ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 20

March 6th, 2018

Cristal Sound

66°23′S 66°30′W 

My diary from March 6th is not up to the beauty that surrounded me.

Angry pages describing my frustration to see how unintentionally we had reproduced the system we were so eager to change. 

We had a hierarchical structure where not all voices where heard. Diversity was conspicuous by its absence.

We were as white and privileged as the seas we sailed.

 

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 19

March 5th, 2018

Rothera Research Station, BAS

67°34′7″S 68°07′25″O 

 

He had a ginger hair and ginger beard. He was wearing a cloth jacket and two cords on his boots, one for tying them and one for hanging them. From the crowd raised the “unexpected” question. Are you scottish? His answer was a smile. Our presence at the base was an exciting event, hat seemed to make up for our battered jokes.

 

 

We followed him to the top of a small hill to the right of the pier. There they honourto those who had fallen to the ice and its guardians. Most in the 50-70 years when security measures did not interfere with the desire to discover that paradise. Then the ice would claim the men lives by cracking under their feet, leaving them helpless in an icy sea and ensuring them a certain death. The exception was a plaque in memory of the head of the divers. She died drowned by a leopard seal a couple of years ago.

Two particularly enthusiastic assistants showed us the laboratories. They had hand size! That was very cool to see! But I think what I liked the most was seeing all the equipment they used to go to the field. Almost everything they used was old. There were no new materials. Wood, leather, grease … Apparently, they require less maintenance, are easier to repair and give better results.

I spent some time chatting with Jess, the director of the base – and who was a doctoral student of my current boss. She told us how she started doing fieldwork in the Falklands and somehow ended up in love with life in remote lands. Before I left I gave her a small gift, a photo of Tomeu – now you are in the continents!

During the afternoon we made our way through Laubeufs Fjord. Ice sheets on both sides of the ship. It was astonishing. I spent the whole afternoon on the deck below. I could not talk to the sailors. But they let me be there. The day ended with the rhythm of Australian music, although for me the best moment was when Adriana conquered the music for a moment and gave us a minute of salsa.

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 17

March 3rd, 2018

The Antartic Circle

Morning possums, breakfast will be served in 5’.

The mood was not better than the previous evening when we started the morning session. After the mindfulness practice (which to me was starting to feel too much like a morning cult/praying routine) some of the participants spoke about how they felt. We were letting fear stop us from what could have been an amazing experience.

Greg was not happy about the decision. The crew wasn’t happy. Neither was I.

I felt disconnected from the group and seek for conversation among the crew. It was nice to talk to Julieta about how I felt. The program was paternalistic and I struggled with that. They offered me mate and for a moment, it felt better. Somehow, I had the feeling that there were certain thing that I could not say in the safe space.

We went to explore with the zodiacs. Killer whales! The first group appeared on the left hand side, 1 male and 2 females. The second appeared on the right. I could not tell how many of them there were but eventually they all merged in one group. It was amazing. I felt the joy of being there, in that moment and I forgot about the group and Rothera. I leaned on the bow of the zodiac enjoying the cold in my face. Julieta’s stories will allow us to dive into the ecosystem secrets. For the first time in two long days, I felt happy. I went to the lower deck to my “secret” spot.

There were lentils on the menu. Fabian blinked an eye at me and brought me chicken instead.  Over lunch, I discussed what my strategy for the coming years should be. Be focused in science and the rest will come with time. I’m not even sure what that really means but it made sense back then. After lunch Greg and the captain came to the lounge with some news. They showed us the weather forecast and told us we would be heading to Rothera over night. Conditions were good and it was worth trying.

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 16

March 2nd, 2018

Neumayer Channel

64° 47′ 26″ S63° 8′ 21″ W

Morning possums, breakfast will be served in 5’.

We changed rooms. I left the first class room with Justine and moved into the third class. I shared my room with Isabel Zang Zang. It was funny, our names matched. Chance decided who was going to sleep in which bunk. My rock defeated her scissors and I got the top bunk bed with the bow hole. I liked her. WE spent some time together in the afternoon walking around the deck, getting to know each other.

The Rothera base dilemma:

It was 10’ after dinner. The leadership team called us to join them at the lounge. We were asked to help them to make a decision. Whether to go to Rothera Base or not.

