some processes that have already been proven in laboratories that will enable the United States and China which is also working on the methods to be self-sufficient in fuel oil in just a few years. It was a fascinating discussion.
At the “6 in 606” daily gathering Albert and Rinie attended. Rinie then lead the daily recap and told us of the plans to go ashore on Sunday morning. Ali then gave us a short presentation on the fishing business in South Georgia. We then adjourned for dinner.
For diner I had tender veal strips with creamy white wine mushroom sauce and spaetzle. Albert and Rinie sat at our table with Lynn Williams and Jamie and Bob Bonifas. We asked Rinie if he preferred Arctic over Antarctic and he replied that the weather was usually better in the Arctic. We then had him tell us stories about his encounters with Polar Bears it was very entertaining.
After dinner I checked my email and wrote in my journal and went to bed before 21:30.
April 8, 2012: Easter Sunday, Day 11 in South Georgia: We awoke at 06:30 to Rinie’s announcement “Happy Easter Sunday”. The ship was still rolling and cruising at 9 knots and the seas had a lot of white caps but by the time I went to breakfast at 07:00 we must have entered a bay because the white caps were diminishing and I could see mountains on three sides of the ship. The kitchen staff had decorated the Dining Room with “Happy Easter” balloons and a little package at each place setting which turned out to be a chocolate egg full of M&Ms.
As breakfast wore on the sea became smoother. I returned to my cabin and put on my rain pants and put my camera into a water proof bag. At 08:00 Rinie summoned us to the Lounge to tell us that a scout boat had been launched and had not yet reported back but it look favorably that we could go ashore. The ship had stopped and dropped anchor in Fortuna Bay. Boy, did it feel great not to be rolling back and forth after a week of sea days! We returned to our cabins to await the word to board the Zodiacs.
At 09:15 the bridge announced that the last Zodiac was getting ready to leave. We never had heard an announcement that the first Zodiac was ready to leave. I had been just lying in my bunk and I bolted up and put on my rubber boots and parka grabbed my camera and binoculars and headed for the Zodiac launch point. I was the last one there and the staff rejected me because I didn’t have my life preserver on so I rushed back to my cabin and found another couple had also forgotten their life preservers. When I returned and boarded the Zodiac it pushed off and rode to shore. There were a large number of King Penguins and Fur Seals gathered to greet us.
Once ashore I found that the temperature was warm enough that I didn’t need to wear gloves. I removed my camera from its water proof pouch and started to take pictures. Rinie encouraged us to walk along the shore to a huge King Penguin colony about a mile away. Along the way we passed a lot of King Penguins, Fur Seals, a couple of Leopard Seals and a heard of Reindeer. When I arrived at the King Penguin Rookery I saw a lot of chicks in their brown feathers and a lot of Penguins, both male and female sitting on eggs. There was no snow on the ground and I started to sneeze – I must be allergic to the type of grass in the area. After taking a lot of pictures, I walked back to the Zodiacs. I found Lynn Williams had already returned and I sat next to him on the side of a Zodiac. There were four King Penguins that stayed around us. One of them had a pink side on its nose while the majority of the King Penguins have an orange nose side. Jamie soon appeared from the opposite direction and told us she saw some Elephant Seals and a spectacular water fall.
I was about to head out to see the Elephant Seals when Andrew arrived and Lynn Williams and I helped him launch a Zodiac and by 11:45 I was back in my cabin. I was able to check and send email. Lunch was buffet style with fried chicken, French fried potatoes, and salad.
Around 15:00 we cruised into Cumberland Bay and passed the buildings at King Edward Point toward the abandoned whaling settlement in Grytviken. Rinie called a meeting and briefed us on the rules to follow at Grytviken. We had a choice to either go ashore at King Edward to buy stamps at the Post Office or go ashore at the Grytviken Cemetery where we would be offered a shot of rum which the tradition would be to drink half the shot and pour the rest on Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave.
Sir Ernest Shackleton planned the Imperial Trans-Antarctica Expedition to make the first crossing of Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea via the South Pole. The expedition was a failure but it produced one of the greatest stories in the history of polar exploration. His ship the Endurance left Grytviken on December 5, 1914 and was incased in ice near its destination Vahsel Bay and sank. The crew made it to Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands. Shackleton went for help and headed to South Georgia in the 23 foot boat James Caird he eventually reached the South Georgia Islands but was caught in storms and had to live under the over turned James Caird on the south side of the Islands. The Whaling stations were all on the north side of the Islands and interior of the islands had never been surveyed but he set out with two men and he made it to the Stromness station on 20 May 1916. The crew he left with the James Caird were rescued and he set out and rescued the rest of the Endurance crew. Through Shackleton’s outstanding courage and leadership every man survived. In 1922 on a return trip to Grytviken he died of a heart attack and his wife requested that he be buried in Grytviken.
From the cemetery I walked past the old whaling processing plant which was now a rusty hulk of machinery to the Grytviken museum. On the way I passed an Elephant Seal who was very animated and a good subject for photos. The first building of the museum contained a replica of the James Caird (the original is in Dulwich College Shackleton’s old school in London) and pictures of his exploits. Next door was a larger museum with a gift shop. The highlight for me in the larger museum was a couple of penguin furs that we were encouraged to touch. Penguins have unusual feathers and are smooth to the touch. Outside the museum I saw the one and only penguin in Grytviken while we were there. It was just standing on the beach in front of the museum occasionally flapping its fins but not going any place.
The Zodiac landing point for the return to the ship was next to two beached rusty old whaling boats. Lying next to one of the boats was a large Elephant Seal pup. Rinie told me that it was a pup and that it might lay there for days on end and then swim away to feed itself. A Zodiac soon arrived. Anna was at the helm and Simon was giving her lessons on how to operate a Zodiac. Mike, Lynn and I agreed to risk it and ride back to the ship with her driving the Zodiac. She did all right and we were on board by 18:00. I tried to check my email but the ships server was down. Rinie held his recap meeting and we had some fun at his expense. Bob and Cathy presented him with an Easter stuffed chick and asked him to identify it. The fun continued at dinner. Our group had tables reserved in the back of the dining room. The repeat regulars in the Advantage Travel group (Mike, Ed Harriman, Lynn Bishop, Terry, Linda and I sat with Bob and Cathy at an eight seat table and Lynn Williams and Jamie sat at a six person table which was rounded out with Bob Bonifas, Janis, Rinie and Albert.
Cathy had an Easter Basket on each table with Easter candy eggs and the ship provided wine. The diner was a beef and a rack of lamb with mashed potatoes. Dessert was strawberry cheese cake, Crème Brule over blue berries. They had the Chef appear for a round of applause. It was a magnificent dinner under the circumstances.
After dinner I returned to cabin and retired before 22:00.
April 9, 2012, Monday, Day 12, Salisbury Plain and Prion Island, South Georgia: We awoke to a comparatively smooth sea at 06:30. The ship was just entering the Bay of Isles with the planned destination of the Salisbury Plain. By the time I finished breakfast and returned to my cabin the ship had slowed to 2 knots and the sea was calm.
Rinie called us to the Lounge to brief us on the landing at Salisbury Plain. It was a huge King Penguin colony. I had come to Rinie’s briefing already dressed to go ashore so I was in one of the first Zodiacs. The ride to the beach traveled through hundreds of penguins swimming off shore. There was a three foot high surf which made it an interesting landing. Simon was driving our Zodiac and he gunned the engine to ride in on a swell and then we were told to quickly get out of the Zodiac before another wave crashed ashore.
Once I arrived on shore I was surrounded by King Penguins which were curious and would come up to within a foot of me. As far as I could see in both directions the area was full of penguins with hundreds diving in the surf and swimming throughout the area. The rookery was on the side of a hill a fair distance from the Zodiac landing point. As I walked toward it I saw a few Fur Seals on the beach but most of the Fur Seals were in the plain beyond the beach. The hundreds of penguins on the beach were referred to as “travelers”. The rookery was safely away from the beach. After taking a lot of pictures I returned to the Zodiacs. A squall hit the area and pelted us with b-b size hail stones. The wind was so brisk the hail was flying horizontally through the air and had a sting when it hit my face. The squall didn’t last very long and I was entertained by the penguins. The two beached Zodiacs where anchored with a lone rope from the Zodiac to the point the anchor was in the ground. One of the ropes had some slack and was lying flat on the beach but the other was taut from the bow of the Zodiac three feet off the beach on a slope to the anchor. The entertainment was watching the penguins cross back and forth over the ropes. Very few were smart enough to step on the rope near the anchor or to duck under the rope at the Zodiac end, instead they would trip on the line and fall on their stomach and in most cases their feet would clear the rope but many of them would still have their feet tangled in the rope and kick to get free. It looked like a Charlie Chaplin movie. Some of the penguins would turn around and go back falling over the rope and then repeat the process. I could tell the repeaters because their belly feathers were full of dark dirt. As I waited to return to the ship I experienced several other squalls. We were supposed to see Elephant Seals on the plain but I never did.
Eventually, Simon and Rinie returned and we were able to launch a Zodiac and I was in the first one to return to the ship. Lynn was in the second Zodiac and he told me that it had two waves break over its bow and drench the passengers sitting down. Lynn survived the brunt of the wave by standing up.
I was able to check my email and read before lunch. At 13:00 we were served a buffet lunch of salad and pasta as the ship slowly cruised toward Prion Island at the mouth of the Bay of Isles. Rinie called us to the Lounge at 14:00 to explain the afternoon excursion. Only 50 visitors are allowed on Prion Island at one time so half the passengers could sign up to go ashore for one hour while the other half would cruise the bay in Zodiacs and then go ashore for several hours. I choose the one hour trip and was in the first Zodiac. I wore my ski mask from my Ottawa Winterlude Festival days when it was -50˚C and I had to walk around the city viewing the ice sculptures.
Once we landed on the beach we were greeted by a flock of Gentoo Penguins, Fur Seals and Elephant Seal pups. The island has a wooden walk way that leads up to the top of the hill where you can look down on the breeding birds. Climbing the wooden stairs was a kick because the Fur Seals like to use them and it was fun to watch them climb stairs. Along the way were a lot of seals close to the stairs and a few bird nests but at the top we could see many birds nesting in a valley below the observation point. On the way back to the beach I had Fur Seals as close as 6 inches that didn’t want to give way on the stairs. Back on the beach I was able to get some good pictures of the Elephant Seal pups, the penguins and the seals that were swimming in the surf.
By 16:00 I was back in my cabin and I decided to take a shower while the ship was stable. While I was shaving in the shower the ship ran a test of the generators and the lights went out. It was kind of eerie because my Gillette razor has a small blue light when the vibrator is on and my cell phone was on the counter so I had two small sources of light. I was able to finish and dress before the power returned.
We had our “6 in 606” followed by Rinie’s recap. We have five sea days from South Georgia to Gough Island. The Captain after some analysis of the weather chart has decided to go directly to Gough Island, because a large depression system was starting to build in the South Atlantic Ocean he was going to steer the ship to minimize the roll but tonight there would be a roll and Rinie reminded us to secure the items on the desks in our cabins.
I had Turkey with cranberry sauce for dinner and Vienetta Ice Cream for dessert. I had never heard or tasted Vienetta Ice Cream. It was like a layer cake with layers of vanilla and chocolate. It was very tasty.
I thought our days in the cold Antarctic weather was going to an end as we turn up the South Atlantic toward the small isolated islands of Gough, Tristan da Cunha , St. Helena and Ascension.
Then an ominous call over the PA system came from Rinie at 20:15: “Good night every one, good night, this is Rinie, I have a important message for you. I have just been informed by the captain that the main engine has a broken bar, and for now the ship has only 50% of the power available. The ship is running on the emergency generator and maximum speed is 4 knots. Therefore he is taking the Plancius back to Grytviken to evaluate the damage and see if he can repair it. We should arrive around 12 midnight in Grytviken Bay. I will inform you tomorrow morning about the situation.”
I was able to send an email to Judy with the news before I went to bed
Part 2 Stranded in South Georgia, AntarcticaApril 10, 2012, Tuesday, Day 13 of the cruise, Day 1 at Grytviken, South Georgia: Unlucky 13. I awoke to the noise in the next cabins. The alarm went off at 06:00 in the cabin next to us and the man in the cabin was constantly clearing his throat very loudly. I don’t know what his ailment was but it was disturbing. When I see him around the ship I never hear him clearing his throat but he sure does it a lot in his cabin. But, the big unlucky part of the day was we are stopped in the harbor of Grytviken for some kind of mechanical problem with the ship. The sea was calm, the sky was initially clear but then a snow squall arrived just before breakfast at 08:00.
At breakfast I sat with Bob Bonifas, (the 3rd most traveled person in the world). He was upset that the crew had not informed us of the exact nature of the ship’s problem. He wanted me to join him as a committee of passengers to meet with Rinie (The Expedition Leader) and the Captain to try and get some straight answers to the question of what exactly was wrong and what was the prognosis to fix it. I told him Bob Prada with his US Navy experience would be a better person to meet with the ship’s senior staff. Soon after I told that to Bob Bonifas, Bob Prada joined the table and the two Bob’s had a lengthy discussion on what might be wrong with the ship. I could see from the Dining Room window that a Zodiac from the ship went ashore and picked up two men and returned to the ship. When we visited Grytviken two days ago I learned that they had a parts warehouse and one of the station’s functions was to service fishing ships in the area.
