February 20th, 2018
Half Moon Island 62° 30’ S 60°O
Good morning, opossums! My body starts to get used to sea rocking and to the pills the doctor gave us. I woke up very cheerful. We’re going to get off the boat for the first time and that is always exciting. Julieta, Cata and Natascha explained us all the things we need to know in order to do the landing. Julieta, is a small skinny woman with sparkly eyes, sharp face and golden skin. She compensates her lack of size with a bright and overwhelming personality. Cata, massive and beautiful woman, both inside and outside. She is fully aware of how intimidating she is, she does not hesitate to use it to make us see reason. Natascha, blue-eyed german blonde woman, hidden in the back of her sweatshirts, supervised us attentively and meticulously. Together they deal with the seasonal visitor storms inside the boat, while the rest of the crew deals with the storms outside the boat.
During the morning they explained us a bunch of very interesting and necessary things. How to clean our clothes and shoes before landing to avoid the transport and introduction of species and contaminants. How the sailor grip might save you from falling into the freezing waters of Antartica. However, the two tips I liked the most were “pee, poo and food must remain in the boat” and “penguins always have priority”. If you have an emergency, there is no problem, notify and we take you back to the boat and when you are done managing urgent matters we will bring you back to land. All about penguins having priority I will tell you in my next entry.
When they finished explaining all the safety and IAATO regulations, we started the class of seabirds and penguins. I must say I was a bit dissappointed. To begin with, why were penguins separated from any other seabirds? It’s true, they do not fly, but they smell exactly as bad as the rest. And second, gulls, terns and skuas were totally forgotten in a sea of albatrosses.
Stowed in tights, waterproof pants, polar pants, hats, gloves and life jackets, we waited restlessly in the lounge. We vacuumed our backpacks and disinfected our boots. For a moment the paranoia took over the ship in a compulsive cleanup.
The sailor who carried our zodiac was Xoel, his hands skin was cracked by the sea but he would not wore globes. He protected his face from the wind with a thick moustache and a maroon scarf with golden rhombuses. He was very stylish. I was so uncomfortable with so many clothes that I could hardly move. The crew helped us disembarking and Greg explained us where we were allowed to go. It was raining a lot and I could barely cover my head with the hoodie with the two pairs of gloves on. I felt very clumsy but it was very exciting. At the end of the path was the Argentine base of Camara. The Marine Andrés de Magallanes received us smiling in his grey tracksuit. He introduces us to “his men” and invites us to drink juice and cookies. The room seemed renovated, but it could be a living room of grandmother’s house. It was full of old frames hanging on the walls and sofas upholstered in flower fabric 70s style.
I sat together with Alicia and Paola to chat with Andres. He told us about how they dedicate themselves to maintaining the base and showed of about having many women in the base. Paola told him off – friendly, but energically – about the role of woman in the army. The marine Andrés de Magallanes is not worth the medals to answer. He feels cornered by her overwhelming insistence and asks for help from one of his subordinates who laughs as he answers. Paola was as aware of this as a good ambassador for her country, and signed the peace by smiling and handling him a bag of Colombian coffee. She definitively mastered the art of using the stick and the carrot.