ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 8

February, 22nd  2018

The Great Wall 62°12’35.40″ S -58°57’26.39″ O

Morning possums. Breakfast will be served in 5’. After that you will have time to get ready for visiting the Great Wall Chinese scientific base.

I only had fruits for breakfast. I had the feeling I was eating way more than my body was using while confined in the ship. The visit to the Great Wall appeared to be a extremely sensitive matter. We couldn’t wonder around, beyond where we were authorized, which restricted our eager exploration spirit to a square with other 80 people. It was still fun.

There was a gong and two dragon-like statues, one female and one male that kept us entertained for the 45’ we were there. 3 guys wearing blue overalls watched us to make sure we did not trespass the limits they had specify on their schedule.

We had a bit of free time before lunch. However, Fabian and Marshall call the gender group for a prep meeting. We will be hosting the world café next day. It was nice to catch up but It left me with no time to prepare for the Simposium at the sea. I was nervous.

The day before I had a bit of a breakdown during the afternoon peer to peer coaching session. I guess I was a bit sad and a bit frustrated about not being able to interact in English as much as I would like to. I guess I was also secared of not being able to be funny in English. Melissa & Charlene were my triad that afternoon. They were ovely but I ended up criying. I wondered if I should create a new one or just try to do an ordinary talk. I was being mean to myself. In the end I decided to give it a go. I explained my language limitations and how I had literary no interest in their honesty. It worked. They were laughing. I´m also funny in English.

During the afternoon session Greg came downstairs. We knew something was coming but we could not imagine what it was, nor the impact it will have on us. A big chunk of ice after another. So beautiful it made our hearts rattle in our chest and turned our speech to 3 year olds. Wooow, uuuu, aaaa. Then it became real. We were in Antarctica.

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 7

February 21st, 2018
Carlini Station, 62°13’60.00″ S , 58°39’59.99″ W

Good morning, opossums !

Narrative ellipsis – I have breakfast and I exercise walking around the boat.

 

It was one of those days when weather seems undecided. It kind of  wanted to rain, but it didn’t. Outside the boat, the fog played with light transforming it into a mixture of ash gray and smoky yellow. Inside the boat it was Justine’s turn. We all knew who she was, but even so she introduced herself: I’m Justine Shaw, I work at the University of Queensland and I’ve never had a permanet job. I did not understand at first why would she say it so proudly, but I guess the undaunted life of the postdoc shapes your as relations with life, ends up being your life. She was able to get our attention away from the icebergs.

Carefully, she explained us the Antarctic Treaty, a jewel in international governance. No one owns Antarctica. 29 countries, including Spain, are signatories of the treaty and are involved in decision-making processes. 21 are observers with no right to vote- they might with time. Those who do not sign the treaty, nor are observers, have no obligation to respond to the treaty so in theory they could do whatever they want in Antarctica. However, the signatory countries still have power over them thanks to political, diplomatic and economic pressures.

After the talk we went down to the Argentine base of Carlini. The visit was good fun. The divers explained us all the material, the type of dives and studies they perform for the scientists. They also introduced us to their scientific director Dolores Deregibus.

Roxana Falconero and Ayelen Ríos, researchers at the station, told us how as a consequence of climate change skuas (a species of seabird) have been outcompeting giant petrels (another seabird). Apparently, skuas are much more flexible in terms of diet and behavior. For example, they are able to build their nests with the mosses that have started to grow in the emerged land after. In addition, skuas are much more aggressive and they have been displacing children by winning when they compete for food.

In the afternoon we had one of our first leadership classes after crossing the Drake Strait. It has been intense, but fun. Now it’s time to rest, tomorrow begins the symposium of the sea.

 

 

 

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 6

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.

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 5

19th February 2018

Drake straight

Good morning, opossums! Breakfast will be served in five minutes. Greg’s voice fills in our cabins with love and brings us back to life on board.

– Wait a minute, this is moving. It is moving a lot. Clinging to the railing of my bed I try to decide what my next and intrepid movement will be. I do not know if it’s been the doctor’s pills, or ship rocking, but I’ve slept almost twelve hours and I do not feel the face. I’ll wait a bit to see if it gets better. It doesn’t. I embolden myself and I decide to go downstairs. The walls keep bumping into me. I have breakfast with Alice. We barely talk. It’s okay, we’re getting used to the boat and it’s 8 in the morning. There will be time. I follow the doctor instructions and I take the second pill. I crawl back to my cabin, I jump into bed and when I realize it’s already lunch time.