After breakfast I walked the deck and came upon two crew members who told me that they were still repairing the problem but were not forthcoming in explaining what the exact problem was. The Ethernet connection was not working in my cabin. I had misplaced the sheet of paper with my login Username so I can’t use the ship’s laptops to check my email. It turned out that the Wi-Fi was also down so it didn’t make any difference.
Rinie called a status meeting at 10:00. He told us the ship’s main generator was broken and it was doubtful that it could be repaired. We had limped into Grytviken harbor on the back-up generator but it was not safe to use in the open sea. The Internet was down and the ship staff has to go ashore to use the Grytviken Internet to communicate with their headquarters. There are some other research vessels in the area and we may have to be taken by one of them to the Falkland Islands and from there fly to a Chilean airport and eventually to our home city. World travel was always an adventure!
At 10:30 Ali gave a presentation on Albatrosses. She had spent years in the Falkland Islands doing research on the Albatross population on the Islands and had some great pictures and stories to pass on to us. The Albatross mates for life and always returns to the same nest. The female lays one egg a season and both the male and female take turns feeding and caring for the chick until it was ready to venture out on its own. Ali told us that studies had been performed that even though the birds mate for life they only spend about seven days together a year. The rest of the time they are out gathering food to feed themselves and their chick. Ali discussed how fishing trawlers are dangerous for the birds and the steps that had been taken to discourage the birds from getting caught in the fishing lines and nets. Every five years a census was performed on the Albatross in the Falklands by taking pictures of the nesting area and then using a computer program to count the birds in the picture. There are near 400,000 Albatrosses in the Falklands in the last census. They also attach tracking devices to the birds and plot where they fly when they leave the nesting area. The chart she showed us indicated the females fly further than the males and both seem to range due north or south from the Falklands, not much further north than Uruguay.
A little more on the background of Grytviken: it was the site of the processing in the early 1930’s of the largest creature known to be found in the world. It was a Blue Whale that was 108 feet long and weighed between 110 to 120 tons. Rinie tried to schedule a shore excursion but the Captain was focused on fixing the generators and did not want to have to worry about launching and recovering Zodiacs and running the risk of an outboard motor failure.
I noticed when I was up in the Lounge that Bob Bonifas was outside huddled under the railing. I asked Janice what he was doing and she told he was talking to his office on his Iridium Satellite phone. When he came in he told us that he has let several influential travel people know about our situation. This bothered me because I didn’t want Judy to hear about it on the news. It was frustrating that the ship’s Internet was down. In my last message Monday night I did tell her that we were experiencing some sort of a mechanical problem and were going to spent the night in Grytviken.
Lunch was “Bangers and Mash”. I initially sat at a table of Dutch passengers next to the doctor. When I finished my lunch, I joined the rest of the Advantage Travel and Tours group at the other side of the room. Under the circumstances everyone’s sprit was pretty good.
After lunch Rinie called us to the Lounge for an update and the Engineering Officer gave us an explanation of the problem. As I understand it, the ship’s propeller was powered by an electric motor. Three generators supply power to the motor and a heavy brass bus contains the electricity between the generators. The bus has shorted out. The crew was attempting to tie two of the generators together and plan a test run in the morning. Even if it’s successful the ship was not certified to carry passengers with just two generators. Oceanwide Expeditions was negotiating to have a ship diverted to pick up the passengers and hotel staff and ferry them to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. It was at least a two day cruise from South Georgia to the Falklands. Katrin (the Hotel Manager) briefed us on the Internet problem. The ship was moored in Grytviken harbor which was in the Cumberland Bay and was surrounded on essentially all sides by mountains which does not allow the ship’s Internet antenna to connect to a satellite. The ship’s staff has been able to connect by Satellite phone and on shore with the Grytviken station Internet. The bottom line was the scheduled cruise was over and at some point we will be transported to the Falklands and from there flown to Chile or Uruguay and then home.
At 15:30 we watched the fourth episode of the BBC documentary “The Frozen Planet” in the Dining Room. I don’t know if it was already scheduled as part of our six sea day trip to Gough Island but they scheduled “Happy Hour” half priced drinks at 17:00 followed by an Antarctica Quiz game lead by two of the Expedition Guides and Lecturers: “Amazing Ali” and “Ambivalent Andrew” at 18:00.
Our team was Bob, Cathy, Mike and I. We called ourselves “Not Going to Gough”. We didn’t do very well in the quiz but we won a bottle of wine for the best team name. The Happy Hour and the Quiz was a great idea because it kept the passengers in a good mood. Rinie announced that the Captain agreed to let us go ashore the next day while the Captain planned on taking the ship on a cruise out of the harbor to see how his repairs will work. Katina announced that she was working on getting us an email capability through the ship’s Iridium Satellite phone network.
At dinner they provided free wine. For the main course I had sirloin beef and a nice berry dessert. Between the happy hour drinks and the wine at dinner I was ready for bed early.
April 11, 2012, Wednesday, Day 2 at Grytviken: - I awoke to the passenger next door clearing his throat at 07:00 and decided to get up and take a shower. Breakfast was at 08:00 followed by a general briefing at 09:00. The Captain briefed us that the ship cannot be repaired for us to continue the cruise and Oceanwide Expeditions was negotiating with several ships to rescue us. He expects us to transfer to another ship on April 17 and that it would take four days for the rescue ship to cruise to a South American port. The day’s plan was to have passengers go ashore and the guides would lead those that wanted to explore to hike to Penguin River. Others could go ashore and explore the Grytviken area. The ship was going to cruise out of the Bay to enable stored emails to be transmitted and to test the engines.
Bob Bonifas was collecting the names and email addresses of all the Americans on board. I don’t think his initial plan to get a big play in the US press has worked. I elected to go ashore on the outside chance that I could use the Wi-Fi that I know they had at the Museum. When I got ashore I was one of the first into the Museum and found a strong Wi-Fi signal but it required a password. The King Edward Point Station Doctor was manning the Gift Shop and was the only local person in the Museum and he claimed he did not know the password. I spent some time revisiting the Museum displays, talking with the Doctor and purchasing some gifts for Judy and the Grandchildren. Soon others started to arrive from their walks and I then walked around the cove to King Edward Point. Along the way I stopped and investigated a shelter that I had been told was there in case a severe storm arose and people walking between Grytviken and King Edward Point could take shelter. I found the shelter full of square cans with a round hole. At first I was mystified as to their use and then remembering Ali’s talk on rat eradication I guessed that they were rat traps. Along the way to King Edward Point there were a lot of Fur Seals barking at me and in some cases in the pathway. As I approached the pier at King Edward Point I saw the first penguins of the day. Two lone Gentoo Penguins which seemed out of place among all the Fur Seals.
When I arrived at the pier I came upon Rinie and soon the ship appeared returning from its test run outside the bay. I sat on a bench by the pier and watched the ship maneuver to dock with the help of the two small patrol boats from King Edward Point. I could also see across the cove that the passenger’s that had gone on the walk were returning and strung out alone the edge of the cove. It took the ship’s crew a long time to lower a gangplank and configure it to enable passengers to easily get on and off the ship. Finally they allowed me to go on board.
We had a nice lunch of Beef Burgundy Tender Pieces in Red Wine Sauce over buttered noodles. After lunch Rinie held a meeting and informed us that they had negotiated a deal with the King Edward Point staff to allow us to use their Internet in an “Internet Café” room with three terminals. After his briefing Bob Bonifas offered to let me call Judy on his satellite phone. It took several tries to connect and then the connection dropped off so it was not very satisfactory but at least she knows I am alive.
They served us a delicious apple strudel with lemon sauce and cream as an afternoon treat. After I had my share I decided to go ashore again and use the King Edward Point Station “Internet Café”.
It was not very cold out and I wanted to wear my rather light winter jacket from home. I could not find it in the cabin. I looked though the closet under the bed, in the suitcases and it was nowhere, so I put on my parka but not my rubber boots and went ashore.
When I got to the room with the computer terminals I found four terminals, all occupied. I noticed one guy connecting to YouTube which I considered to be a” no-no” because it takes up a lot of band width. One of the passengers gave me his seat and told me he never was able to connect. I sat down and selected Internet Explorer and Hotmail.com and waited. After a long time the log on screen appeared and then I had a problem finding the @ sign on the key board. The keyboard showed it to be where a quote symbol was on a US keyboard but that generated a “ symbol, so dumb me was mystified. One of the King Edward Point staff reached over my shoulder and typed an upper case 2 like on a US keyboard and it produced the @ sign. Once I was logged in I waited another long time for my email messages to display. It took a very long time but I was able to send out a message informing the family of the situation. I received a message on the screen that the message had been seen but when I went into my draft folder it appeared to a send it again and then went to my Inbox and found that Marc and Wendy had already responded so the first message had been sent. I tried to answer Wendy’s message but I received an “internal Server Error” message and gave up to let somebody else try to get through.
I returned to the ship and went to the Lounge and on the bar counter was my jacket. I asked Rosie the bartender how long it had been in the lounge and she told me that it had been days. I just don’t remember wearing it to the Lounge and I don’t know why if I did why I would have taken it off. Anyway, I have it again.
There are more people on the ship from the US than I realized. I met for the first time a woman from Westchester County, NY. She had formally lived in St. Thomas, V.I. and of course that lead to my telling the Bob Reynolds story which she replied ought to be in a book.
At 18:00 Ali gave us a presentation on her living at King Edward Point ten years ago. She had a lot of pictures and it was interesting since the building she lived in has been replaced by a large workshop. She was the Post Mistress in a time before email and when there was several dozen British Soldiers stationed at Grytviken. She described how a C-130 would fly in from the Falklands and drop a package of mail out in the cove and they would have to retrieve it before it sank and she would then be the most popular person at the station distributing the mail to the soldiers. She did a lot of skiing when she lived here.
Rinie then briefed us on the plans to have the Museum open in the morning, the Post Office open in the afternoon, and tours arranged by the King Edward Point staff. He then recited a ditty on which side of a fur skin should be on your skin. I wish I could repeat it. Maybe it was in a book that he can point me to.
Ali then returned to give us a skit on the day of a whaler. The staff was keeping up our spirits. It continued at dinner when they had free wine with the meal and ice cream for dessert.
I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal until 22:00.
April 12, 2012, Thursday, Day 3 at King Edward Point: When I was awaken by the “throat clearer” it was 07:00. Because there were no shore excursions scheduled for the day breakfast was not until 08:15. I took a leisurely shower and waited for Rinie’s wakeup call at 08:00 and went down to breakfast at 08:15. Bob Bonifas was already there and was collecting the email addresses of all the Americans on board. He had no new news from the US. We read the message that Oceanwide Expeditions had sent to Travel Agents which suggested that an ocean tug would tow the ship to Montevideo and implied that the passengers would be on board. The thought did not sit well with Bob Bonifas and we speculated on various alternative courses of action to kill time.
At 09:30 Rinie gathered us in the Lounge for an update on the situation. He read us a letter from the Managing Director, Oceanwide Expeditions to the passengers that informed us that he has charted the passenger vessel “Ushuaia” to sail to Grytviken from Mar del Plata, Argentina, departing on Friday, April 13, 2012 at 12:00 hours, arriving in South Georgia on 18 April at 12.00 hours and depart with all the passengers, expedition and hotel staff. The vessel was scheduled to arrive in Montevideo on 24 April.
Rinie informed us that he was familiar with the Ushuaia and its Captain. It was a former US Navy vessel that has been converted to be a cruise ship and sails the Antarctica seas much the same as the Plancius. It just completed its season and it has taken a few days to reassemble its crew. The Plancius hotel staff and much of the food stores will be transferred to the Ushuaia for the six day cruise to Montevideo.
Following Rinie’s good news the Plancius Head Chef Ralph gave us a talk on the provisioning, storing and catering processes required for a long ocean voyage. It was a very informative and interesting briefing. He explained the mathematics he used to estimate the number of each item needed. The items they bring from Europe and the items they procure locally. He explained the safety measures they take in the kitchen when the ship was in rough seas such as how they cut items when the ship was rolling side to side versus the position they take if the ship was bucking up and down. On the comical side the Chef’s crew makes bets on how many passengers will eat on rough days. He told us the Baker, Rodger, has predicted the exact number twice on this cruise. Once the ship was at sea he does not print soup on the menu even though he often serves it because he does not know in advance if the wait staff can safely serve it. It was going to be interesting how he operates on the Ushuaia in an unfamiliar kitchen.
Following the Chef presentation we obtained copies of the letter that Rinie had read and discussed various scenarios on getting back to home. I don’t think United Airline serves Montevideo and since I was flying on “United Mileage Plus miles’” on this trip I may have to fly to Buenos Aires to get back to LAX via Houston or Dulles.
After the meeting I returned to my room to write in my journal before lunch. At lunch we had soup, warm pita bread and salad with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and chucks of chicken. I had my usual apple for dessert.
