Crappy weather, awesome day. I was the first one out of the zodiac this morning and quickly on my way to the New Island rockhopper penguin colony. These little buggers were awesome as they bounced across the rocks with their punk rocker hairdos waving, or wandered up to us to investigate the new arrivals. They somehow never got hurt despite the fact that they fell frequently — I watched one penguin drop off of a six foot cliff, taking out several of his fellows along the way, after which all of them simply shook their heads and started hopping back up. The other amusing thing about these guys was that they would always travel in groups, so I often found myself rounding a bend in the trail only to see five or six little heads all in a line and bobbing toward me. They’d wait for me to step aside, and then continue to bounce their way along.
The weather eventually got too nasty for photography, so after a few more hours I bid the rockhoppers adieu and left to explore other parts of the island. I spent a half hour crouched under a rock overhang with two caracaras birds (they’re like hawks), both of whom sat about ten feet away. A magellanic penguin played with me for a bit, coming over to investigate any time I did anything stupid (which was often since the rocks were slippery). I then walked a few miles across the island to see a gentoo penguin colony. Along the way the magellanic penguins were hanging out in their burrows in the grasses, causing me to constantly do double-takes — when you’re used to seeing gophers and rabbits in the fields, seeing penguins in the grass is most definitely an odd sight. The gentoo colony was also interesting, with a few hundred penguins hanging out in a big circle in the middle of an open field and making the usual penguin ruckus.
I kind of rushed through the walk back from the gentoo colony, barely making it in time to catch the last zodiac. In the hurry I forgot to zip up my waterproof jacket or buckle my gaiters, and the brilliance of this move was confirmed when I entered the zodiac with water sloshing in my boots and exited with my top completely soaked from the waves that had been breaking over the bow. After changing into dry clothes everyone celebrated New Year’s (on central European time) with champagne and a shrimp dinner. Tomorrow we’re visiting another island in the Falklands, and with luck the weather will be as agreeable as the surroundings.
The boat is still steaming away on the passage from Ushuaia to the Falklands. Temperatures have been in the 40’s, skies have been mostly clear, and surprisingly the ocean has been really calm. However, despite the flat water the boat has been rocking a bit, as it seems icebreakers have flat hulls and aren’t exactly the most stable boats on the water. It took a while for me to figure out how to walk across the decks without being battered into the walls, but I think I’ve got my sea legs now and by mid-afternoon I was sitting balanced on the bow with one leg draped over the side.
The wildlife sightings for the day included thousands of seabirds — the black browed albatrosses were at first the largest, with wingspans of seven feet, but as the day wore on we began seeing a few royal and wandering albatrosses, each with wingspans in the ten to twelve foot range. Watching them skim the water, swooping and soaring but almost never flapping their wings, is an awesome sight. A few penguins, a whale, tons of other birds, and three dolphins (who popped up for all of about a half second) rounded out the animal life for today. I left the bow once to attend a photography lecture by Rod Planck, an amazing nature photographer, although sadly once the lights went down the lack of caffeine caught up with me and I dozed off a couple of times. Now I’m off to bed sunburned but happy, and with a full day in the Falklands to look forward to tomorrow.
After a morning spent in Tierra Del Fuego National Park the M/V Polar Star set sail at about 6:00 PM. As we were setting out the thought occurred to me that if, at that moment, I was offered the chance to go anywhere on the planet, I would have chosen to stay right there in my spot perched on the bow, watching the albatrosses glide over the waves while terns and gulls did their acrobatics above. I skipped dinner in order to have more time sitting out in the drizzle watching the mountains on the shore slide by while seabirds cavorted all around and the occasional penguin or sea lion dove underneath the boat. To say that I’m excited about the days to come would be a vast understatement.
After barely sleeping on the flight from Miami to Buenos Aires I couldn’t keep my eyes open while flying to Ushuaia until I woke up to see the Beagle Channel rolling out under the plane, pockmarked by rugged little islands while the snow-covered Andes towered overhead. That got me out of my slumber pretty fast, and after landing and checking into the hotel I immediately set out and roamed all over the town and hillsides. It was all I could do to look up at the mountains, seeing the ocean and knowing that I’m standing at the end of the world, and not start screaming about how great it is to be alive. The frightening thing about that experience is that today will likely be the worst day of the trip.
With the possible exception of the Falklands I don’t think there will be internet access available again until the end of January, so it’s rather embarassing to possibly leave this as my last entry for a while, but it has to be said: the women in Buenos Aires are insanely beautiful. Until today I thought Barcelona had the most beautiful women in the world, but after only an hour in Buenos Aires I’m confident in saying that the title has changed hands, and that the match wasn’t even close. Not to say that women in Barcelona aren’t amazing, but if you haven’t been to Buenos Aires… woah.
It’s been twenty-four hours in planes and airports, and there’s about sixteen hours to go, but the trip is nonetheless off to a good start. As expected it looks like nearly everyone is in the over fifty crowd, but among the staff there are some real nuts who seem to be at least as brain damaged as I am (possibly moreso in the case of Tim and Carter). The stories that come out when these guys start talking are awesome — sailing boats across the oceans, past trips to Antarctica, near-death stories about biking on homemade mountain bikes, and a million others. Each of the staff seems to either be a naturalist, photographer, or have some similarly interesting magical power. The game is most definitely on.