-Oh dear, half a day its gone already and I have only slept and eaten. Let’s at least have a shower.

 

Which seemed a fairly easy task becomes quite an endeavor. Once I get in the shower I am certain that my psychomotricity has abandoned me. The sea keeps beating me, and soon I decide I give up trying not to get my hair wet. After hitting the wall several times I develop a new strategy: Back and ass squeezed in the corner, legs making a 45º angle butting against the edge of the shower and the wall. Now my hands are released from the duty of keeping me alive, but I should not rush. I must wait until the boat is climbing up the wave to lather up, then when it surfs down the waves it is time to hold the handlers tight. I stay in the shower longer than I expected. I pretty clean, I’m so clean that I do not plan to shower again until we leave the Drake.

I spent the rest of the afternoon writing my diary with the girls. Uxua boasts her minimalist diary. Alex and I struggle to compensate our distracted art skills with enthusiasm. Meanwhile Alicia and Adriana combine gracefully their laugh with pencil colors.

 

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 4

February 18, 2018

Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego 54°48′26″S 68°18′16″O

Homeward Bound is ready to departure. The ship will leave Ushuaia around 18.  The waiting is exhausting. The mood is weird. Some people are scared, some are anxious, others are full with emotion and joy, but most of us have a mix of all of it.

I am not sure how I feel. It is a bit strange. Today is the day. I can stop playing with my hands, pressing the knuckles of my hands. Maybe, only maybe, I am a bit nervous. After breakfast we had some time to discuss the logistics to get to the ship and an open frame to share how we were feeling.  I guess that was the best way to deal with emotions that morning. A few of us, those that were better at articulating will verbalize what everybody was feeling.

Adriana stood up and told us a story. Her roommate had woken her up in the middle of the night screaming terrified because she had forgotten her special bag. She couldn’t tell what there was in the bag, nor what made it so special. But, apparently she had been having that nightmare since she started the program. In silence from the other side of the room I watched my roommate transform my nightmare in something that could be useful for everybody in the room. She said that she guessed that each one of us had a very special bag whatever that could mean and that it was important that none of us forget about it. The room exploded with cheers, I stood up and said: By the way the special bag was mine. Adriana looked at me and we all laughed.

We were asked to drop our lauggage early in the morning so we just had to wait until the truck came to pick everything up. We had some free time and the hotel wifi started to collapse with every one of us calling home for goodbyes. The truck arrived around 3. We had to see our lauggage get into the truck before being allowed on the bus. My lauggage was special so it got loaded last and so was I.

We arrived to the boat around 16. Everything happened very fast, passports, rooms, lifejackets, boat safety instructions. After all that very well organized kaos we were given free time until dinner, together with a glass of champagne.  I wanted to see the ship getting out of the port area. I ran to the upper deck with Paola and Adriana. It was foggy and we couldn’t see much. But  there we were, toasting for new beginnings surrounded by penguins and giant albatrosses.

         Do you reckon that this is probably the most expensive toast you will ever make, don’t you?

         Shut up!

         To us! – They laughed.

 

Approximately around 3 am we will be heading out of the Beagle Channel in to the Drake Straight. the open water. Dilia, the physician on board came to the restaurant – she had her head shaved, a blue overall and pink glasses- and told us  :

-I’m going to give each one of you a blíster with seasickness pills. You have to take one now and one tomorrow at 8 am. If you get sleepy, that you will, you go to bed. Are you clear?

That opened the thunder box. Each one of us was willing to tell her our particular little story. She didn’t care and she told us. 

-I dont care if you are taking other pills, wearing a patch, wearing magic bracelets… you take my meds and you’ll be fine.

-But…

-Yo take one now and one tomorrow. Understood?

-Yes, maam.

I took my pill and get straight to bed. I had already had enough emotions for a day.

 

*I know I have skipped one day, but it was pretty much the same than the previous one and 18th was far more exciting.

 

ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION HOMEWARD BOUND 2018 · DAY 2

February 16th, 2018

Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego 54°48′26″S 68°18′16″O

I would have liked sleeping a little bit longer. I shirked, hiding underneath my sheets. But I knew that if I stayed in bed I wouldn’t have time to have breakfast not to call home. Lectures started at 8.30. I could not help myself, and I had to sit in the first table, right by the speaker.  An old bad habit from school days that kept on tormenting me.