After lunch I hurried to my cabin to get my coat and beat the crowd to the on shore Internet Café. I wasn’t the first to think of it and there were three queued up in front of me. Jamie was two ahead of me and Bob and Cathy arrived right after me with Lynn Williams. When my turn came I let Cathy go on first because she was sending out messages that will determine what Oceanwide Expeditions and the Insurance Company will be willing to compensate us. Jamie and Cathy were attempting to sign on to their AOL accounts and they were seeing the AOL main web page from the UK appear and it was very slow for them to connect to their US account. The desk tops were configured to default to Mozilla Firefox but I went to Start and clicked on Internet Explorer, then Hotmail.com and was able to get on before the other two were able to get to their AOL email page. I read Judy’s and others emails and then composed one email to everybody informing them of our pending rescue and hopefully answered their concerns about our daily eating and sleeping situation. I guess several did not understand that these days were scheduled to be sea days so we are operating on the sea day schedule except the ship was not rocking or rolling and we can go ashore anytime we want during the daylight hours. Rinie briefs us in the morning after breakfast and the staff still gives lectures in the morning and shows episodes of the BBC documentary “The Frozen Planet” in the afternoon. We have our “6 in 606” at 18:00 and Rinie has his daily recap at 18:30.
At 17:30 I went to the bridge to determine which direction the sun would set to take a good picture of the setting sun. For some reason I couldn’t see the sun itself but did get some nice pictures of the pink clouds. The female Third Officer was on duty and the few of us on the bridge engaged her in conversation. She was from Berlin and got her training in The Netherlands and took this assignment as filler since the season was relatively short (four months) and she was waiting to start a longer term contract in June. She told me that the tug boat that will tow the Plancius to Montevideo was scheduled to arrive the same day as the Ushuaia which could make for some interesting photographs.
Our “6 in 606” was cancelled because the staff served us a mix of blackberry liquor and champagne in the lounge at 18:00. Albert gave a presentation on whales off the Argentinian coast at 18:30. He showed us that whales have a form of lice which look like little crabs that attach themselves to whales. He had some close up photos of them. It was a good presentation and with the free flowing drinks the crowd was in good spirits. I had pulled a joke earlier on Bob Bonifas and Janice insisted that I tell it to the whole group of passengers. We were told that the Ushuaia was slightly smaller than the Plancius and it was an ex-US Navy ship so I told Bob that we were going to have to sleep in hammocks. The passengers that paid for the larger cabins would have 12 hours shifts in their assigned hammock and those of us in the smaller cabins would only get 8 hours shifts. For some reason he had fallen for it and the look on his face was classic. When I told it to the assembled passengers it did get a laugh.
Dinner followed and again they served free wine. I had herb crested fillet of sole on chunky vegetables and potato casserole. Dessert was tiramisu. After dinner I wrote in my journal and retired at 21:00.
April 13, 2012, Friday, Day 4 at King Edward Point: (Friday the 13th) - As if he or she was an alarm clock the “throat clearer” in the next cabin woke me at 07:00. I didn’t mind that morning because I wanted to see if I could get some good pictures of the sunrise. The sky was just getting light with a lot of blue and puffs of clouds with pink edges. I quickly dressed and climbed up to the Lounge and exited to the outside deck. There was a brisk wind on the Port side of the ship but we were docked with the Starboard side to the dock and that was the direction of the sunrise. I took a number of pictures of all sides of the bay. The colors were breath taking with blue and pink skies and the mountains with snow and those without snow. The Bay was calm but not smooth like glass. The sky had the indication it was going to be a beautiful day in Cumberland Bay, South Georgia. We were fortunate that we were stuck here rather than be floundering slowly in the open sea between South Georgia and Tristan da Cunha. (As much as I really wanted to visit Tristan da Cunha one of the most remote difficult to visit places on earth)
After the colors left the sky and it was just a beautiful blue with a few white and grayish clouds I returned to my cabin and took my shower, wrote in my journal and waited for the call to breakfast.
After breakfast the Advantage Travel and Tour’s group met in the Lounge for a group picture. We had one of the passengers take our picture out on deck five with Grytviken across the cove in the background. At 09:30 all the passengers assembled on deck seven for a group picture. The photographer set up his camera on top of the bridge and planned a timer shot that would allow him to climb down and be in the picture. He tried about five times and got caught up climbing over a rope at the top of the latter and never got down in time for the shot with him in it. Finally Bob gave him the idea of climbing over the rope first and then reaching over and pushing the shutter timer and then he was able to get a picture with him in it. I don’t know how good the picture will be because as he was attempting to get a good photo the sun broke over Duse Mountain in back of him and it was very bright on many of the faces. I had to move forward to not have it shining in my eyes.
About half the passengers left for a four hour walk. I would have gone but I knew that I could not go for four hours at that time of day without a potty break and there would be no facilities along the way. Sure enough about one half hour after they left I had to go.
I went ashore to check my email and found no one waiting for a terminal and I was soon able to get on. Again my using Internet Explorer and MSN email was a lot faster than the others using either AOL (which was routed via the UK) or their home local cable Internet Service Provider. No one was waiting so I took the time to delete a lot of messages and read some messages that I knew were not important. Judy complained that she saw the Oceanwide Expeditions’ press release to the travel agents that claimed all next of kin had been notified and she had only heard from me. I responded that since my Travel Agent was on board and asked me if their office needed to contact anyone and I told them that I would contact my next of kin, she would not get a message from Cathy. (Of course I told Bob and Cathy that they will soon be hearing from my lawyer for not contacting my next of kin ). It was nice to be able to clean up my email without the pressure of someone waiting to send out an important message. Just as I was about to check the Red Sox site one of the Philippine Cabin Stewards came in and I gave up my seat. I have no idea how the Red Sox were doing.
Back on the ship I sat with Mike and a World Atlas discussing how to get to some of the places I have not visited. At lunch only half the tables were set up. I sat with Lynn and Mike and Fritz Karger, a German that now lives in Vancouver, Canada. He was planning on visiting Iguassu Falls after we land in Montevideo and we were sharing our experiences visiting there. Soon he started to ask us about US politics and it was interesting on his idea on what was happening in the US and the world. He was what I consider a conspiracies and thinks that a few very wealthy people rule the world secretly and the US Military, the Military-Industrial Complex and CIA are behind the scenes pulling strings. It was an interesting conversation.
After lunch we were to see episode six of the BBC documentary “The Frozen Planet” but the guides that have the CD were still on the walk so it was postponed. About that time my cell phone started to act-up trying to connect to Google Play and of course with no service and no Wi-Fi it was timing out. I have not figure out how to kill the Google Play application. I asked Bob Bonifas if I could briefly connect off his Iridium Satellite “hot spot” when he sets it up. He told me he was going to set it up in an hour.
It was such a nice day that I decided to walk around the King Edward Point Station. On my walk I met Paula, the local smoker, and ask her if she could log my cell phone on to their Wi-Fi and she took me to the Station Manager and he logged me in. That eventually solved the problem but when I connected I received a flood of messages, one telling me that Zimmerman had been arrested, one telling me Santorum had dropped out of the race, one telling me that Kentucky had won the basket ball title and one telling me that tornados had hit Dallas and Ft. Worth. You can tell it had been a while since I had connected my cell phone to the Internet. Since I had just cleaned up my email a couple of hours earlier I didn’t get a flood of emails. I returned to the ship and read the few emails I did receive and there was one work related one I needed to answer so I hooked up to Bob’s hot spot and sent out the answer.
At 17:00 we had a B.B.Q. Dinner cooked outside on the fan tail. They made corn on the cob, baked potato, lamb chops, steak, chicken and a variety of sausages. The King Edward Point Staff were invited and they had music and dancing, free beer, soda and wine. Initially, there was a stiff wind on one side of the ship which had lettuce blowing off our plates and having most of the people crowding on the tables out of the wind. The later arrivals ended up sitting inside. I moved back and forth between inside and outside thanking the King Edward Point Staff for the use of the Internet and their hospitality. After dessert which was a variety of pies and puddings with cream, custard and berry sauce, I sat with Bob and Janice. While Bob was talking to someone else Janice and I had a lengthy discussion with Fritz that I had eaten lunch with. We discussed the current US political situation, and then the wars and ills that religion has caused in the world. Fritz was concerned that most of the European countries have a declining birthrate while the Muslim immigrants moving into those countries have a 10 to one birthrate which will result in the Muslims becoming the dominate ethnic group in most European countries in the next generation. Later the wind died down and couples were dancing on the deck to loud music. After the dancing they turned to jumping rope. Paula from the King Edward Point Staff was particularly good as was Rinie. It was a great party with a lot of cheering and general merriment!
April 14, 2012, Saturday, Day 5 at King Edward Point: I awoke naturally at about 07:20. The sky was gray, rain, with some fog and very low clouds in the bay. I could barely see the mountains across the bay in the gray scene. There was only one small seal in sight waddling around the dock. It was quite a contrast from the beautiful weather we had the day before.
I showered before the “throat clearer” next door got started loudly clearing his throat. Breakfast was not very crowded. Mike told us at breakfast that the single guy in the cabin next to him had quite a night rocking a bunk until 2am with a German speaking woman, so for some the party must have lasted almost all night. The crew seemed very happy and talkative but were moving a little slower than usual.
After breakfast the seals awoke and there were several dozen bobbing up and down just off the point near the stern of the boat but the ones on land were still asleep, the noise from the party on the boat last night must have kept them awake later than usual.
At 10:00 Rinie held his meeting in the Lounge. He outlined several shore excursions that he was planning when the weather improved. For the day with the rain the only activity scheduled was the sixth episode of the BBC documentary “The Frozen Planet” at 10:30 in the Dining Room. Rinie reminded us that the Museum, Gift Shop and Post Office were closed for the week-end and that the Internet Café would be closed on Sunday. Several people asked if the church would be open on Sunday and with a show of hands a number of people indicated they wanted to visit the church. Someone mentioned that the organ worked because someone in the group had played it during a visit when we first visited Grytviken. It took some investigation before we discovered who the organist was and it turned out to be Roman Bruehwiler, number 5 on the Most Traveled Person list. He was gently persuaded to play at a service Sunday morning.
At 10:30 we assembled in the Dining Room for the sixth episode of the BBC documentary “The Frozen Planet” and waited. At 10:35 Andrew had not arrived so David had Lillian (the Chief Steward) call him. We had remembered that he had not been seen at breakfast nor was he at the 10:00 meeting in the Lounge. When he did arrive he looked as though he had just gotten out of bed. He took a little bit of ribbing as he set up the laptop and CD.
We settled down and started to watch the episode and were at the part of the explanation on the Northern Lights when Rinie, looking very serious burst in and had Andrew stop the show and told everyone to assemble in the Lounge as soon as possible. When we got to the Lounge, the female officer from King Edward Point was there and was talking to someone on her walkie-talkie. There was a little bit of scurrying around by Rinie and the officer. When the room filled Rinie announced that there had just been a magnitude 7 plus earthquake in the Drake Passage and we were to get our warm weather gear handy and be prepared to have to hike to high ground in case a tsunami was generated. Just then the King Edward Point officer said they she had just heard from Stanley that the waves did not get generated. She told us though to standby for any aftershocks which could generate a wave and that there was a building above the station with provisions for just such an event.
We returned to the Dining Room and finished watching the show.
Lunch was a buffet with good salad makings, stewed chicken and soft boiled potatoes.
After lunch I went ashore to check my email. There was only one person in line waiting and I was able to connect to the Wi-Fi with my cell phone which enabled me to read several messages before my turn to use the Internet. My session was therefore shorter than most of the others. The interesting news was my brother Steve was awarded the highest honor given to a Faculty member by Wittenberg University, the Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award. A nice way to retire, going out being appreciated for a career. He retires at the end of this semester in two weeks. The other news was Wendy did a Google search on our rescue ship the Ushuaia and it has some critical ratings. I wasn’t able to open the link but she indicated it wasn’t rated highly.
One of the high lights of the day was the visiting of a long line fishing ship which stopped to be inspected and obtain a license to fish in the waters off South Georgia. The ship was from St. Helena. It was a bottom long line fishing ship. They trail a very long line ten to 30 kilometers long behind them with weights attached to the lines to make them sink to depths of up to 2,000 meters and up to 40,000 baited hooks hanging down to catch “Patagonian Toothfish”. The have to be regulated in the Antarctic because they attract a lot of seabirds which get caught up in the lines and/or seize the baited hooks. Methods and procedures have been recently developed to reduce the danger to birds by:
• Fishing at night
• Flying streamer lines during setting operations to scare the birds away from baits
• Adding weights to the long lines to make sure they sink fast
• Processing fish offal onboard or expelling it in a manner that does not attract birds
• Setting lines underwater through a pipe
The first four are mandatory for longlining in the oceans south of the Polar Front.
