I departed Kansas City on Oct. 20. After an overnight flight, I arrived in Santiago, Chile at 6:30am the next morning ..Friday morning. After clearing Immigration and Customs, it was a short walk across the street to our hotel. I had met a couple, Paul and Anita DePratt, from California who was on my flight from Dallas. Others were arriving about the same time. Since our rooms weren’t ready at that early hour we all headed to the dining room for the breakfast buffet.
After lunch, our group took a city tour of Santiago that found several places closed due to a municipal employees strike. It was a chance to meet some of my fellow travelers before the late afternoon welcoming reception. One of our group was the victim of a pickpocket that lifted his wallet with all his money, credit cards, etc. Our tour organizer, Doug Cheeseman, agreed to cover his expenses until he gets home to Australia. Ironically, we were in a cathedral in downtown Santiago when his pocket was picked.
Saturday morning it was a 7am flight to Port Stanley in the Falklands. It was 46 degrees with a wind gusting to 25 knots. I don’t know what the wind chill was but it seemed cold. After clearing Customs and Immigration we boarded two buses for the dock to board the Sea Spirit. Our home for the next 19 days.
The Falklands are an interesting group of islands. The island belongs to Great Britain but in 1982, Argentina laid claim to them. That brought a very short war between the two countries that saw Great Britain winning. There are still large areas that are closed to tourists because there are still a lot of unexploded land mines around. They are working to clear them but it isn’t done yet. (I guess they haven’t found enough people who want to walk through the fields stomping the ground. 🙂 ) We got enough time in town to hit one gift shop near the dock. We were supposed to depart after dinner for South Georgia but high winds and waves predicted to reach 50 knots and 25-35 feet waves delayed our departure until Sunday morning at 8am. We’ll be back to the Falklands for three days at the end of our trip.
Our Sunday started, as did every day, with a fantastic buffet breakfast. The winds and waves were still pretty good. They got worse as we entered the Drake Passage. During the morning, we had several mandatory lecture series in one of the lounges on biosecurity (more on this later) and our behavior around the wildlife and an hour long required movie on South Georgia history. The night before I put on a seasickness patch just in case. After the lectures and movie, we all headed to the dining room for lunch. I made it through the lunch buffet but I didn’t get to take a bite before I was headed out of the room. I picked up a barf bag (pardon the reference) and made it to the first landing heading upstairs to my cabin before making use of it. I felt a pair of hands on my hips from behind me. It was our lady doctor, Dr. Lyn, who apparently saw me leave the dining room. She assisted me the rest of the way up the stairs. She pointed out the nearest lavatory. When I exited the lavatory, she asked me if I’d like a pill. I told her I had put on a patch but she repeated the question….Would you like a pill? The answer was yes. I took the pill and a one hour nap and was fine for the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone. Dinner wasn’t well attended Sunday evening.
Monday was another day at sea along with more lectures on South Georgia history, wildlife, and natural history. There are 18 expedition staff on board and 68 members of the crew along with 100 passengers. I have two roommates….Angiolo from San Francisco and David from New Zealand. Both are great guys and we got along very well.
BioSecurity was a big deal. Prior to arriving at South Georgia, we were required to have any item of outerwear or footwear examined for any foreign material…grass, seeds, etc. that could be caught in the Velcro closures on waterproof pants or jackets, for example. You had to vacuum out the lint in pockets, as well as. Camera bags that would be set on the ground were wiped with a vircon solution and tripod legs were dipped in the same solution. Every time you went ashore you stepped in a pan of vircon solution as you headed to the zodiac. When you returned to the ship from shore your boots were scrubbed and as you left the marine deck you stepped in the pan of vircon.
We had numerous lectures while at sea. Everything from history of South Georgia, information on the various wildlife….seals, penguins, birds, …and the explorer, Sir Ernest Shackelton, who’s buried on South Georgia.
Tuesday morning was more lectures on photography and briefings on our anticipated first landing after lunch. Hugh Rose was our expedition leader and is a professional photographer from Alaska. Whenever we approached a landing, a team from the expedition staff took a zodiac and checked out the landing site to make sure we could actually land. Our first landing that day was cancelled due to high winds and rough surf. The alternative landing was also cancelled for the same reasons. We moved on. So will I.
More in the next post.