The first one speaking was a Kit. She was taller, thinner and blonder she seemed in the calls. Its short hair and its glasses gave her an executive touch that her super tight metal blue dress confirmed. Nice, but stiff, she was sending a somehow contradictory message, leaving us with an confuse feeling about her. She explained us the dynamics of the day and passed on to a happy and sparkling Karen. She was walking around using surprisingly gracefully a Madonna like microphone. Two pet phrases were getting across her speech. A soft ahhhh and a somewhat annoying hiss. After a little bit my brain stopped being mean and picky and could concentrate on the message she was delivering outstandingly.

During that morning we worked in groups, discussing what means to have a conversation and what is more important how to have a successful one. I have to admit that my skepticism was growing. Conscious of it, I decided to appease the critic (orc) living inside my head and enjoy what the morning would bring. The most exciting topic arose just before lunch when they taught us to give and receive feedback, this alone would make a great blog entry. That’s when I met Jill and Xuehua. Jill, was a little higher than I, she wore her hair in a fair-haired pigtail and she had a somehow forced body possition. When I discovered that she was a veterinary in the American army reserve I could not avoid to think: What does this lady do here? No longer after I thought that I would discover how wrong I was and how my stupid prejudices were getting in the way of meeting someone that shared something important with me. The idea and eaim to construct alternatives to a world with an absent-minded sustainability. Xuehua, has different. She had black, long and smooth hair. She seemed shy but curious, like a squirrel in the middle of the forest. That squirrel turned out to be a proffessor in environmental politics and climate change in the University of Sichuan.

We keep on working on giving feedback and having meaningful conversations after lunch. Sarah made herself invisible. She had reserved herself a silent corner from which she could observe us with brilliant eyes. Fabian, HB founder, asked us to work for couples with someone with whom we had not worked earlier. I walked around the table, stood in front of her and asked her:

– Would you like to team up with me?

Sure! – It was the first time that I saw its brave smile. I like Sarah, I thought.

– Tell me: What do you do?

– I am a pediatrician, I investigate the factors that determine the children malnutrition and what are more effective ways of fighting it. – Sher description was much longer and detailed. But for the time being this should do.

She told me that during the last ten years he had visited, and lived, in most of the countries of Middle East and southern Asia. Now, she was a little tired bit tired of her nomadic life and was ready to settle down. When I heard it I wondered if I in some moment would like to settle donw, and if when I wanted, it would be able to do it. She asked me to what I was devoting myself and the impostor syndrome of slapped me again … I study gulls, I started. But some work done during the whole year kicked my tongue and I explained her how relevant are the population models I build to protect the biodiversity in the face of climate change. Well done miss, I’m proud of you- I greeted myself internally.

Kit interrupted our conversation and passed on to Marshall. A man of approximately 60 years, bald and with an slightly weight excess or a slightly small t-shirt.

– Look for a nice place to work individually.  I want you to answer the following questions – I decided to do it on the go and not write them down.

– Why are you in Homeward Bound?

– Because I believe in its vision, I believe that it is important to empower women in science and include them in the decision making processes worldwide to improve our ability to solve complex problems such as climate change.

– What do you expect to get?

– Be a better version of myself and drive scientific knowledge to a better position to inform policy makers.

– Why is it important for you?

– Because I want to contribute to the construction of a more respectful and more sustainable society.

– There you go! – I thought.

– Also, I want that you use these letters and which are your values. You need to choose 10 for each of the dimensions of the strategic plan: Relations, work and self. Then, you need to arrange them from least to most important. The room filled with a rough murmur.

– Seriously? – My sceptical orc woke up again together with my greedy belly. But for the first time in the whole day it would have a moment to be alone and to do whatever I wanted. I looked for a corner in the room and started arranging my values. It took me more time to extend and place the cards in the ground than to choose and arrange them. What really stroke me after a while was how some of the women were struggling to find and short their values. Maybe, doing the exercise it was actually necessary.

Antarctic Expedition Homeward Bound 2018 · Day 1

February 15, 2018 
Calafate, Patagonia              50°20′22″S 72°15′54″O 
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego     54°48′26″S 68°18′16″O 


I spent the night in a lovely hostel in Calafate, nearby Argentino Lake. Yet, to be honest, I didn’t sleep. very well. At 3:42 I had my eyes nailed to the base of the  topbunk. I don’t know if it was because I was nervous or if it was because of the hammering snoring of Ernesto an Argentinian tattoo artist who slept in thee same room   but I couldn’t sleep all night. I spent the time watching Sherlock Holmes on Netflix. I wish I was as smart as he is. When the alarm went off I ran to the kitchen for  breakfast. Fernanda, the owner of the hostel, was waiting for me, smoking a cigar, and resting on the countertop while screaming to anyone who would dare trespassing her property to pee on the alley’s walls. 