At 16:30 Michael Wenger from Polar.com, a Swiss Travel Agency, gave a presentation on Seals of the Antarctic. The ones we have seen the most of on our trip and are numerous around King Edward Point are the Fur Seals. The most numerous seals in the world are Crabeater Seals which we saw at our first stop on the Antarctic Peninsula. The other seals that we have observed are the Elephant Seal and there are some in the area where we are docked. Surprisingly to me each species of seal have very different eating, mating, birthing, nursing and migration habits. Michael discussed each species in detail. One of the most interesting features was the difference in the skeleton structure of the Fur Seal versus what Michael called the “True” seals (same as Sea Lions skeleton structure). The Fur Seal has four “flippers” and moves very fast on the two back flippers which can be deployed either facing forward or backward. True seals have short flippers in their tail and fin like flippers on their sides. It was a very informative and interesting presentation.
Rinie’s daily recap discussed plans for those that want to go to the church in the morning and the start of a series titled “Earth Flight” which they will start showing in the upcoming days. For the first time in many days they didn’t serve free wine at the recap but they did at dinner. I had a nice fish dinner and we had pistachio ice cream for dessert.
One of the passengers, Judith Lowe, was quite a poet and posted the following on the ship’s bulletin boards:
How do you fancy us stuck on the Plancius surrounded by penguins and seal? Grytviken shelters us while blizzards pelter us and like goes from meal to meal. How do you fancy us marooned on the Plancius and wishing a ship would appear? Shackleton blesses us but lethargy stresses us and none of us ought to be here! How do you fancy us waiting on the Plancius revising our holiday plans? We missed out Deception and shant see Ascension but, yes we are in God’s hands.
I wrote in my journal after dinner, washed my underwear and retired about 22:00. It had been an interesting day.
April 15, 2012, Sunday, Day 6: at King Edward Point: - I awoke to no noises. Just woke up naturally about 07:20. The weather had improved. No rain or fog but it was not as bright and sunny as Friday had been. Next to the ship a group of young Fur Seals was swimming around, sometime chasing one another, other times they were floating on their backs and swimming in circles. They looked like they were having a lot of fun and I wished the water was warmer so I could jump in and join them.
At breakfast Cathy told us that Oceanwide Expeditions had published their offer. They will reimburse 70% of the gross cruise fare and an economy class flight ticket to our home country to be booked and paid for by Oceanwide Expeditions minus any savings on the originally booked flight ticket. Flights from Praia, Cape Verdes to any home country they expect to receive a $500 refund on the originally booked flight ticket.
Rinie called a meet in the Lounge right after breakfast and read a letter to all passengers stating the same thing. After his meeting a number of the passengers left to walk to the church in Grytviken. As they walked over to the church I watched from the Lounge with Albert and Simon (two of the Expedition Guides and Lecturers). We had a lengthy discussion on the harm that religions have caused to the world with the number of wars that have been religious based. The three of us shared similar views.
A little later I left the ship thinking there was a flock of penguins on the point but they turned out to be South Georgia Shag birds. I then walked over to the building with the Internet Café to see if I could connect to their Wi-Fi outside the building. I was able to get a weak connection but was only able to sync my gmail account. I guess the metal building reduced the power of the Wi-Fi.
“Earth Flight” was a scheduled to start at 11:00 so I boarded the ship and found that they were not showing it. The passengers returned from the church and reported that Jamie had impressed them with some songs. When she returned she told us that it was the first time she had to pump an organ with her feet.
At lunch one of the passengers handed out a paper with some counter proposal options and wanted us to give him feedback it we would support any of the options. I told my table that I thought that Oceanwide Expeditions was expecting to settle for more than letter stated and that their letter was just the first offer. The gist of the first counter offer was to compensate people for the vacation time lost and the various proposals were in that area. Since our group were all retired we were not as concerned with the loss of vacation time, but rather the loss of the opportunity to visit the very difficult to travel to islands. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.
After lunch Rinie called us together to offer two shore excursions. For those that had already taken the walk to Penguin River he was offering a Zodiac cruise around the bay, for those that hadn’t taken the walk he was offering a Zodiac cruise to the River. I raised my hand for the later.
At 15:00 I boarded Rinie’s Zodiac and off we cruised across the bay to the beach near the Penguin River. We could not land at the river but had to land several hundred yards away. The beach was very stony which made walking difficult. I picked up a whale bone that was about 4 feet long and used it as a walking stick helping me keep my balance on the stones. In the grass at the edge of the beach were dozens of Fur Seals and in some places Elephant Seals so we had to walk on the stones. When we reached the river we saw across the river a small colony of King Penguins. Rinie lead us up the river to a shallow crossing. When we got close to the colony we saw one King Penguin standing on an egg. Also in the small colony were three penguin chicks with their brown furry coat. Rinie found a penguin egg lying on the ground which we had a chance to hold and to take pictures of. From the colony we moved up the river past several Fur Seal males and their harem. We stopped and watch a male aggressively keep his harem intact. Every time a female would start to come out to us the male would herd it back. As we walked on I was walking next to Albert and an aggressive Fur Seal would dart at us, Albert would tell it to attack me. I was wearing my yellow rain pants and I think it was more attracted to me than the others in the group. At one point it came within 12 inches of me and I had to stick the whale bone in its snoot. It backed off but still kept following us. We came upon a very large male Elephant Seal with three females and a pup. It was amazing to see the male which was ten times the weight of a female alongside the females.
We walked back past the Penguin colony to the Zodiacs. My camera battery had expired and I had forgotten to bring a spare which bummed me out. I boarded the Zodiac returning to the ship while Rinie took the others to a fishing ship wreck.
Back at the ship I got my cell phone and walked over to the King Edward Point Station to see if I could get a Wi-Fi connection. On my way I met a young college Graduate Student from Brazil that had just arrived and would soon be boarding a research vessel for a winter of study. He wondered how the passengers on the Plancius were taking the forced stay. I told him that most were disappointed that they were no going to get to visit the hard to get to islands we were scheduled to visit. When we reached the Internet Café building I could not get a strong connection. When I returned to the ship I was almost the last on board.
At 18:00 there was a meeting in the Lounge of the groups that want to negotiate the compensation with Oceanwide Expeditions. We let Cathy handle it for our group and instead sat at the bar talking. Mike told me that he was on the boat that visited the wreck and when they shoved off the beach Albert slipped and fell in the water up to his neck. I chastised Albert for swimming without me.
Cathy returned from the meeting and showed us the proposal they had agreed on:
A. In addition to 75% refund of the gross cruise fare and an economy class flight ticket to affected passenger’s home city (booked and paid by Oceanwide Expeditions), reimbursement of any non-refundable, unused booked air tickets or airlines imposed cancellation penalty and charge fees from original disembarkation port to home city or onward destination (proof or ticket copy will be submitted to Oceanwide Expeditions by affected passengers) Plus a 30% discount toward any future voyage on Oceanwide Expeditions subject to availability within three years from this date until April 17, 2015. Oceanwide Expeditions will proceed to send refunds as well as discount vouchers to affected passengers’ addresses on file as soon as possible but no later than May 31, 2012.
B. Due to strong interest of the majority of the passengers, we strongly recommend, and Oceanwide Expeditions consider offering a shorter Atlantic Odyssey voyage in the reverse direction, originating in Cape Verde to Ascension, St. Helena, Tristan de Cunha, ending in Montevideo in the future, affected passengers on 2012 Plancius Atlantic Odyssey shall be notified and given priority to book such a cruise.
She told us that there was not universal acceptance but no other written proposal was presentenced. Dinner followed and we had a particularly jovial time at the table with Ed, Mike, Cathy and Bob, myself, Lynn, Linda and Terry on the other side. We seemed to be in an extra good mood and laughed a lot. Both Mike and Bob have not shaved on the cruise and Cathy told us that every morning she forgets and wakes up screaming when she opens her eyes and sees this furry face next to her.
After dinner Andrew announced that he had found the CD for the “Earth Flight” and he was going to play it on Channel 4. I gave Linda permission to play it in her cabin and she relayed that to Terry who was always telling her to turn the volume down on their TV because Lynn and I can hear it in our cabin.
We returned to our cabin and watched the show. At 22:00 I retired. It had been another busy day and a little exhausting from walking on the stony beach.
April 16, 2012, Monday, Day 7 at King Edward Point: I awoke a little after 07:00 to a beautiful morning. The sky was clear of clouds above the mountains but there was a cloud or fog bank on the water across the bay which hid the mountain range across the bay to the direct east but the mountains to the southeast rose above the clouds. In the water alongside the ship was a lone penguin swimming around, unfortunately mostly under water escaping my attempts to take his picture. After he or she disappeared about a dozen or more young seals appeared at the point and started to frolic near the stern of the ship, diving down and up and then almost like on a signal they started racing around the point and out of view.
I took my shower and when I finished and looked out the window the bay was calm, no penguin or seals in sight and the clouds were now obscuring all the mountains around the bay but the sky above the cloud bank was clear. It was Monday and hopefully the start of our last week in South Georgia.
Breakfast was at 08:30 and even then a lot of people didn’t show up until near closing at 09:30. The passengers were getting lazy. Cathy showed us a copy of the latest agreed upon counter offer. It removed the request that Oceanwide Expeditions consider a reverse itinerary in the future with priority and a 30% discount given to the affected passengers.
After breakfast I walked over to the Internet Café and checked my email. The weather was improving and when I returned for Rinie’s 10:00 meeting to plan the day he offered Zodiac rides around the bay and informed us that the Museum would be opened from 10:30 to 12:30. Enough people raised their hands to fill four Zodiacs so lunch was pushed back to 13:30. I held out for a climb to the top of Mt. Duse after lunch.
After the meeting the Lounge cleared and I got the World Atlas and sat will Bob Bonifas and Roman and discussed ideas on travel to the countries that I need to visit. They both had good suggestions and experiences getting to countries around the Black Sea that I need to visit. Bob has 72 places on the Most Traveled People list and 17 on the TCC list. Roman was two places behind him on the list. After the meeting I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal.
I returned to the Lounge to wait for lunch. Bob Bonifas came excitedly in to tell us that our situation has been published in USA Today and that he had just had three TV interviews via Satellite phone. He was really pleased that he had made the news in Chicago. He went off to find Janice.
Bob Prada and I started a conversation with Roman and he joined us at lunch. He has an interesting story. In 2006 he sold his company in order to travel the world. His first goal was to visit all the countries in the world in one year. He managed to accomplish that in 2006 and 2007. It required that he be issued six passports to have those obtaining visas while he traveled. Many of the countries were “touch and go”, sometimes just stepping across a border. Having obtained his goal in one year he was now going back to visit every state or province in every country. Roman goes beyond just those listed in the Most Traveled People list to every country entries. He has some interesting experiences in border crossings, vehicle accidents, and police harassments. Roman often rents a car, hire a driver, hire a driver and guide, and charters airplanes to get to his destinations. He was truly a world traveler and a very nice person.
After lunch we gathered in the Lounge for the afternoon schedule. I came dressed for a Zodiac excursion and Andrew told me that it would be warm on the trek so I returned to my cabin and shed the rain pants and parka and put on my lighter hooded jacket. The plan was for Ali (an Expedition Guide and Lecturer) to lead a group to the top of Mt. Duse and Michael to split off at a middle point to trek to a lower bluff overlooking the bay. I started out walking with Ali but when we got to the Grytviken church I stopped to take some pictures of the sun on the snow streaked mountains behind the church. I then was in the middle of the pack and as the climb got steeper I started to get passed and soon was near the back of the pack. When we reached the middle point I was one of the last to arrive. The pack stopped and we took some group photos with the Grytviken harbor in the background. King Edward Point and the Plancius were not in view. I decided to go with Michael and we rendezvous with Andrew (an Expedition Guide and Lecturer) and a small group that included Linda and Terry. Bob and Cathy were in my group along with David and two ladies from the Shetland Islands, UK. I was able to keep up with Michael and most of the time I was in the lead. Linda started to have difficulty and she and Terry took a lower trail with Andrew. We first reached a high point with a stone pile to mark a trail that dates back to the Shackleton era. From there we went down through a gulley and up to a bluff with a magnificent view of the whole bay. Across the bay I was able to see the Argentinean helicopter that was shot down in the 1982 war and I took some telephoto pictures. On the way back we learned that Ali’s group had already started back down. We took our time and were joined by the 3rd Engineer from the ship. I descended rather quickly down the trail and the Engineer was just behind me and we reached the Grytviken area first. We started to walk next to each other on the path back to the point and engaged in conversation about his travels on cargo ships and my travels and the next thing I realized everyone had passed us and I was the last one to return to the ship.
When I got to my cabin I was soaking wet so I stripped and put on fresh clothes and attended the 18:30 recap. I found as I walked to the Lounge and climbed the steps to the Lounge I had some sore muscles. In the Lounge I talked to Janice. She was not a happy camper. Bob had insisted that she give a TV station an interview because her son had refused. She then found out that her son didn’t think it was a good idea for her to be known as out of town which would make her house venerable to burglars.
I sat with Mike and Bob and at dinner Mike pointed out that no one sat with Bob Bonifas and Janice. His drive to be on TV and make a news story with him as the focal point was not setting well with the passengers. He was making it sound like he was the most important person on the ship. He might well be the wealthiest but not considered the most important by the rest of the passengers, especially since Americans were in the minority (15 out of 74).