T-minus six hours. I’m packed, but I’ve got way more stuff than I’d like to be carrying. I’m tempted to leave the tent behind and take my chances in Patagonia, but visions of snow and a frozen Ryan wrapped in a sleeping bag and poncho make that one a tough call. Anyhow, here’s the trip itinerary:
- Dec. 26 – Leave SFO for Ushuaia (via Miami and Buenos Aires)
- Dec. 29 – Board the M/V Polar Star
- Dec. 31 to Jan. 2 – Falkland Islands
- Jan. 5 to Jan. 11 – South Georgia Island
- Jan. 15 to Jan. 20 – Antarctic Peninsula
- Jan. 23 – Return to Ushuaia
- Jan. 23 to early Feb. – Backpacking in Patagonia
I’ll be keeping daily updates during the trip, but will only be able to upload them when an internet connection is available, so it’s going to be a few weeks between updates. E-mails will be much appreciated, so if you have some time drop me a note and I’ll respond when I can. Best wishes to everyone in the New Year — see you in a few months!
First annual Holliday Bowl today. The photos are from the Turkey Bowl, but it gives a good idea of the shenanigans that were going on. Sadly my big moment in today’s game was getting my clock cleaned on a kickoff return, but the Goob managed three interceptions and four scores.
Harrod and the Helmet Cam 2.0
Life is moving progressively toward perfect. I’m home and insomnia-free, sleeping a beautiful eight to ten hours a night. Last week I probably slept a total of thirty hours over seven days, so this is indeed a wonderful thing. When not sleeping I’ve been out with Aaron and his insane friends, seen the new Lord of the Rings movie, and nearly finished off the Christmas shopping. Tonight I’ll be enjoying a deep-dish Zachary’s chicken pizza, and in three days I’ll be off to fulfill a dream I’ve had for nearly twenty years by visiting Antarctica. I’m not sure how things could be better. In this midst of enjoying my personal utopia I stumbled on this piece of ultimate wisdom and truth:
“Now this brings me to Mufasa the Lion King and the circle of life. Nerds such as myself are usually not mechanically inclined. So when we need something mechanical done, we have to take it to a mechanic and get reamed for it. We readily accept this. Because when the mechanic needs something done on his computer, he takes it to nerds like me, and we in turn ream him for it. This my friends, is the Circle of Life.”
Today is the last day at Warner Brothers, although there’s a good chance they’ll be bringing me back at the end of February. Took a last trip by the Friends soundstage in the hopes that Jennifer Aniston might be there and fall madly in love with me, but they were filming and not even Gunther was around to say goodbye.
In other news, here’s a bit of info about the ship I’ll be on in Antarctica:
M/V Polar Star was built in Finland and served in the Swedish Maritime Administration’s fleet of icebreakers under the name of Njord. In 2000 she was purchased by Polar Star Expeditions, a company of Karlsen Shipping and underwent complete retrofit and upgrades. She was renamed M/V Polar Star after her namesake that served Karlsen’s Arctic cruise program. Today the ship is operated by Polar Star Expeditions formed in 2000. Karlsen Shipping, the parent company, is an old Norwegian family business originally from the northwestern coast of Norway and now headquartered in Halifax, Canada. With over 100 years experience in many aspects of the marine industry, Karlsen has operated primarily in the Polar Regions.
Two hours of sleep last night. Maybe three. The insomnia has GOT to end soon. Luckily I’ve only got three days of work left — I’ve been so tired lately that I think Yar is beginning to suspect that the brain damage has completely consumed my ability to function. Besides looking at the screen and reading things that aren’t there I’ve also started to occasionally mix up word order while speaking — “Yar, broken the code is possibly because of the methods updated.” It’s not a good thing.
In more interesting news I had a great night out Saturday with a friend, then went to the Arclight on Sunday night to watch Chasing Amy, followed by a Q&A with Kevin Smith. Kevin ruled — the guy is one of the funniest people I’ve ever heard speak. And for those counting at home, it’s now ten days, two hours and two minutes until the plane leaves and the Antarctica trip starts.
Insomnia has taken me to a new low: for the past hour I’ve been debating whether the dancing banana in the navigation bar should be visible by default or not. After going back and forth on the issue I think I’ll let him start out doing his jamming in secret.
After barely sleeping for four days, I fell asleep at 10:00 last night and was on my way to nine hours of blissful repose when the phone rang and I was told there was a problem with the Warner Brothers database. An hour later, once the problem was fixed, I was lying in bed, completely unable to sleep again. I can’t help but feel that God is up there laughing at me; let’s hope he doesn’t start playing with the “smite” button any time soon.
Unrelated to insomnia, here are the final effects of the Slashdot link on site traffic:
In a posting on Slashdot today I included a link back to this site’s photos page and suddenly the site traffic went nuts. However, despite the many photos of Denali, Galapagos, and other beautiful places, this seemed to be one of the most popular pictures. Never doubt the incredible appeal of the Goob, a Kosar jersey, and a giant Heineken.
In other news the insomnia continues — a few more days of this and I’ll be scouring the city looking for the “Sleepytime Extra” tea that Carrie (M.D.) recommends. Eight more days of work left, and seventeen days three hours and six minutes until the plane leaves SFO. Not that I’m counting.
…and as a result of not being able to sleep the site now has permalinks, the number one most requested feature (“You need permalinks to your blog entries, sucka“). I’m both an insomniac and a geek.
Unrelated, but I’ve gotten sucked into the whole Survivor thing this year — the idea of getting to live on a tropical island while simultaneously testing your ability to fend for yourself is one that seems really appealing. However, in the shows I’ve seen they all kind of just sit around on logs and complain about how hungry they are or who should be voted out. I want to get on the show and be like the professor on Gilligan’s island, making fishing nets out of palm fronds and radios out of coconuts and stuff. All I need are some ideas for a good audition video — “Survivor needs more guys who are losing their hair at a young age” probably isn’t the pitch that will convince CBS to put me on the show. Suggestions are welcome, so long as they don’t involve nudity, farm animals, or both.
I got to sheep number 213 and finally gave up counting…