The Straight through which we should be crossing towards Rothera was blocked with ice. That meant that we would have a rocking night and many people might struggle. The asked us for opinion as if we would have a say. The fear of getting sick grew on those that have been suffering the rocking through the trip.  The situation got tense when some pushed the idea of going and others claimed – under extreme anxiety- that they and their tears did not want to go. The discussion went on far too long and left everyone with a bitter taste in our months. The leadership team left to come back after ten minutes: we were not going.

The room became a bit of a chaos and the mood was icy. The ones anxious about going to open waters cried in a nervous mix of relief and guilt. The ones pushing for going saw their eyes water now. Nobody was happy.

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 14

February 27th, 2018

Port Lockroy

64° 49′ 31″ S, 63° 29′ 40″ W

Morning possums, breakfast will be served in 5’.

When I discovered there was a Post Office in Antarctica it happened to be, a bit, too late. I had already posted all my crowfunding postcards from Ushuaia. I felt really sad. I tried to keep it to myself but when Julieta asked me I busted into tears. All these people supported me and I felt as if I had disappointed them. Once again, I found myself beating myself. Julieta made me laugh and gave me a warm hug.

We made it half way through and we desserved a bit of alternative entertainment. This is what we did:

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 12

February 27, 2018

Cuverville, Canal de Errera

64 ° 41 ’00 “S, 62 ° 38′ 00” W

Good morning possums, breakfast will be served in  5 ‘.

The morning started with Fabian reading us a story about a tiny little penguin scared of living his life. I allowed myself to let go and followed his adventures as if they were mine. I realized how much I missed spending the evenings diving into books.

After the story we started the visibility session that would lead to a very interesting discussion about the stereotypes that we women, as women in science, face. It was devastating to hear the experiences that some brave people dared to share. It ranged from the subtle condescence to a thesis supervisor biting his student tit. If that was what could be said out loud, I wondered what it was they the silences might keep.

After lunch we enter Errera straight. We were sailing between ice and whales. The afternoon coaching session could not outcompete with such a manificent landscape. I slipped through the dining room and went on deck with Mel and Hilary. When we returned to the living room, Greg looked at us and laughing he told us: – It looks like somebody has been naughty.

We arrived at Curverville. After a while the penguins got used to our presence. We placed ourselves in a semicircle and read the letters to the penguins that Paola had brought from different schools in the most remote corners of Colombia. Mine was from a little boy: Antarctica does not belong to anyone and freedom exists. While we were reading, the penguins did their penguin things (getting in and out of the water, tripping over the stones, collide with each other) completely oblivious to our gesture of gratitude to those children embraced the idea of ​​saving the planet.

We returned to the ship followed by a leopard seal almost as big as the zodiac. It was amazing. I had dinner in less than 5’ and ran to the bridge. I wanted to see if I could find the killer whales. We had been looking for them all day and they had not shown up. When I got to the bridge Cata, Julieta, Natacha and a couple of officers were already there. No sight of the killer whales. I spent a little while scanning the horizon without much success. The pink mixed with the blueish/purpleish icebergs and the moon raised behind the mountains as if she was showing off and competing to be the prettiest.

-Orcas at one thirty, I screamed.

– Are you sure they’re killer whales? – Alan said.

– Yes I felt the ship turn to port and simultaneously my chubby cheeks flushed with emotion. My heart was warm with joy. I couldn’t be happier.

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 12

February 26th, 2018
Palmer Station.
64°46′12″S 64°3′00″W

Good morning possums, breakfast will be served in 5 ‘.Adriana had slipped into my room to record the beginning of the day. I knew she  would be there but still she surprised me. She recorded me getting out of bed and going for breakfast. I was lucky, Greg was there. I sat with him. He told me how the day before he had been watching us from the bridge.

-I was about to tell the rest that there were whales in the bow, but I did not.

Full of joy as we were, he gifted us the intimacy of that magical moment.

Rebeca, the manager of the station, arrived in Ushuaia accompanied by the tallest laboratory technician I have ever met. His head brushed the roof of the room. They explained to us the scientific programs of the USA and the different stations that they had in Antarctica. I was surprised to find that the station located at the South Pole is on a layer of ice that moves 30 inches a year. So from time to time they have to reposition the South Pole flag so that it is where it should. Once back from the station, 10 of Palmers researchers boarded into the Ushuaia to tell us about their research and adventures. Among them was the youngest woman to winter in the South Pole Marissa Goerke. Her story was captivating. She spoke from the security of knowing the respect and admiration that what she had achieved would have in us. She was right. We spent a frantic afternoon between LSI, strategy map and LSII. Around 6 pm we were entering Paradise Bay to get to Gerlache.