After dinner Andrew played the second episode of “Earth Flight”. I washed my wet clothes and missed most of the show, then wrote my journal until 22:30. It was another exhausting day.
April 17, 2012, Tuesday, Day 8 at King Edward Point: My aching body begged to sleep late so I didn’t get up until after 07:30. Outside the bay was glassy calm with no low clouds or sea fog but the tops of the mountains were obscured in fog. There were not penguins or seals swimming that I could see. The wind was in bursts. There were a few Fur Seals awake in the grass but they were not moving about.
I took my shower and dressed. My wash had not all dried. The basic underwear was dry but my long johns and long sleeve shirt was still damp at the edges. The socks had dried on the heated rack next to the sink. At 08:15 Rinie made his wake up call and as I looked out the window I saw the “Birders” with telephoto cameras and tripods in hand returning to the ship and beyond the point a fishing ship was arriving and the King Edward Point staff was starting their Patrol Boats to meet, inspect the ship and grant it a license. When the Patrol Boat returned it had a load of cargo. Later I learned that it was the government ship out of Stanly that patrols the area policing the fishing ships. We were told yesterday that if we wanted to send any post cards or letters from King Edward Point to post them yesterday because the mail was going out Tuesday, so I guess it would be on that ship.
After breakfast I walked to the Internet Café. It had started to snow. I am a physic because for a week I had been kidding everyone that the bay was going to freeze over on the 17th. I told them that normally it freeze over on the 15th but since that was a Sunday and Monday was a holiday in Washington, DC it would be the 17th and as I walked in the snow to the Internet Café I saw ice on the bay.
I had trouble on the Internet because the last user who was Dutch, on the desk top I got, had not signed out and I could not figure out where the sign off was in Dutch, it was not in the usual spot. Eventually I got the sign on page and was able to get to my mail. All a long I had my cell phone connected to the Wi-Fi and was able to pull up the USA Today story that mentioned our ship in the last paragraph of an article about the Saga Sapphire, a new UK ship that lost power on its maiden voyage.
At 10:30 I watched a show on Wales in the Dining Room. The snow started falling with bigger flakes. After lunch I paid my bill. The cruise line wrote off the bar bills for everyone so I was just charged for 100 megabytes of Internet time. I disputed the third 100 because I had just purchased it when the Internet service stopped so they recalculated the bill.
I walked over to use the King Edward Point Internet Café but discovered that the snow affects their service and it was down. When I returned to the ship they were posting out flight schedules. I was scheduled to leave Montevideo on a Chilean commuter airline at 18:20, arriving in Santiago at 20:50 and then taking an American Airlines redeye at 22:15 to LAX, arriving the next morning at 08:05. I was not happy because many of the passengers were flying on United and I was hoping to because I could get an Economy Plus seat and have a change at an upgrade to Business Class. It would also allow me to use the Internet in the airport lounge in the event Montevideo’s terminal did not provide Internet service.
I returned to my cabin and packed one of my suitcases with my parka, rain pants and my warm weather clothes leaving the other bag for my toilet kit, breathing machine and miscellaneous items for the morning. I went up to see Bob and Cathy and ran into Jamie. When I told her about my displeasure she told me to go up to the bridge and request Katrin to see if my flight can be changed. Katrin had a list of people’s requests so I was not out of the ordinary and she added my request to the list. It might mean I have to stay a night in Montevideo or another South American city but it would be worth the added comfort to not be in the tourist seats on an American Airlines plane.
I returned to the Lounge and noticed that the snow was very heavy and the sun had set so I went out on deck to take some pictures of the mountain we had climbed just the day before and was now covered with snow. The buildings of the King Edward Point Station were covered with snow and I took some pictures of them. Bob Bonifas was outside talking to a reporter in Chicago on his Satellite phone telling them how quickly the weather could change here. He has been talking to the press for two days, getting as much publicity for his company as he could. At one point I asked him if he told them about other Americans on the ship and he said yes he told them Janice was on the ship and that he got her interviewed. No mention of any others that I could get out of him.
About 17:30 they announced that we needed to return our rubber boots. When we go ashore we are supposed to turn a card with our cabin number on it from green to red and back when we return. At the 18:00 recap Rinie announced that there was still one red card and it turned out to be Mike’s. He had to embarrassedly leave the Lounge to go down to change it and Rinie waited until he returned before he would start his briefing which was on the procedures we needed to follow the next day. Our bags needed to be outside our cabin by 07:10. The ship’s crew would then transfer them by Zodiac to the Ushuaia. We will have breakfast at 07:30 and lunch at 11:30. Starting at 12:30 we would be ferried to the Ushuaia by Zodiac.
We had a good time at dinner. I had salmon and several of the others had lamb chops. When I returned to the cabin after dinner, Lynn was packing so I went up to the Lounge and had a drink with Bob, Cathy and Mike. At 21:30 I returned to the cabin, wrote my journal entries and went to bed. Hopefully, it would be the last night in Grytviken and King Edward Point, although we have had a good time under the circumstances.
April 18, 2012, Wednesday, Day 9 at King Edward Point, and Day 1, At sea in the M/V Ushuaia: : The last morning in Grytviken and King Edward Point. I awoke at 5:50 and decided to get up by-passing the 10 additional minutes before my alarm was set. It was still dark outside but I could tell that all the snow had melted. After showering I started to finish packing in the dim light so Lynn could continue to sleep until Rinie’s wake-up call at 07:15. After I had my last minute items spread on the bed I went outside to see if the Ushuaia had met the schedule stated in the Huffington Post article that said it was due to arrive at 04:30 or so with the tug two hours behind. All I could see in the dawn’s early light was the Inspection ship. There was a little bit of a breeze and a very light mist or rain which would account for all the snow melting overnight.
At 07:00 I turned on the light as Rinie gave his wake-up call and finished packing so that my bag would be in the hall by 07:10 to have my Ushuaia cabin marked in chalk on the bag. We were assigned to cabin 205. The next time I looked out the window I saw the tug boat had arrived and was sitting near the inspection ship at the entrance to the cove.
When breakfast was announced I went down and found taped on the reception desk counter my revised flight schedule. At no extra cost they rescheduled me to fly to Buenos Aires then on a United Airlines flight to Houston and on to LAX arriving on the 26th at 09:23. I was very happy because I lay awake for a period worrying that if I had to fly on American Airlines that I not only would be seated in cramped seats in the back of the aircraft but they would charge me for a bag. On United I should at least get an economy plus seat and two free bags, plus if it was a full Y fare ticket I had a reasonable chance to upgrade to Business Class.
During breakfast someone spotted the Ushuaia entering the cove and everyone rushed to the window to watch it cruise down the cove. I rushed outside to get to the Internet Café before the crowd. The four desktops were in use but there were only a couple of people in from of me. While I waited I wondered the hallway to see if I could get a real strong Wi-Fi connection. On one of the hallway bulletin boards I saw a certificate granted to one of the King Edward Point staff for completing a 6,000 kilometer race from Hope Bat at the tip of the peninsula over the South Pole, the Ross Shelf to Cape Adare. That must have been one grueling race.
When I got a desktop I took a short time to display the login page but it kicked me to my profile instead of my email. Eventually I got to my email and deleted 65 messages and got to Judy’s messages. By now the room was filling and a lot of passengers needed to send their flight information home, so I composed one message to all my family informing them that the rescue ship had arrived, that it did not have passenger internet facilities, and I included my flight schedule. I also included a note to remind Judy to reschedule my car service and some other personal things. I was going to run the spell check utility when a yellow message flashed across the screen telling me that Hotmail had been updated and I needed to refresh my connection and warning me if I was writing a message to save it as a draft. I clicked to save my message as a draft but didn’t get a confirmation so without spell checking it I clicked send and I got a confirmation in had been sent but I also got the yellow message again. I signed out and signed back in and again it displayed the profile page and again I had to click on various links to get my email list. It took some time but I opened my drafts and my message was not there so then I opened my sent messages and it was there so I assume it was sent. The yellow warning message appeared again. I was so frustrated I just signed out and let someone else fight with their email. Next to me was Linda and she was experiencing screens she had never seen before. So not only did the snow knock out the Internet service the day before but it appeared to make it do strange things when it was restored.
Walking back to the ship I saw the staff lowering a bag of luggage to a Zodiac and off it roared to the Ushuaia moored where we had moored on our first visit to Grytviken on Easter Sunday, ten days ago. The cargo was then hoisted up to the deck on the Ushuaia. I took some pictures and then went to the Lounge and took some more pictures from the observation deck. The sky was clearing and it looked like it was going to be a nice day. I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal.
I tried the Internet Café one last time and still got weird response so I gave up after reading a message that our ship’s picture and the news of our rescue was on Good Morning America on Tuesday at 07:07. It was getting close to Rinie’s all hands meeting and I was getting tired of the Internet connection behavior and frustrations.
The Captain started Rinie’s meeting by apologizing for the inconvenience the ship’s engine failure had caused us and before Rinie or we could say anything to him he quickly exited the Lounge. It was a very strange abrupt ending to our association with him. Rinie was left a little perplexed and the joked that he had a lot on his mind and got on to explaining the transfer procedure. We would have lunch and then return to our cabins for an announcement to leave the ship and board Zodiacs for a ride to the Ushuaia where we would check in and have someone show us to our cabin. I still had my hat and jacket on and went immediately to lunch. I put my hat down on the shelf along the wall. We had a delicious last lunch on the Plancius of beef chunks with gravy over mashed potatoes.
After lunch I returned to my cabin and packed up my carry-on bag. I then realized I had left my hat in the Dining Room so I rushed back and it was gone. The waiter told me that one of the men at my table had taken it. I immediately thought that Mike had it so I returned to my room and awaited the announcement to go ashore with our hand carry and board a Zodiac for a trip to the M/V Ushuaia. When the announcement was made I put on my jacket and Zodiac life preserver and went down to the shore. There was a line before I finally got in a Zodiac and off we cruised. About half way to the Ushuaia I took my last picture of the Plancius.
When we arrived at the Ushuaia we were directed to the F Deck Lounge. My immediate impression of the ship was that it was smaller than the Plancius and not as well furnished. At the bar at the end of the Lounge sat Hector, the Ushuaia Hotel Manager, with a list of cabin assignments. There was a line and Lynn and I waited awhile for our turn. When we reached Hector, he confirmed that we would be in cabin 204, surprisingly close to the suites that Bob and Cathy and Bob and Janice were assigned on the Upper Deck G forward.
Ali directed us to our cabin. It was not as large as the Plancius but it had and extra locker. The beds were oriented perpendicular to the side of the ship and had a wooden skirt all the way to the floor. There was a desk but no power outlet. I took the bed on the right which had chest of drawers with a series of outlets at the head of the bunk. At the other end of the bunk was an armoire. Lynn had no furniture at either end of his bunk which with his large frame would be easier to get in and out of. I set up my power strip and Sleep Apia machine on the top of the chest. I was able to store my luggage in one of the closets. I found in my luggage and applied a sea sick patch as the sea was forecasted to be rough.
An all passenger orientation and safety briefing was announce and we gathered in Lecture Room on Deck E. The ship was lettered the opposite of the deck numbers. The Bridge was on Deck H which was the sixth deck. Our cabin was directly below the Chart Room aft of the Bridge, so we had to go down two decks to get to the Lecture Room. The seats in the Lecture Room were a little springy which reminded me of movie theater stadium seat. Jamie said the room reminded her of pilot briefing rooms from movies about aircraft carrier flying like “Top Gun”. She waiting for Tom Cruise to come in and sit next to her.
Katrin conducted a roll call to insure everyone had gotten onboard. As soon as she completed the roll call she left the room and we felt that the ship was starting to leave its mooring and head to Montevideo. Then the Ushuaia Expedition Leader, Agustin Ullmann, introduced himself and briefed us on the ship, procedures and safety. Agustin was a humorous speaker and animated in getting his points across. When he was cautioning us on the heavy doors that can suddenly slam shut on a hand if one was not careful, he demonstrated on a door at the front. He wrapped his hand on the door frame and with his other hand pulled on the door knob rapidly demonstrating a swinging door. He had was foot stopping the door from actually smashing his hand and then he produced an old door knob that gave the impression that it had come out of the door. He got everyone’s attention. When he asked for questions one of the Europeans asked if the water in the toilet was safe to drink which got a big laugh. Agustin answered that it was safe if you drink from the tap but not the toilet bowl – point taken.
The M/V Ushuaia was built for the US Navy at American Shipbuilding, Toledo, Ohio, as an IRS Ice class 4 ship. It was purchased by Antarpply Expeditions in the 1990s and converted to a passenger ship. The following are technical specifications compared to the Plancius:
• Specification USHUAIA PLANCIUS
• Length: 278.3 feet 293 feet
• Breadth: 51 feet 47 feet
• Draught: 18.08 feet 16 feet
• Gross Tonnage: 2,963 tons 3,175 tons
• Speed (Max): 14 knots 12 knots
• Cruise Speed: 12 knots 10 knots
• Engine: 2 ALCO 1600 HP ea 3x Diesel-Electric
• Bow trust: 1x500Kw
• Flag: Union of Comoros The Netherlands
• Decks: 5 6
• Passenger Cabins: 50 53
• Passenger Bunks: 86 114
Following his briefing we were told to return to our cabins and get our life preserver and carry it to the Lounge. We soon assembled in the Lounge with our life preservers and put them on. Another roll call was conducted by life boat. We then went out on deck and saw where our assigned boat was located.
