The ocean became progressively calmer during the night, and the ship was quiet this morning. Henry Pollack spoke about the mechanics of governing Antarctica, after the initial Antarctic Treaty was agreed upon in 1961, and unanimously ratified again in 1991. Most importantly, that the continent be preserved for peace, and that member countries may inspect one another’s bases and ships, to ensure that all comply with standards set by the Treaty. Nations may traverse across one another’s “territory”, but the status quo regarding territories remains unchanged. Ironically, Argentina claims the largest territory – a massive wedge running all the way to the South Pole, including South Georgia, Falklands and all of Argentina. Thankfully, all 24 member nations seem to agree that Antarctica be preserved for future generations – long may that last.
Jannie then explained to guests the procedure for our arrival into Ushuaia this evening, and disembarkation procedures tomorrow. Quite how he and Sally Escanilla arrange it all, Heaven only knows. There are four different flights out of Ushuaia tomorrow, some guests going on a scenic drive in the National Park, three flights coming in, lunch for incoming guests at the Arakur Hotel, and new guests arrive on board at 4pm. The expedition team will be getting boots and equipment off Le Lyrial, taking delivery of new stocks, and delivering them to the cabins. Le Lyrial videographer, Melanie, has created a beautiful DVD of this voyage, which we all viewed once Jannie was done. It serves as a wonderful reminder of just how much we have done, and the incredible experiences we have enjoyed together.
A ship called the Orion, has broken down, so the agents are desperately finding beds for their guests on other ships. Our departure tomorrow, which was full, is now overbooked. Larry tells me that is his early days, the ship’s gym was closed to guests, and the expedition team was housed in the gym! How times have changed. Larry also admitted that the team were told they would have to pay for laundry, which on these ships is fiendishly expensive. He calmly responded that the team would smell terribly, and immediate plans were made for laundry to be included.
At 2pm, the documentary “Red Army” was screened, introduced by fellow guest and producer, Liam Satre-Meloy. Described as an inspiring story about the Cold War played out on the ice rink, does this incredible documentary little justice. The movie is really about the best ice hockey players in Soviet history, their life stories including moving to the USA to play in their NHL. Liam was adamant about humanising these sportsmen, who many viewed with scepticism at the height of the Cold War. Through it runs the thread of the dissolution of the old USSR, teamwork, and the fact that subtlety often triumphs over brute force. A quite magnificent offering which has been screened at all major film festivals, except Sundance, and is unreservedly recommended to anyone interested in human stories, and the power of the human spirit. Brilliant job, Liam!
Naturalists were out on deck, as they are every day at sea, and pointed out Hourglass Dolphins to a few very lucky guests. These gorgeous animals swam alongside for some time, before leaving us to proceed towards Ushuaia. At 5, we gathered in the Theatre for a resume’ of this voyage. Highlight, as always, was Patri’s inimitable comparison between our guests (Red Albatrosses) and the real deal. Dealing hilariously with their foraging journeys for food, backpacks filled with food, the submissive behaviour of the males following dutifully their females, males with long proboscis (lenses), and various sexual displays/dances – just brilliant. Of course, those from England are referred to as the Royal Red Albatross, for whom we lay the red carpet. Our Albatrosses are usually red on top and black below. This year, however, there were albinos, pink-footed, blue footed thrown into the mix, along with some who had undergone a catastrophic moult!
Suzana thanked us all for a wonderful trip, before a slideshow prepared by Richard Escanilla was screened. With photographs contributed by all on the team, it serves as a beautiful reminder of this time together, and will be sent in due course to every guest.
Over the past two days we have been crossing the famous Drake Passage, discovered by Sir Francis Drake in 1578. Drake went to sea aged 13, and in 1577-80 sailed around the world. One often hears about the “Roaring Forties”, “Furious Fifties” and “Screaming Sixties”, referring to the oceans at these latitudes. Despite some rough seas during our traverses, we have been very fortunate – the wind and weather when it counted was unusually benign and pleasant.
After dinner many guests left the ship to explore in Ushuaia, and enjoy this town at the end of the world. The morning will be very busy with all guests disembarking. Pete and Bruce are going to secure a room for tomorrow night in Ushuaia, before they begin their marathon flights home. We were looking over some of their photos and GoPro footage earlier, which are wonderful. It has been simply amazing sharing this experience with Pete and Bruce, who, to their credit, leapt at the opportunity when it was offered to them.
Andrew Denton wrote “If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on Earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it!”. For many guests, this may come close to describing this extraordinary place. Most would find it absolutely impossible to describe this place, and how it has affected them in some way.