South Pole Santa Comes by Boat
Trip Start Jun 18, 2005
52Trip End Jan 01, 2006
One, we would cross the Gulf of Sorrows, Golfo de Penas, beginning at 9 PM, going out into open waters. It will be rough, we were warned. Take your seasickness pills early on. We'll be into calm waters again around 5 AM.
Two, we'd have the chance to go ashore at Puerto Eden, walk the wooden boardwalk, and buy a few souvenirs from the locals. The shore trip would be in PolarCirkel boats, and the boats would return with the children of the village. They were coming for a Christmas party with the Captain! Pizza would be served, with ice cream for dessert
The rolling movement of the ship didn't bother me, but the creaking noises did. I felt a bit queasy around midnight, and donned the wristbands-with-a-button that promised acupressure relief. I don't know if they worked or if I just didn't get seasick. I woke when we hit the calm waters, and it suddenly was quiet. Ah! I thought, I'm ready for breakfast.
The buffet was huge; familiar eggs and ham and potatoes and breads and unfamiliar Norwegian dishes with fish as a starting point. My tablemates were chatty, with no one confessing to seasickness. In the library, aka bibliotek, while reading the BBC morning news, I fell asleep, sitting upright in a Norwegian blue leather chair in front of a picture window filled with Chilean fjords. It all seemed normal.
I skipped the morning lecture, Comorants: the Untold Story, but I photographed the remains of the Captain Leonidas, wrecked on the Cotopaxi Bank in 1957 (these were program events). It was a rusty old ship, looking perfectly afloat, but going nowhere. Story is the Chilean pilot stepped away from the helm to eat lunch. A few minutes later, he heard a crashing noise, the claxons sounded, and as he rushed back to the bridge, he found the crew waiting at the lifeboats with their suitcases packed
I sat in the Torghatten Salong for the rest of the morning, the gorgeous glass-enclosed lounge on Deck 7, watching the scenery as we passed through the treacherous Angostura Ingelesa (English Narrows). They made much of the fact that the current there is so strong no ship can pass through (by order of the Chilean government) except at slack tide. I assume our pilot was right on time; the waters were calm as glass and we were entertained by steamer ducks fluttering into takeoff, and otters swimming alongside.
Lunch buffet (more fish), then Puerto Eden came into view, 20 buildings in bright reds and blues and yellows decorating the hills. Our groups were instructed to go to Deck 2 for boarding the PolarCirkels. My Dutch friend Will spotted me on the deck with my camcorder. "Go down to Deck 2," he said, "I will help you get to your boat."
"I'm staying here," I said. "I'm resting today." Will went away, and I went downstairs. What I really wanted to do was to see the children!
The pictures tell the rest of the story, the pictures of the pizza party, and the beautiful children of Puerto Eden, a little town nestled between the mountains and the sea, with no roads in, no people nearby, and no industry of any kind.
Here, Santa comes by boat.