As the ship left Cumberland Bay the sea became rough with high waves and white caps. It became difficult to move around. I returned to my cabin and started to write in my journal but found it hard to hold on, type and use a mouse. Lynn was already lying in his bunk and I decided that that was not a bad idea and I did the same. The ship being smaller, our cabin near the top and forward, and the bunks perpendicular to the side made it the roughest we had experienced on the trip.
About 15:30 I needed to go to the bath room and I remembered that our cabin had no toilet paper so I got up and headed to the Lounge to seek out Hector. When I found him he immediately left and stock the cabin toilet. I was having a difficult time navigating around the ship so I returned to my cabin, visited the toilet and threw-up that delicious lunch. After that I lay down and rocked and rolled on the bed. At 18:00 I returned to the Lounge and not many people were there and there were barf bags hanging all over Lounge and the adjacent room that Agustin called the Plasma Room because it has a large plasma TV set. The ship’s brochure titled it the Library but it contained no books or other reading material. The twenty or so passengers in the Lounge all looked pale and sort of “shell shocked”, but the Expedition Staff were gathered around the bar in a planning session with Rinie and looked fresh as if the ship was still at the dock.
There was no recap meeting because most of the passengers were lying down and holding on in their cabins. Dinner was called at 19:00 and only about half the passengers showed up. I sat next to Bob Prada who arrived late looking very pale. Soon after he sat down and saw the food he got up and visited the Men’s room adjacent to the Dining Room. I ate the salad but had no appetite for the quail that was served and excused myself, returned my cabin and threw-up. I then changed into my sleeping attire and went to bed about 20:00. The ship was rocking and rolling worst that the Class 11 storm we experienced on the 4th.
April 19, 2012, Thursday, Day 2 at sea in the M/V Ushuaia: I did not have a restful night. It seemed that I was awake all night, sliding back and forth hitting the armoire at one end and the headboard at the other end and also rolling right and left. I got up at 08:00, dressed and went down to the Lounge. Some people had slept or attempted to sleep all night in the Lounge. When breakfast was announced I sat with Bob Bonifas, Terry, Linda and Ed. There were even few people at breakfast then had been at dinner. I had a bowl of fruit, yogurt, toast and tea and felt pretty good. Just as we were leaving Jamie and Lynn Williams arrived and ate alone. Mike, Bob and Cathy missed the meal completely.
At 10:30 Albert gave a very interesting and informative presentation on Global Circulation of the sea, in the Lecture Room. About half the passengers attended. After the Lecture I returned to my cabin and picked up my laptop and cord and set up at a desk in the corner of the Plasma Room.
At lunch, Bob and Cathy appeared and about three quarters of the passengers attended. It turns out that most everybody was ill at some time during the last 24 hours.
After lunch I returned to my computer and updated several lists to add the Ushuaia and Uruguay to my Cruise History and catch up in my journal.
I attended Simon’s talk on Albatrosses in the Lecture Room at 15:30. He did not have a big turnout but he did have some good pictures up close of the various Albatross species.
At 18:00 the Lounge began to fill and the drinks began to flow. I had a beer and got into a discussion with Albert over the Coils effect. He didn’t believe that at the Equator in Equator that you can see water in a tub drain different directions on the North from the South on the line that marks the Equator. He didn’t believe could be strong enough a few feet on either side of the line, that near to the line. There was a Dutch passenger sitting between us and she had been to the Equator site and defended my argument. Albert ended the discussion by saying that he was going to have visit the site to see for himself.
Mike arrived and bought me a beer and we entered into a discussion with Bob Bonifas until Rinie gave his recap of the day. He told us that the Captain was steering west of the straight course to Montevideo to avoid a strong head wind. The Captain expects to pick up a tail wind and ride the Falkland Island current which make up for the deviation. Rinie expects that we will have one more storm day before we reach calmer seas. Katrin then told us that she has received a letter to be distributed to all passengers from the Oceanwide Expeditions Managing Director, she handed us a copy. The letter stated: “Unfortunately, I have not received any approval from you concerning my email offer of 15 April and/or received a negative response from the following passengers, as per email of 17 April by Mr. Juan Carlos Lopez Garcia:” 53 names were listed including most of the Advantage Travel and Tours group. The letter then stated. “I therefore consider my offer as “null and void” and will discuss further steps with your booking agency/tour operator and will revert to you soonest.”
Right after the letter was distributed they called us to dinner. They served grilled venison steak on green Asparagus and creamy polenta, with a warm apple tart for dessert. The discussion at diner centered on the letter and speculation on what will be the next step.
After dinner I went to the Plasma Room where I still had my laptop plugged in and finished my journal for the day. In the background I could hear a lot more discussions about the letter. I returned to my cabin with my now fully charged laptop at 21:00. It had been an interesting day.
April 20, 2012, Friday, Day 3 at sea in the M/V Ushuaia:- At sea in the M/V Ushuaia I slept later than normal. I was getting use to the rocking and rolling, but still had a mysterious banging I the cabin that I can’t find that would occasionally wake me up. I took a shower. The water didn’t get all over the toilet floor like what happened on the Plancius. The hot water was very hot and I had to be careful not to brush or grab the hot water pipe. The fixture was old fashion compared to the Plancius. The soap dish was small with no lip to hold the soap and shampoo from rolling off. After my shower I went to the Lounge. The few people sitting in the Lounge looked a little better that the day before.
Rinie’s wakeup call informed us that we were still heading west toward the Falkland Islands to skirt below a storm and then head north with the storm winds to aid us. The sea had white caps and sea fog which make it look like we were in the storm instead of the southern edge.
When Breakfast was called there was a rush to the Dining Room door. The Dining Room staff was at the door controlling the number of people to let at a time. The buffet area was u shaped and the day before became very congested inside the u with people lining up on both sides instead of a single file. It still was not smooth because people were lining up on both sides. One side of the u was a hot table and the other side a cold table. They had oatmeal on the hot side but the bowls were on the cold side and the milk was in a pitcher on the cold side and not labeled so there was a bit of confusion. As I started for a table with a plate of toast, a Yogurt container, and the bowl of oatmeal, the Chef took my plate and handed it to one the waiters to take it to a seat. I sat with Lynn, Ali and Anna. I told them at one time during the night I heard a loud bang below my cabin and the ship appeared to stop. I thought that the propeller shaft had broken and we were adrift in the rough sea miles from any land. Ali said it was the staff partying. Anyway the ship started moving again.
After breakfast I returned to my cabin and tried to write in my journal but the desk in my cabin was not that comfortable. I gave up and waited for Albert’s presentation on “Waves and Tides”. In the mean time I went up to the chart room and talked with the female Officer on duty at the chart that they were plotting the ship’s positions on.
Albert started his presentation in the Lecture Room at 10:30. He did not have slides; rather he used a tablet he drew on that displayed on the screen. Again, he presented an interesting and informative explanation on the generation of waves and the effect that the moon and the sun have on tides. Bob Prada was in attendance and contributed some of the inside the US Navy uses to determine the impact waves have on ships and on tide forecasting. Albert was a good lecturer and I enjoy his presentations.
After Albert’s presentation I picked up my laptop and set up at the desk in the Plasma Room. It was a much more comfortable desk to work at and it has the power outlets to recharge my laptop.
The tables in the Dining Room had 5 seats on each side so at lunch the Advantage Travel and Tours group sat at one table. After eating a salad with chicken strips, Bob Prada briefed us on the latest compensation offer and solicited our opinions on the next step. Everyone had something to say so we moved the meeting to the Lecture Room. As a group we agreed that Bob and Cathy should settle for the group and resist having Oceanwide Expeditions try to deal with us individually since that could prolong the settlement by months.
We returned to the Lecture Room at 15:30 to attend a talk by Michael Wenger from Polar.com on “Ocean Acidification – The Other CO2 Problem”. His talk showed graphs and charts that although Earth has cycled through periods of changes in the acidity over millions of years the current rate of change was extremely rapid. He discussed the negative impact that it causes on sea life. The talk was informative but the discussions after the talk were for me even more interesting and informative. The discussion was led by Cliff Soper, the CEO of an Alberta, Canada, energy company. He was really knowledgeable on the impact
At 17:30 a crowd started gathering in the Lounge with women sitting at the bar. I had a beer and talked to a number of passengers. Mike, Lynn, Ed, Bob and Cathy arrived at 18:30. Rinie gave his recap at 18:30. He repeated the Captain’s plan to skirt a storm. The only surprise was our ETA for Montevideo has slipped until late on the 24th or early on the 25th. Bob Bonifas had already anticipated and had his secretary change his flights to the 25th which means he will be on the same United flight to Houston as I was.
At dinner the group all sat at the same table. They served Argentinian Sirloin Steak served with a baked potato and mixed vegetables. Dessert was a warm crepe filled with ice cream and covered with chocolate sauce. After everyone finished eating we played a game of charades. The first group picked the “Titanic” and we guessed before it became my turn to guess. Our team picked “Rosemary’s Baby” and I was the first to act out. Bob Prada was sitting across from me and I think he heard Linda whisper the title because he guessed the minute I did a baby rocking in my arms.
At 20:45 the Captain announced that he was turning the ship to the North and that it will be rough for several hours and the outside decks are off limits. I returned to my cabin to go to bed at 21:30
April 21, 2012, Saturday, Day 4 at sea in the M/V Ushuaia:- I did not have solid night’s sleep. The ship was rocking and rolling more than the night before. Again I would slide down so my feet would hit the armoire and then my head would hit the head wall and I also roll side to side. I have cloth burns on each arm from rubbing against the course wool blanket and my calf’s from the sheets. I got up once and rearranged some of the items in the room. I had to jam the little waste basket alongside the toilet to behind the toilet to stop it from continuing to slide around the bath room, banging the walls.
I skipped the shower and when Rinie made his wake-up call I was still in bed. I went down to breakfast and it was a tough juggling act to get my food selection to the table. One of the waiters helped. Lynn, Ed and Terry joined me. Later Jamie and Lynn Williams sat at our table. Terry had a Sony Video Camera and he had been searching for a USB connector took transfer his videos to his iPAD. Jamie had a bag of different connectors, but none of them fit the Sony port. I quickly went back to my cabin and found my adapter bag and returned to see if any of them would work. Terry didn’t have his camera but he didn’t think any of them would work but we would try it later in the Lounge.
When we left the Dining Room I went to the Chart Room and as I was pouring over the chart to see the ship’s position at 0800 I met the Captain. He was an outgoing very personable gentleman and was soon joined by the female Third Officer that I had met the day before. The Captain showed me the current weather report that showed the storm northeast of the ships position. I saw that the ship was currently heading 355˚. The Captain told me the ship was cruising at 11 kts and that his ETA was forecasted for the 24th.
I then returned to my cabin, retrieved my laptop and set it up in the Plasma Room. I could tell that the sea was rougher than the day before because my laptop and mouse were sliding more around the desk than they had the day before.
Ali conducted a talk on “Life on the Falkland Islands” at 10:30 in the Lecture Room. She lived there for 15 years working as a school teacher and as a conservationist. She had some pictures and stories about life on the Islands. There are species of birds and seals that are only found on the Falklands. Ali had some interesting pictures of penguins with cows and horses. The 2,600 inhabitants live primarily around Stanley, on the East Island, but there are farmers and fisherman that live throughout the other islands plus 1,700 British military stationed on the Islands. During her early time as a teacher, Ali performed a unique home schooling, where she would stay with a family for two weeks teaching their children. She showed us pictures of some of small huts she would live in on the farms. When she would move on to the next family the children would continue their schooling over the phone. She had several pictures of her vehicles stuck in the mud as not all the farms had a paved or gravel road leading to the farm house and she would have to drive across the open fields following tracks to her destination. There was a small airplane that flew from the paved airport to landing strips on the outlying farms. The plane has an interesting passenger operation. She would send the flight operations a request to visit a remote farm or village and then have to listen to the radio in the evening when the Flight Ops would announce their schedule for the following day and who would be the passengers. As Ali stated, it would be difficult to have an illicit affair with someone outside of Stanley because the whole Island would know your travels.
After the talk I returned to the Lounge and let Cathy use my computer to type a message to Oceanwide Expeditions, store it on a thumb drive and have Katrin email it. While Cathy was typing her message I asked Katrin to point out Judy Lowe so I could obtain her permission to include her poem in my blog journal. She was very happy to have it published.
At 13:00 we went to lunch where they served pasta and cherry tomatoes. Bob and Janice sat at our table and took a lot of playful ribbing from Linda. The mood was joyful considering the circumstances. The sea was still rough and the ship was rolling a lot but the bucking had diminished.
