by Kim Bergman
At the southernmost city of the world, Ushuaia, Argentina, we stopped for two days to shop while waiting for the next ship to Antarctica. We raced for the privilege of boarding first as we watched the pristine ship pull into harbor. On it, we will pass the Horn.
It seems utterly incredible to me that I should see the Horn first-hand. Facing the turbulent waters around the tip of South America was a popular topic in my favorite bedtime stories even as a child. Even so, the fact that I should walk upon the bottom of the world after treading another 700 miles is even more astounding.
To avoid motion sickness, my companion and I chose a cabin in central location to store our belongings. Exploring the ship is an adventure in itself, a necessary undertaking to find where crowds may gather. Along the way, we are told that 98 passengers and 46 crewmen are the sum of human life aboard.
The first meal served on board was dinner, during which we got to know our shipmates by trading reasons for signing up for a trip to Antarctica. Almost half of those I spoke to answered that they wanted to visit all seven continents and that Antarctica was their last stop. The only thing every one really had in common was interest in the wildlife and terrain.
The 7,500 horse power ship could sail through ice a foot think, shared one of the crew members. There is abundance of ice and fresh water in Antarctica, 90% and 70%,respectively, of the world’s supply. Floods would ensue if Antarctica’s ice melting, even reducing the South American Andes extension and the Transantarctic at 7,000 to 8,000 feet elevation to mere islands.
It seems a giant bird had tagged along, which they explained was a wandering albatross. It needs its 11.5-foot wings to be able to fly and is the world’s largest flying bird.
It also survives on its superior sniffing power. Also in Antarctica are petrels, shags or cormorants, skuas and penguins. Almost every type of avian life has found it advantageous to develop webbed feet.
Our lecturer filled us with yet another wildlife subject which is whales. The range of their lifespans is 60-100 years. They can produce only one offspring every two years.
With only six other Americans on the trip, we sometimes feel uneasy. All other passengers are Australian or from companies that follow the system internationale. Conversion charts provided come in handy, but actual reckoning can still be an effort.
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