I started out yesterday, really panicked and stressed out about bunch of health things that have happened while I was here (I had a bit of lung pain, combined wit a mildly sprained/twisted ankle) and the fact that we stayed at the most horrible hotel ever for 2 nights. That is kind of a long and lame story, but suffice it to say that I got the issue fixed by going to the lobby in my pajamas dripping with tears and telling the attendant in front of 30 people how horrible the hotel was when she was totally rude to me. Needless to say, I was kind of stressed out about getting on the boat with all of that and the threat of the Drake Passage lying ahead.
2 Xanex later and the knot in my stomach dissipated and I was much calmer. The ship is really very cool, the beds are actually significantly more comfortable than the hotel from hell was, the food is delish, the crew is amazing and patient and really cool people, and, so far, knock on wood, the Drake has been kind to us. They call it this particular calmness "the Drake Lake".
Evidently, though, we are supposed to encounter rougher seas tomorrow as the winds are picking up. I hope that we all have our sea legs by then and will not have too many casualties to seasickness. My medicine appears to work, although it gives me dry mouth and makes me pee a lot (Chris too). I was a tiny bit uncomfortable in my belly this morning, but i think i just should avoid greasy foods like the 1/2 slice of bacon I ate.
We had a very informative day today - we went to 4 different briefings. The two mandatory ones were about Antarctica itself and what we want to do to help keep it pristine ad beautiful and what we can expect generally from the wildlife, and one about the Zodiacs and what we will be doing in them and how to board and de-board and what is appropriate to bring aboard them. The crew seems really flexible to help us make god decisions while letting us get out of it what we all want.
The second set of lectures were optional, but we went to them anyway. One was on sea birds (mostly about albatross) and then one on ice (including land ice like glaciers, fern and snow) and then sea ice like flows and other different formations. She also covered some about ice bergs. These were just overview classes and we will learn much more when we actually go out and start exploring.
I learned today that we will try and do 2 stops a day for 5 days down there. Some will be landings and some will be just cruising around in the Zodiacs taking pictures of ice flows and ice bergs and leopard seals and penguins on them. If we have ok seas on the way back, we are going to approach Ushuaia from the other direction (we left via the Beagle Channel), and try and round Cape Horn. Apparently, it's a rite of passage (get it? it *is* a passage! I'm so funny!)
One of the very cool things about the ship is that there's not a lot of us. Maybe 100. The dining room has one seating per meal and we have been able to sit and eat with a large variety of people and learn about where they come from and why they are here. There's also a bar/lounge place where people go to hang out and drink and tell stories and play cards and everyone just kind of sits down and starts talking to everyone else. so far, no complaints on personalities, everyone seems cool.
Also, we got our room upgraded for free. We were supposed to have 2 bunks and then have to use public bathrooms and showers. Now we have bunks, but the couch flips over and is a bed, so I am sleeping there so no one has to go to the top bunk. We also share a bathroom with the room next door only which is awesome, except that the shower is practically right over the toilet, so we are all nervous to see how that works out when the first person decides to take a shower. Our room is very small, but it is totally big enough for us and our stuff and just to catch some catnaps in during the day.
They ave a PA system here that announces where everyone should be, if there's some cool wildlife to go look at and meals, so it's really easy just to wander around and talk to people until the intercom tells you that you may go somewhere.
We got to go on the bridge today, which was pretty cool since this is a Russian ship and everything in there looked like soviet era equipment, and yesterday we had our lifeboat drill. The lifeboats are crazy. They look just like submarines - they are full enclosed, self-righting tubes that i am totally confident will keep us warm and dry if we have to get in them.
There's a happy hour at the bar with cheap drinks and at 9 every night the crew tells us short stories about random things that have happened to them or about sea lore. For example, we got told all about maritime superstitions by our expedition leader, Woody.
Tomorrow we have for more optional lectures: There's one on Penguins, on about geo-politics called Who owns Antarctica, one on the seals that can e found in this region and one called "discovery of a new continent". I bet that we will go to all of them.
So far the trip is much better than expected! More when i have it to share!