I returned to the Plasma Room and my laptop. Bob Bonifas and Lynn Williams stopped by the desk and we discussed the pros and cons of cellphones. I was really irritated that my FreeCell game was no longer working because it was attempting to connect to Google Play, the same problem I had last week at King Edward Point. I pulled the battery and it didn’t do any good. After Bob and Lynn left, I watched a rerun of The Amazing Race.
At 15:30 I attended Albert’s talk about the “Measure of the Earth” in the Lecture Room. Albert was an amazing guy. His talk started with the history of the various theories of the shape of the earth. During the French Revolution the metric measuring system was created to replace the numerous measuring systems throughout the country and standardize on one system. The meter was created as one 40,000th of the circumference of the world. Several scientists had differing opinions on the exact shape of the world. Was it flat, was it perfectly round, was it pear shape, was it lemon shape, etc. In France they calculated using stars and the sun, the 60 degrees that measured a Meridian. In order to prove the earth was perfectly round two expeditions were formed. One team went to Ecuador (which at the time was part of Peru) and one led by Struve to Lapland at the most northern point of Europe. The result was that the distance between Meridians differed proving that the earth was not a perfect sphere and was lemon shaped.
The points that Struve used in his surveying have been designated as World Heritage Sites. Albert’s daughter studied the project and she and Albert traced the survey sites from Lapland to the Black Sea and plan on publishing a book on their experience. After Albert’s talk I stayed and along with Bob Prada discussed navigation.
One of my curiosities was how much the ship was rolling so after Albert’s presentation I went to the Bridge where they showed me the Clinometer that measures the roll. While I was standing there the ship was in a base roll of 7 degrees but often hit 15 to 20 degrees. I returned to my laptop desk in the Plasma Room and Cathy asked me if she could compose a message on my laptop to Oceanwide Expeditions and save it on a thumb drive that Katrin could use to email.
At 18:00 I joined Albert, Ed and Mike at the bar with Rinie serving as bartender. I mentioned the 15 to 20 degree roll and Rinie and Andrew told me that it hit 35 degrees on the Plancius when we could not land at Paulet Island. Rinie gave his recap at 18:30 and repeated that we skirted the storm and are now heading north. He expected that we would arrive the evening of the 24th.
I sat across from Jamie and Lynn Williams and next to Bob Bonifas at dinner which was a tasty Irish Lamb Stew. After dinner I learned that Katrin was unable to read Cathy’s message on my thumb drive and I resaved the file as a doc rather than a docx file. Katrin soon returned from the Bridge and gave me back my thumb drive and told me she was able to read and email out the doc file. I finished my journal before 21:00 and returned to my cabin for the night.
April 22, 2012, Sunday, Day 5 at sea in the M/V Ushuaia: I slept more soundly than the previous nights on the Ushuaia. The ship didn’t appear to rock and roll as much. I stayed in bed half-awake between 07:00 and Rinie’s wakeup call at 08:00 and then I got up and took a shower which was still a challenge, even in the reduced rocking and rolling. Outside, there was a rain shower but the sun was attempting to break through the clouds and away from the rain shower there were patches of blue sky.
Not all our group made it to breakfast. Jamie reported that Lynn Williams was staying in bed with a cold and a lot of congestion. Lynn Bishop, Ed and Terry sat with me. Linda and Mike skipped the meal. After breakfast I setup my laptop again in the corner desk in the Plasma Room.
At 10:30 I attended Albert’s presentation on “God’s Giant Watering Can” where he talked about the heavy rains that occur between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn base on the position of the sun. Albert amazed us again, first on the clear presentation but also his experience working in Africa getting local tribes to cooperate on water and glazing lands. Again, he gave a very informative and interesting talk.
Just before lunch I visited the Bridge and saw that we were not rolling as drastically as we had been and the good news that we were cruising at 14.1 knots. I asked the Second Officer if I was correctly reading the ground speed and confirmed that I was and the reason for increase in ground speed was the fact the ship was now in the Maldives current which travels up the coast of South America.
When I returned to my laptop desk in the Plasma Room I found Jamie, Cathy and a number of other passengers watching the 2007 movie “Michael Clayton” starring, George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilde Swinton and Sydney Pollack. I had seen the movie five years ago and remembered that it had a great ending.
We had salad and a quiche for lunch. Janice sat next to me and still had a cold which I hoped I wouldn’t catch. After lunch I returned the Plasma Room. A few of the passengers skipped lunch just to see the end of the movie.
Bob Prada gave a talk on the “Art of Navigation” at 15:30 in the Lecture Room. His focus was on the history of sea navigation which differs a lot from the Air Navigation that I performed in the US Air Force. Bob’s talk was well received and I found the difference between sea and air navigation challenges. Of course Air Navigation was just an extension of Sea with the problem of the greater speed of airplanes. In the Q and A after the talk some of the passengers wanted to address the issue of “dead reckoning”.` After Bob’s answer I talked a little about the USAF Air Navigation “dead reckoning”.
After the talk I returned to the Lounge. Anna had some photos on a thumb drive of Linda and Terry that Terry wanted to transfer to his iPAD. His solution was to have me copy the pictures to my laptop and email them to Terry and Linda when I got home. I copied them and after returning the drive to Anna, Cathy invited me to her cabin. When I got there Michael Wenger from Polar.com was there and Ed followed me. We each drank some wine and discussed our impressions of the cruise. Michael soon left and Ed arrived with a bottle of coffee cream drink similar to Bailey’s.
Rinie held his recap at 18:30 and told us that we were cruising with both a tail wind and sea current and that we were expected to arrive sometime on Tuesday. Michael joined us at the dinner table. We had a ham steak for dinner and an ice cream cake for dessert.
After dinner a number of us went to the Lecture Room to see a movie titled “The Quiet American” starring Michael Cain and Brandon Frasier set in Saigon in 1952. Many of the scenes were filmed in Saigon and it was fun to watch a movie about Viet Nam where the scenery was accurate. The movie finished at 22:00 and I retired to my cabin.
April 23, 2012, Monday, Day 6 at sea in the M/V Ushuaia: The ship rolled a lot during the night but I slept soundly for several hours at a time and stayed in bed until Rinie’s wake-up call at 08:00. I skipped taking a shower and getting hurt being thrown around the cabin and headed to the Lounge. While I was waiting breakfast I was able to take some pictures of a rainbow off the stern of the ship.
I was in the second group allowed in the Dining Room for breakfast. The flow around the buffet seemed to be smoother than the previous days. I had yogurt and oatmeal for breakfast. After breakfast I went to the bridge to see how much the ship was rolling. It was consistently rolling at 15 degrees and we were cruising at 11 knots. The Third Officer told me they expected to arrive at Pilot pick-up point at 10:30 on Tuesday. So despite the deviation the Captain took to avoid the storms we would be arriving several hours before the planned noon arrival we were told back at South Georgia. It was nice that we were on a fast course but I wished that the sea was smoother.
From the Bridge I returned to my cabin and picked-up my laptop and proceeded to the Plasma Room and set it up on the corner desk. At 10:00 I attended Anna’s presentation on her living on Tristan da Cunha.
Anna’s presentation was interesting. She presented a history of the Island and then the Island’s inhabitants. After the volcano eruption in1961 the British evacuated all the in habitants to England. Two years later some of the Islanders returned and now there are seven family names on the island. They are basically self-sufficient with good crops, fishing, cattle, and sheep. The Island’s economy was based on revenue from fishing – especially the crawfish which the Japanese like. What was interesting was there are only about 60 fishing days per year. When the weather was right for fishing the people open the fish processing plant and almost everyone has a function in the plant. When they not involved in fishing and its processing they work their farm plots, their cattle and their sheep. Another interesting tidbit that Anna said was that the young do not leave the Island after they finish their schooling. Albert was in the audience and has spent a lot of time on the island. He provided interesting support to Anna’s presentation. One subject of study on the islands inhabitants was they have a high rate of asthma. To Albert’s knowledge the cause has not been determined.
After Anna’s talk Andrew showed a film titled “Around Cape Horn” produced by the Mystic Maritime Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. It was a documentary filmed in black and white and narrated by Captain Irving Johnson as he sailed on a German pure sail ship out of Hamburg, Germany in 1929. After what he documented our rolling around seemed like child’s play.
I sat with Linda and Terry at lunch and sort of gave a tutorial on Internet and Wi-Fi. They both use Verizon; Linda on dial-up and Terry on DSL. Terry had recently purchased the new iPAD and has been frustrated trying to get used to it. He took movies and was convinced by someone to purchase a MAC because he was told does a better job of editing his movies than on a Microsoft Windows machine. He was having a difficult time trying to perform the same functions he used on his Microsoft Windows desk top. After lunch I transferred some pictures for Terry to an SD card that he wanted to load on his iPAD.
At one point during lunch someone alerted the “Birders” to the sighting of a rare bird and it reminded me of USAF SAC alert, they ran out of the Dining Room with their cameras and telephoto lens to get on deck to get a picture of the bird. In just a few minutes they returned to finish their lunch. It was an occurrence that has happened more than once on the cruise.
Rinie gave a talk on “Humpback Whales” in the Lecturer Room at 15:30. He had some great pictures especially of a mother and baby just after the baby was born. He told us that male whales sing a song even though they don’t have vocal cords. For some unknown reason all the males in a pod sing the same song for an entire season and change it every season. The song was generated in their ear tubes. Females do not sing. Rinie discussed the migration and feeding areas. There was proof that whales travel great distances to breed, give birth, and feed.
Bob and Cathy held their “6 at 606” meeting in their cabin 202. All the members of the group attended plus Bob Bonifas and Janice. Cathy had procured two bottles of Champaign and we had bottles of Red and White wine. It was conceivable that it would be the last night on the ship for the entire group. I encouraged Bob and Cathy to tell their love story so that Bob Bonifas and Janice, Lynn and Jamie could hear it.
We went to dinner as a group and ate a delicious Rib Eye Steak with a Strawberry shortcake for dessert. I sat next between Mike and Bob, across from Jamie and Lynn Williams. We continued talking about Viet Nam and then onto Lynn’s experiences in China and Laos. After dinner I returned to my desk in the Plasma Lounge to record the activities in my journal.
The daily schedule called for a passenger and crew party at 20:00 but by 21:00 it hadn’t materialized. I sat with Mike, Linda and Terry across from Bob, Albert and Ed while I waited for the action that never started. I returned to my cabin and went to bed.
April 24, 2012, Tuesday, Day 7 on the m/v Ushuaia, docked in Montevideo, Uruguay: I awoke to sunlight around 07:00 and looked out the window to a view of the city of Montevideo. We had arrived early. The ship was not rolling so I took a normal shower and shaved without having to hold on to a grab bar. I was already on deck watching tug boats alongside when Rinie made his wake-up call. The weather was perfect, bright sun and I was comfortable on deck in a short sleeve shirt.
We had a very happy breakfast. Everyone had a good night’s sleep as the ship roll had diminished. Terry told me that the party finally got underway just after I left with the Captain leading the dancing. After breakfast we found that a number of local officials had come on board and set up in the Plasma Room tables to process us into Uruguay. Rinie was scheduled to give us an update at 09:30 but postponed it because it was not clear what the next step would be to allow us off the ship. Eventually Jamie and Lynn Williams were allowed off the ship with Katrin to go to the American Embassy to get Jamie’s replacement passport.
Around 10:30 Rinie called his up-date meeting. He had passed out maps of the city and next he passed out Port Access cards which we needed to exit and reenter the Port area. Bob Bonifas and Janice were the first off and were pulling their bags toward the Port Gate when I got off. They had stopped for some picture taking and I assisted by taking a picture of the two of them with the bow of the Ushuaia in the background. Just after taking their picture a car drove by with Katrin, Jamie and Lynn. It hadn’t taken them long to get Jamie’s replacement Passport.
Near the Port Gate was an Internet Café and I stopped in to check it out. They charged US$4 for 15 minutes but just US$6 for an hour. I walked on and across from the Port Gate I ran into Bob and Janice again at a Taxi stand. Mike was also there coming from a Currency Exchange shop.
I walked on and picked up the signs for a walking tour of the city. The area I took had very old colonial buildings with a number pedestrian malls lined with a lot of little shops and restaurants. It was very picturesque. I ran into Ed and walked with him for a few blocks and then Linda and Terry. They were in search of a place to stay for a few days so I veered off towards the Port. It was after noon and I had signed up to eat lunch on the ship. I attempted to call Judy and didn’t use the correct prefix code. On the return to the ship I stopped at the Internet Café again and got the code and was able to call Judy on my cell phone.
They served a nice salad for lunch. Jamie and Lynn, Linda and Terry sat at my table. Jamie told us how easy it was to get the replacement Passport. Linda and Terry told us about the hotel they found for their extended stay in Montevideo.
After lunch I walked to the Internet Café and bought an hour’s worth of Internet connection and cleaned up a lot of my email that had accumulated since we left King Edward Point. I tried to get my flight reservation on the United Airlines web site but without a confirmation number I could not find it. It was very frustrating; I don’t know why the Oceanwide Expedition’s travel agent didn’t include those details when she emailed Katrin with our flight reservations.
