End of the World-Ushuaia-Gateway to Antarctica
Trip Start Jan 24, 2010
12Trip End Feb 15, 2010
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Quark's Lubrov Orlova
I had my driver take me to a wine shop where I purchased Malbec for the voyage. I then visited the museum, previously a Military Prison, which was considered the worst place to "do time" because of it's location: Ushuaia. Serial killers and politcal prisoners (including Carlos Guardel-tango dancer) who dared to speak against the status quo were sent here, considered equal harm to society. Each cell has stories of it's famous occupants, written in Spanish and English. Some wings are now art galleries. It was facinating.
Walking through the touristy Ushuaia to get to the port, I enjoyed the beautiful poppies and colors of other flowers. I noticed that what I had earlier presumed to be our ship was not: our vessel was the small one with the OPEN lifeboats dwarfed by the luxury liner! Another sick feeling developed as I stared at the white lifeboats with no orange covers and realized that couldn't possibly be legal, could it? Was it too late to switch to the nice cruise liner with the closed lifeboats, hot tubs, pools, bars, auditoruims, casinos? No, No, No- that unsafe little vessel can't be my home for 3 weeks where it'll be bobbing around the Antarctic Convergence!
Although the brochure warns to be on time, we departed 4 hours late at 9:30pm, awaiting a pax who had to hire a private pilot for $1300 due to his cancelled flight from Chile. (Luckily, Quark had advised me to use BA, as flights from Santiago were undependable due to weather issues over the Andes.) We missed the beautiful views of the calm Beagle Channel I am told. The cabins are stark and functional: the shower stall has grab bars and raised lip on the floor, to keep pax and water from falling out. Netting on the walls to put personal items in, push locks on all doors and drawers, porthole is sealed and does not open, providing all the necessities to keep all but your body from being thrown about. After the obligatory safety briefing, I noted in addition to open lifeboats, there was really no illusion of survival if we had to abandon ship - the lifevests are just to identify the body would have once been on the Orlova. I informed Kirsten the Expedition Leader that I would "go down with the ship rather than get in those lifeboats". She informed me they would sedate me if needed to get me in a lifeboat, but there were no plans to abandon ship. Most pax laughed when they announced the first lecture: seasickness seminar. They weren't laughing the next day.
They warned us the rocking waves would begin about 3 hours after embarkation, and strongly advised taking any prescription (the ship doc was giving out Phenergan 25 mg. that I had researched and requested of my doctor). I believed them, and added sleeping pills to put me out of my impending misery. Temporary, but I did get a good night's sleep!
The reality of the open seas in the Antarctic Convergence is worse than anticipated. Imagine a combination of an earthquake, hurricane and a rushing train, all at the same time, and put yourself in this Poltergiest, with no opportunity to wake up from that nightmare. Even tough I had sedated sleep, my body was aware it had been slammed from head to toe in a 6' steel bed bolted to the wall. (Can't they bolt bodies to the wall, so you can heave with the vessel, instead of into it? The difference in impact is probably minimal - kinda' like the difference between laughing with someone or at someone.) Given my cabin was tucked in the bow of the ship, the heat wasn't making it that far, so I was cold and hungry. Curious how the others were doing, I opened the cabin door, and wasn't able to grab the hall railings before I found myself flung towards the stairwell mid-ship. I grabbed the railing to begin my journey up the two spiral staircases. After cresting one wave, I was thrown down on my chin, only to pick myself up and be flung backwards on the vessel's ride up another wave. Booking at the last minute obviously put me in the least desirable location on the ship.
The chaos on the main deck was inescapable. Despite warnings, steel doors had slammed on fingers, bodies were bruised and battered and bleeding, people and vomit were hurling - and there was no end in site. The seriously injured were strapped in their beds, sedated with IV drips for the next 3 days, until they could be evacuated for surgery to South America. Those with lacerated heads got stitches, broken rib victims stayed with the voyage, and the seasick suffered. I was determined to NOT get so injured as to ruin my experience, and to get on top of my seasickness so as not to be medicated my whole time. I vowed to avoid the wet decks and to avoid unnecessary trips to my room. My wonderful roommate, Amy, age 37 was positive, pleasant, and had her sea legs. I aspired to be such a pax!
I ate breakfast and sat outside in the sun on deck for an hour. I attended both morning "talks" and then went to lunch. I noticed the chairs were anchored to the floors with straps, allowing little movement to get seated. I noticed the tableclothes were wet - from spilled water, no doubt. I soon learned the strapped down chairs did not prevent pax from being thrown off of them! The intentionally dampened tableclothes usually kept the plates from movement, but did not prevent the food from sliding off the plates. The 6-glass wooden holder in the center of the table was there to be used. I prided myself on being a quick learner and observant to my surroundings. I wanted to get a photo of the wait staff, but was to engaged in holding onto the table with both hands during heavy wave action. However, the server's leaned diagonally while continuing a forward motion, and then shifted their diagonal walk with the ship's movement, never loosing a plate or altering that stern Russian look. I aspired to learn the walk!
My body's immediate response to the earth's gravitional pull was to remain upright during the ship's rock and roll. I quickly learned I liked rolling, just not the rocking, which is the pitch, being thrown side-to-side. My "core" muscles got so sore from fighting the ship's heavy pitch, which at one portion of the day was 38-degrees! (Given a pitch of 45-degrees is most certain capsize, we were at 80% of the ship's capacity to stay afloat!) So, despite my eyes and brain demanding I re-center myself with each thrust of the wave, I quickly learned to walk and keep moving when thrown off balance, in the direction the ship was already throwing me. (Just like jumping off a merry-go-round in the direction of the spin, instead of opposing the motion, is easier on the body.)
The other two scheduled "talks" and the evening cinema were cancelled due to the wild and turbulent seas of a Beaufort Scale 8-9 storm all afternoon/evening. (The Beaufort Scale dubbed a 4-5 storm as a "fresh breeze" with it's moderate waves to 9', so they are big on minimizing winds here in the Atlantic Convergence.) I laid in the mid-lounge most of the day, rather than venture to the cabin, in the forward section of ship, two decks below. Pax Carl managed to get an awesome photo of the forward section of the ship being overcome with waves, not knowing the decks were closed off to pax. "Afternoon Tea was served in the library at 4PM - most of it on the floor. Cakes and plates were flying, much like a Greek wedding. The crew states it was the worst crossing to the Falklands they had ever experienced. Worst and best, first and last crossing to the Falklands ever for me, too.