Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Antarctica II

1-31-17 SHORT HILLS: We're back as of last night, delayed by plane problems in Houston, but home safely after about 60 hours of travel. I'll tell the story day-by-day...

1-17-17 KING GEORGE ISLAND, ANTARCTICA: The buses took us to the airport after breakfast, and the entire group, some 90 explorers, picked up our luggage, checked in for the charter flights, passed through security and exited Chile and then waited for departure.

We were divided into two groups with a smaller section to take a second plane. We were in the first plane as were most of the group. We boarded the plane on the tarmac in the wind. There was open seating for the two hour flight to King George Island. The landing was fine on the gravel field. We were all standing on the runway in the brisk wind waiting for the second plane, but it never arrived.

Mechanical problems caused that flight to be scrubbed. Our plane loaded up most of the passengers from the previous cruise and flew back to Punta Arenas to pick the rest of our group, bring them out, and then pick up the remaining group of departing passengers. That happened four hours later.

Our trip from the beach to the ship by zodiac was a bit rough because of the wind and spray but, fortunately, dry. While we were waiting for the plane to return, we discovered that a nearby beach was covered with penguins, thousands of them. We also saw skuas and gulls.

We motored away after the group was complete, after all the luggage was aboard and after dinner. As the afternoon turned to evening the wind subsided and the bay became calm. At about 10 PM there was a pretty sunset that lingered after midnight. There was dusk, but not darkness as we motored through scattered pack ice.

Punta Arenas. This rickety old dock is home to part of a big colony of Imperial Shags. They are dressed like penguins, but penguins couldn't get up there.

Happy explorers waiting for the flight south.

First time on this carrier.

Lower part of the Chilean Andes from the plane.

King George Island airport, bare bones amenities.

Penguin colony near the ship with sea ice beyond.

The last of the group to arrive at dusk.

Antarctica sunset about 10 PM.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Antarctica I

1-16-17 SANTIAGO, CHILE: We arrived here on our way to Antarctica after flights from Newark to Houston and then from Houston to Santiago, Chile. We arrived at the same time as about three other flights, all big planes, and there were massive lines to go through passport control, customs, check-in for our next flight, and security screening. The joys of flying.

Santiago is quite a bit below the equator, about the same Latitude as Atlanta in the U.S. and about the same Longitude as New York, but two hours earlier on the clock. One hour might be for DST, but I don’t understand the other extra hour. It’s summer here and people in the airport are in shorts and tees.

Our third flight is to Punta Arenas, which is almost at the tip of South America on the Strait of Magellan. We overnight there before flying on to King George Island, which is just off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, and where we meet our ship.

1-16-17 PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE: We got here at 7 PM with full sun, dusk was at 11 PM. It’s ‘July’ here but people are walking around in parkas, and there is a brisk wind blowing in off the Strait of Magellan. We checked in with One Ocean, our tour managers, had dinner and did a quick tour of the town after the organizational meeting.

 Tomorrow we fly again, a charter flight, to King George Island in Antarctica where we board the ship. It’s the same ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, on which we did the Spitsbergen trip two summers ago. It’s a Russian icebreaker designed for scientific expeditions.

We are staying at the Hotel Rey Don Felipe. Did I mention Valerie is on the trip also? She brings a unique perspective and different vision to the adventure.

This first entry for this trip may be the last for a while. I did put up two pix today, but they went up very slowly. The ship WiFi is quite limited. I will probably do what I have done before—tell the stories afterwards.

A shot of the Andes north of Santiago from the airplane window looking to the west and looking pretty arid.

Imperial Shags on the beach at Punta Arenas.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Chocolate and Comet.

1-11-17 SHORT HILLS: It’s warmer now, in the fifties today, and the snow is vanishing. This morning, looking at the yard from upstairs, the snow resembled a white doily. All the footprints, dog and human, have melted down letting the ground show through and giving the snow cover the look of lace. I cleaned up some broken branches and broken bamboo.

Two nights ago we went out for Thai with Lynn and Bill, and yesterday I had lunch with Bill at Nero’s. Last night Judy and I had Dinner at the Glass House Tavern on 47th St. before we saw The Great Comet of 1812 at the Imperial Theatre on 45th St. We had a very fast trip in, the city seems deserted in comparison to the crowds and traffic during the Holidays.

To kill time before the dinner rez, we walked up to 48th St. in Times Sq. and visited the M & M store. It’s a religious experience if you’re a chocolate worshipper. We bought nightshirts, Judy’s is green and says ‘sweet’. The Hershey store is across the street making it the Chocolate Corner. The restaurant was fine.

The show, The Great Comet of 1812, had some great minutes, but sometimes dragged. The fourth wall is non-existent in this production. Part of the audience is seated on stage, and the performers are frequently out in the orchestra in the aisles and on walkways. The music was a mash of Russian, gypsy and hip-hop. The story BTW is an adaptation of a small chunk of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace dealing with the attempted elopement/abduction of Natasha by Anatole. No spoiler alert necessary, it’s all laid out in the Playbill. DenĂ©e Benton is radiant as Natasha.

Tuesday Night Fever at the M & M Store.

Hershey Store with familiar logos out front.

Set for The Great Comet of 1812 at the Imperial Theatre.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Another Snow.

1-8-17 SHORT HILLS: We got more snow yesterday, about six inches, with wind, and with temps in the teens. We did get to a local restaurant for dinner with Lonnie and Bette. This time we needed the driveway plowed. The plowers arrived in the middle of the night, which upset Bally enormously. He barked until they finished.

Today we decided to forgo our usual Sunday afternoon walk because the temps were in the low teens, it was windy, and the roads were icy. I know that it’s not single-digits-Vermont cold, but it’s too cold for us. The early season charm of new snow is already wearing thin.

Sunset at the end of a cold day.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Scant Snow.

1-6-17 SHORT HILLS: The last two days have been colder, and last night we got almost an inch of snow. It looks best in the morning when all the trees and shrubs are sprinkled with white, but by now, mid-afternoon, they’re snow free.

I saw an article about a Swedish nurse who skied solo from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole, pulling a sled with supplies, and setting a record for time. On the return trip she’s using a kite to pull herself along. Amazing. Link below:


Catch the snow in the early morning and all the trees are dusted.

It's not too deep at less than an inch.

You can see why deciduous trees do better than evergreens.

Goldfinch and house finch chowing down.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year.

1-1-17 SHORT HILLS: We came back to NJ earlier than planned and ahead of the storm that dumped about a foot of snow on VT and northern New England. All we got here was rain, a good bit of rain, but not a flake of snow. The snow that we had has disappeared.

Today we did a walk with friends Ron, Bebe, Lynn and Bill and friends of a different species Gus, Bally, Maizie, Bella, Pepper and Annie. It was about 50° today, cloudless, with a mild breeze. We saw pansies still in bloom.

We did have some cold weather and frost in December, but not enough to shut these flowers down. Tuesday is supposed to be even warmer.

I saw a Trump spokesperson interviewed on CNN by Chris Cuomo. He said the earth is 5,500 years old. At 5.5 billion years, the earth is a million times older than his said it was. Some trees are 5,000 years old. Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy four years to, sort of, quote Bette Davis in All About Eve. Link below.


Not what I expect in January.