When I left the Café Mike was walking by. I joined him on a quest to find if there was a United Airlines office in the city. We found the American Airlines office and they told us there was a United Airlines office in the neighborhood wrote the address on a card and pointed us in the general direction. On the way, still not knowing which exact building we were looking for we came upon a Travel Agency. We dropped in and their receptionist pointed us to a white building down the street. The only trouble was there were three white buildings down the street. We walked on and at the Radisson Hotel asked the door man. He told us that the United Airlines Office was in the next building. When we got to the building there was no sign advertising that United had an office in the building. A young lady on a smoke break told us to ask at the reception desk inside. The receptionist directed us to the fourth floor. There we walked back and forth on the hallway until we finally discovered a small sign identifying the door to the United Airlines Office. I guess because they don’t have flights to Montevideo, United doesn’t see the need to advertise the office. Once inside we found six agent stations but only one manned. The agent was able to find our records, enter our Mileage Plus number and assign us seats. My flight to Houston had only three economy plus seats available and they were the bulkhead.
We felt better knowing our confirmation number and seat assignments so we stopped at a restaurant bar for a beer. The beer tasted great and the restaurant part was interesting. We sat at the counter and in front of Mike was a large pot of hot dogs in hot water with bay leaves. The short order cook was making ham and cheese sandwiches in a way that mystified us. His bread was about 8 inches square with no crust. He started with a piece of bread, piled 4 to 6 slices of cheese, 4 to 6 slices of ham then 4 to 6 slices of cheese again and then one slice of bread and then the cheese, ham, cheese, etc. At no layer did he have two slices of bread in a row. When the stack got high he put the stack in a plastic bag and started a new stack.
We walked back to ship after our beer and when we were passing the Internet Café Bob and Cathy were emerging and walked back to the ship with us. They ate lunch in the city but were returning to have dinner on the ship. Soon after we returned to the ship Bob and Cathy held an “open cabin” in their cabin to have us help drink the rest of the wine that they and others had stocked up for the longer voyage. A large group assembled and we were in a joyful mood when Rinie announced that he would present a status update in the Lounge. The party move to the Lounge and were greeted with glasses of champagne – the ship was also getting rid of their stock of wine.
After a number of toasts Rinie explained the schedule for the next day. We were divided into three groups based on our scheduled flight departure times. Those with flights scheduled to leave before noon needed to have their luggage outside their cabin before 06:00 and board a bus to the airport at 06:00. A Continental Breakfast would be available in the Lounge. Everyone else needed to have their checked bags in the hall by 07:00 and their carry-ons in the Lounge by 07:00. The cabins needed to be vacated by 07:00 so they could be cleaned. Breakfast would be served at 07:00. All checked bags would be moved to the dock during breakfast. At 08:00 those passengers with departures scheduled in the afternoon would have to identify their luggage, have it loaded on a bus that would leave at 08:00 for the airport. The rest of the passengers and staff would leave on a bus at 09:00 for a local hotel where the staff would spend the night and the passengers with evening departures could store their luggage until they boarded a bus at 14:30. Katrin also had the flight confirmation and ticket numbers to hand out. I don’t know why they were not provided earlier but they did agree with what I had obtained at the United Airlines office.
The meeting broke up with a lot of hugs and good byes and the call to dinner. The last supper was a mild fish in a lemon sauce over sticky rice. The dessert was buffet style with tiramisu and other “sweets”. I sat next to Roman across from Bob Prada and had a very interesting discussion on his world travel goals and the various lists used by country counters. If he had his way he would expand the list to include every administrative state, province, etc. for every country in the world. Bob talked about his goal to visit all the World Heritage Sites over all the administrative state, province, etc. What surprised me was Roman was not as interested in interacting with people as much as seeing the different scenery. Neither Bob nor Roman has a goal of visiting all of the MTP or TCC sites. For me it was a fascinating conversation.
After dinner I returned to my cabin and packed as much as I could.
April 25, 2012, Wednesday, Day 8, on the m/v Ushuaia, docked in Montevideo, Uruguay: I awoke to my alarm at 06:00 showered and finished packing. Rinie’s wake-up call came at 06:45 and I was able to move my luggage into the hall and lug my carry-on to the Lounge. After breakfast I looked over the side and saw that my luggage had made it to the dock. At 08:00 a big bus arrived and we said good bye to many friends and colleagues. We also made sure that our bags didn’t get loaded on the bus if we were scheduled on the 09:00 bus. After the bus left I set up my laptop in the Plasma Room and tried to catch up on my journal entries. At 09:00 I shut down, packed my laptop in my carry-on and proceeded to the deck. I was surprised to see that it had rained. The crew had covered the luggage the best they could but the rain shower had passed before they got all the luggage consolidated and covered. I also was surprised that there was no bus. About 09:15 two small busses arrived and they didn’t have the luggage space underneath that 08:00 bus had. The fun began when first we split and half the group went to the bus on the left and half to the right. When I approached the bus on the left I was told that it was for the staff and the passengers were to get on the bus to the right as I turned right I was told to load my bags on the bus to the left. I was in a line when they closed the storage doors and directed the line to the other side of the bus and when we went around the bus we discovered that those storage doors were closed and we were back where we started. The people at the head of the line had their luggage loaded in the back of the bus on the right but the rest of us just dropped our bags and boarded the bus. I ended up in the last row and my bags in the seat next to the driver. The aisle was then loaded with bags. We were packed in like sardines. There were still a lot of staff milling around and finally a van arrived and the staff were loaded on the van. We didn’t leave the port until 09:45 for a thirty minute drive to a hotel in the center of the city. The Plancius staff and crew were booked into the Hotel Europa and the plan was to have those scheduled for evening departures to store their luggage in one of the hotel rooms. It was another fiasco unloading the buses and getting the luggage up to the 3rd floor. My carry-on got moved to the 3rd floor and I had to wait until all the staff had been checked in before the person with the room key could be found so I could retrieve my laptop and use the free Wi-Fi to process my email and drop box files.
Before setting up my laptop I decided go out for lunch. The Main Information Tourist Office was a couple of blocks from the hotel, so I walked up to it and asked for recommendations. The young man at the desk told me that one of the most popular lunch dishes was spicy sausage and marked some places on a city map. I didn’t walk too many blocks before I came upon a fountain on a street corner that was fenced and had hundreds of pad locks fasten to the fence. A plaque was affixed to the front of the fountain that provides an explanation in both English and Spanish. The English version of the text read, "The legend of this young fountain tells us that if a lock with the initials of two people in love was placed in it, they will return together to the fountain and their love will be forever locked." I had seen this custom in other countries but this was unique because of the bi-lingual plaques. I stopped to take a picture of the plaques and noticed one of the recommended restaurants was close by so I had a nice spicy sausage for lunch.
On my way back to the hotel I came upon a gas station with two beautifully restored antique Fords. One was a left hand drive Model ‘T’ and the other was a right hand drive Model ‘A’. Back at the hotel I set up my laptop and documented the morning fiascos. At 14:30 Rinie and his staff arrived and started to move the luggage from the hotel room to the lobby sometime during the move my Boze headphone case fell out of my carry-on and fortunately Rinie found it. A bus arrived and this time it had a cargo area underneath that easily stored the entire luggage.
The ride to the airport took us through some areas along the shore with beautiful homes. I sat next to Fritz who was going to stay in Buenos Aires for a few days and then fly to Iguassu Falls. I told him of my recent trip to Iguassu Falls and crossing into Paraguay for a day.
At the airport I found checking in to be easy and security was fast. I had several hours before my flight and I found they had outlets to plug in a computer at the end of each row of seats. The terminal had secured Wi-Fi. There was a VIP Lounge but it didn’t honor Star Alliance members. I was able to obtain the Username and Password for the Wi-Fi and connected with my cellphone but when I tried to connect with my laptop a got a message that it could not resolve the DNS Name. I wasted a lot of time attempting to connect the laptop. I had made the mistake of storing all the pictures taken during the trip in a folder in my local Dropbox folder and when I had connected at the hotel Dropbox was attempting to upload them to the cloud and it estimated it was going to take 36 hours. Conversely Wendy had placed a number of TV shows she thought I would like to watch on the flight home in my Dropbox and they were attempting to be downloaded to my laptop. Neither the upload nor the download was completed at the hotel nor the airport.
I had a window seat on the short flight to Buenos Aires and was able to take some beautiful pictures of the city lights of both Montevideo and Buenos Aires. We flew on Pluna the national airline of Uruguay, which flies CRJ-900s. At Buenos Aires we were bussed to the terminal. When I entered the terminal on the ground floor there were no signs or agents directing us to a transit area. Everyone I asked directed me to Immigration and baggage claim and the only exit was into the main terminal. I knew I had to get a boarding pass so I went to the United Airlines check-in counter. There the agent was surprised and asked me why I hadn’t gotten the boarding pass upstairs. I told her that there was no sign as you find in other airports for transits. She told of course there was, it was a yellow line on the floor. Later I found that if you arrive on a sky bridge they have the yellow path to follow but not if you arrive by bus.
Once I got the board pass I had to climb stairs and enter a very long line for security. I was not a happy camper because I knew there was a United Club and this was wasting time that I could have been using to sync my laptop. When I finally got to the Club and read my emails, one was from Wendy asking me who Bob Bonifas was because she was getting a lot of Google hits connecting him with the Plancius. While I was waiting for my flight I asked the receptionist if she had been on duty the night before and when she said “yes”, I asked her if she remembered Bob Bonifas coming through and she replied “she sure did and he told everyone the story of being stuck in South Georgia for over a week.” I pasted on Wendy’s links so she could Google them. One of the links was to the Chicago ABC News station and I found it interesting that one of the pictures they showed of Bob and Janice was at Shackelton’s Grave that I had taken of them with Bob’s camera.
The flight to Houston was delayed because the earlier Newark flight was broken at the gate. They changed gates to a gate close to the Club and I was able to get into the line near the front. I was assigned to an “Economy Plus” seat, but it was the exit row with a bulkhead so it had less room for my legs than an economy seat and no place to put my headset case, neck pillow, and other items. I decided to sit on them until after takeoff when I could put them on the floor.
April 26, 2012, Thursday, Day 29 of the scheduled cruise: In the air between Buenos Aires and Houston on United 052: - It was very uncomfortable for me to sleep with my legs bent and at one point my left leg started to throb and I tried stretching it out with my leg up the bulkhead wall. It helped a little but it still throbbed so I decided to walk the aisles. I stood up steadied myself and put my left leg down in the aisle and it collapsed, as I fell forward I tried to stop my fall by grabbing the Flight Attendant’s seat back but it tore from the wall and I crashed to the floor in front of the restroom scrapping my left arm on the center bulkhead. I lay there for a few minutes and some of the passengers tried to help me up but it took a while before my left leg would hold my weight. I put the Flight Attendant’s seat back together and limped to the rear of the aircraft where I could really stretch out my legs. They finally felt normal and I was able to return to my seat and get some more sleep. A little later I woke up to discover my right elbow was bleeding so I went up front and had a Flight Attendant put a band aid on it.
When I landed at Houston and turned on my cell phone I received a message from United alerting me to the gate for a later flight to LAX. I had to clear Customs and Immigration, pick up my bags and drop them off at United. My bags come through in the first batch and I dropped them at United and then stopped at the agent desk to see if I had been rescheduled. The agent said I still held a seat on the 07:35 flight and I had time to make it if I hurried up stairs to the gate. It was 07:05 and I rushed up the stairs to be confronted with a very long security line. I ducked under the barrier to the first x-ray machine and told the people I had a tight connection. Some of them said they had a tight connection also, so I said “then let’s get on with it, and hurry through the process”. They let me start undressing along with them. This lane had the full body scan and we quickly passed through and I made my flight. When I got on board a lady was sitting in my seat next to two children. She asked me if I would mind taking her assigned seat across the aisle but as I started to sit there the two girls in that row asked me if I would switch with their girlfriend in another row. I obliged and ended up with an aisle seat in Economy Plus next to an unoccupied seat (the only one on the plane!).
I bought a breakfast and tried to watch the movie “War Horse” but I started it too late to see the end. At LAX we parked at Terminal 7 and when I got to the baggage area my GOSedan driver was there and recognized me – he had driven me before, and told me that I had to go to Terminal 6 to get my bags. He told me that he had seen that a lot lately on the former Continental routes. Again I was not a happy camper that they didn’t tell us that when we exited the plane. My driver told me he was going to move the car to Terminal 6 parking while I retrieved my luggage. On my way to Terminal 6 I stopped at the Terminal 7 Baggage Service Office. A Supervisor was there and I told him that I thought it was unacceptable that United didn’t inform the passengers on the flight that their luggage would be in Terminal 6. He was surprised and asked for the flight number. From there I went on to Terminal 6 and waited for my bags to come down the chute. My driver arrived and one of my bags appeared. We waited for the other and the belt stopped. I asked an agent if all bags from my flight had arrived and she told me they had so I stopped in the Terminal 6 Baggage Service Office. It took the lone agent there a long time to complete whatever she was doing and wait on me. When she finally waited on me she told me that my bag was already on a flight scheduled to land at 11:00. She then took a long time to complete the report. The bag was delivered at 18:00 that night. The adventure was over.