The show started soon after. Less than 15 minutes later the whales began to cross the bow of the ship. They were so close that it seemed unreal. The cries crowded in front of the ship’s screens. Illusion, nerves, surprise. I hid in the bridge to shelter from the cold, and to be able to stay longer. When I left I found Paola :-I was looking for you and I could not find you. This could not be more precious. -We did it.- It’s not that, this is so beautiful that it hurts.

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 10

 February, 25th 2018

Neko Harbour, Andvord Bay

64°50′S 62°33′W

We arrived to Neko Harbour in Errera Channel around 10 am. We had to take some pictures for sponsors. We waited for each other and tryed to board in the last two boats. Alicia and Alex went on the first one, Uxua, Adriana and I on the last one. I was not feeling very social. The boat is big but there are not many spaces where you can be completely on your own.

 

I decided not to climb up the mountain and stay around the beach with Cata and Julieta. It was nice to get to talk to them and learn from their experiences. I didn´t quite understand why they weren´t interacting that much with us, but soon I will learn that the crew  was not allowed to talk to us.

When I came back to the boat my feet were freezing, I jumped in the shower and I almost burned my toes with the boiling water. Before lunch I decided to go to the bow, sit on the bell and enjoy the navigation through the channel.   After a few minutes, Purvi arrived and sat with me. Whales started to break the water. They were everywhere. We were full of joy. Greg was watching both our excitement and the whales from the bridge.

 

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 10

February, 24th 2018

Northern Gerlache Straight

Somewhere between 63°44′S61°37′W and 63°40′S 60°47′W

It is the first time we land on Antarctica. The tip of the frozen continent. I still do not get used to having cold feet. Sometimes the feeling of helplessness is so overwhelming that, although my head wants to stay on land, my body only thinks about returning to the warmth of the ship.

-Julieta-Julieta, Julieta-Julieta

-Tin-Tin, Tin-Tin, pick them up and return to Ushuaia. Give them a tour around the icebergs.

-I copy you Julieta, I copy you.

We crossed a sea of ​​ice. There is no picture, no words that  can describe the beauty of what the icy waters of Antarctica harbor. It is strikingly beautiful. An endless  Ohh resonates in the lounge when either icebergs or whales break the sea surface. It is enough for only one person to see them to feed the imagination of the rest. Sometimes, I feel very tempted to shout Whale! out loud just to test if anyone can also see them, even if they are not there.

Once we were back on the ship I went up to bridge. I couldnt open the door until one of the oficials helped my in. I think they forgot to hang the sign of bridge closed and somehow they felt bad kicking me out. They worked on charting the route through which we would navigate in 5 days time. Compass, nautical chart and wit. They explained me how difficult it is to navigate following the rules in Antarctica. The inaccuracies of the nautical charts, the ices, the weather… I loved being there. I could see far beyond from their windows and somehow it was a breath of fresh air between leadership and strategy sessions.

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 9

February, 23rd  2018

Paulet Island 63°35′S 55°47′W

Height 75cm(30in), weight 5kg(11lb). Adelies penguins were named after the French explorer Dumont d’Urville’s wife who first discovered the species to science in 1837.

Penguin poo is particularly sticky. No better, no worst than seagulls poo but it made me think that its viscosity was remarkable. All our gear was covered in it. It is funny how after a while you don’t even notice. The stink becomes part of your daily life and you even start to enjoy it.

Paulet Island, is a peculiar place. A small Island half covered in ice half covered in penguins. I think here is where the penguin rules apply the most.

Penguins always have priority. You cant get closer than 3 meters to them. But, if a penguin gets intrigued by you – and be aware, they will- it is alright for you to stay still and steady and let them explore. Then, when they get bored and walk away you can start moving again. In the very likely event of you bumping into a penguin he will always have priority, you just have to stop and let them decide where they want to go.

Paulet has a small hut, from a former Swedish expedition. Their ship, the Antartic, crushed and sunk near the island and the survivors built a hut which is now a Historic Site under the Antartic Treaty. Their captain Otto Nordenskjöld left the island and his men and went to look for help to a “close by” station. After quite a journey and all kinds of serendipities he came back to rescue “his men”, he blew the horn of the ship and waited for them to come and greet him. But they didn’t. He couldn’t help to be mad. After all he had done for them… Still he went and check the hut. There, he found a score of Scandinavians stuck in a hut. Apparently, when they heard the horn, the excitement made them want to get out at once and blocked the entrance.

There are some places where you can´t get greedy.