-I made toasts and there is coffee on the table. 
-Thanks, but I don’t drink coffee.
-There is also tea. 
-Nor do I drink tea. 
-Ah – She looked disappointed – Do you want something else? 
-Do you have cocoa? 
-Yes, it is on the counter. The transfer will be here in 5′.

I ate toast while another guy tried to pee in Fernandas alley. It was fun to see them  escaping while trying to buckle up their pants. In the meantime, it was taking to long for the transfer to arrive. Thirty minutes were gone already. I looked to Fernanda and Fernanda looked back to me with a reassuring smile.

-Don’t worry darling, they are coming.

Shortly after, I discovered  the transfer wasn’t coming. Fernanda had hired the transfer for the following day. Her argentinian matriarch security vanished before my eyes and I thought, f*ck I’m going to miss the flight. 

-Forgive me, please.  I made a mistake, I have  already called another taxi and it is on its way. I will pay for it.  
-Ok, don’t worry  I lied. 

The taxi arrived quickly. But, the joy wouldn’t last long. As I jump in the cab, with Google telling me that my flight has already started boarding, the taxi driver tells us that he can’t take me to the airport. Only to the bus terminal. Fernanda and the taxi driver start fighting each other but I no longer hear them.

-I don’t mind what you have to do but I need to go to the airport, now.

-Don’t worry hon, I have already called another taxi. Eh! Pelotudo! Meon! Get out of my alley!

-Should I drive her to bus terminal?

-NO! -We shouted at once.

During the chaos I imagined the Ushuaia ship leaving to Antarctica with only 79 of the 80 scientists.  When I realised I was in a taxi, going to the airport at 140 km/h with a very sweet taxi driver who tried to entertain  by me explaining me all the scenery along the road.

-Don’t worry love, we will get you there in time. Have you seen the fossil forests?

 We arrived at the airport within twenty minutes, I made the last call for boarding and when I sat on the plane I could hardly believe that I had made it. 

I was the first of the team to arrive in Ushuaia. The hotel was on the top of a hill looking to the Beagle Channel. The view was stunning, bluish mountains covered with snow. I left my stuff in the lounge, greeted some of the participants and I sat down for a minute. It was the first time all day that I could actually relax. When I saw Uxua, Alicia, Alex and Adriana going up the stairs I felt my heart rattling in my chest.  Suddenly, the work of a whole year,  the peoples support, the joy, the thrill… filled my eyes with tears. I spent the next two hours crying. Most of the participants looked at me unsure about what to do. I guess that only a few of them understood, but by then I didn´t care. We had made it. 

Comienza la aventura

Todo empezó un 2 de febrero.  Mi amiga Deborah me envía un link y me dice: Amiga, mira esto, y me cuentas. Te va a encantar. Así es como un febrero normal, sin altibajos, de esos que no aspiraran a ser bisiesto, se convirtió en una aventura. Tengo hasta el día 20 para hacer un vídeo y convencer a Homeward Bound de que soy una tía estupenda, una mega crack, un chalet con vistas a la playa y que ese barco no puede salir de Ushuaia sin mi haciéndome selfies en cubierta.

Será fácil, pienso. ¿Quién puede pasar hoy en día sin un experto en demografía de poblaciones de aves marinas? Es más, ¿Cómo piensan sobrevivir a un viaje a la Antártida de tres semanas sin saberse el nombre científico de al menos siete especies de gaviotas?  Venga, Ana. En serio, eres buena científica y buena divulgadora, tienes cosas que aportar. Deja el síndrome del impostor para otro día y ponte las pilas.  Con no poco esfuerzo consigo hacer un vídeo que,  aunque se escucha regulinchis, es bonito y abre las puertas de la expedición. El  mismo día que me dicen que me han cogido, me rechazan el cuarto artículo de la tesis. Para compensar, supongo.

Al principio no acabo de creérmelo. Pero poco a poco me voy haciendo a la idea. Me voy a la Antártida. Muy bien Ana, ahora sólo necesitas 20.000 euros.