Monday, May 9, 2011


Today the phone rang with my wakeup call (actually it was room service) in the middle of a dream.

Obviously, the first thing I did when I woke was look at the curtains to see what the weather outside is doing. It is pitch black out, so I am still clueless as to whether I will see ANTARCTICA TODAY OR not. It has been on my mind ever since I heard the South African woman on the Dawn speaking about it on that cruise, which is why I booked this one, as well as to see Falklands, Montevideo, Valparaiso.

Time just turned 0400 on my watch, making it 0600 locally. The meeting time in the stardust window, and it is chilly but a 737 has heat. Still torn between wearing the good slacks and wingtips or jeans and sandles. Wearing a cashmere turtleneck and prolly the Ireland sweater and bringing the Chile jacket. Filled out the Chile food etc card, so I better leave my goodies at home. Cookies came from room service. Changed the gps batteries. I finished all four cookies before we were on the bus, which rolled at 0811.

Onto the deck to try for a fix, stop the gps timer at the correct time, watched the linesmen making her fast rather than casting off for a change, and, getting only one satellite, back to the cabin where the decision was made (partly based on the champagne issue) to go with the dress slacks and good shoes.

Sat way down in front in the Stardust Lounge in opposition to my usual habit of being in very back so I can leave anytime. There was a slide show which I wanted to see. The guide was named Betty, Chilean, a Doctor, spoke unaccented and idiomatic English and was enthusiastic about her penguins and less so about the birds. She began the talk however with a disclaimer that we still were in the go/no-go mode and would be remain so right up till it was time to board the aircraft, so the tension remained throughout, and watching the seals and penguins, one could only wonder whether we would see them or not. I suppose it was necessary, but it was not nice.

We boarded the buses and had another ‘tour’ thru downtown Punta Arenas, but I did not see anything that looked familiar nor the Hotel Cabo De Hornas. The town looked pleasant and by now the sun was shining merrily but there were patches of dark clouds here and there as well, so fingers remained crossed. We got to the aeroporto and debarked, and I found myself on an elevator to the departure lounge, only to find nobody else there, so I returned like a sheep to the fold and we waited until we finally got the word that we were GO for the journey. Even better news, the plane was a Boeing B767-300, so it had more speed and longer range than the 737, and everyone would have their own window seat…assigned. Mine was 37L, which was last row starboard. I took a nice photo of the boarding pass – too cool. Saw the penguin hat for sale that I have with me.

Easily got the tail number CC-CZU for the logbook, but the takeoff runway was tougher because the runways themselves had basically worn off number on them, and I got confused by the sun, the crossing signs etc. I’m thinking we took off on 25 and I know we landed on 12 cuz the captain said so. Surprise – I was the very first one on the plane, and bigger surprise was seeing no less than six flight attendants aboard for 44 people. Most, but not all, were couples, and most my age. I’ll have to check my log when I get home to see if I had been in the cockpit of this very plane before, because as soon as we hit cruising altitude, I went forward and had a quick pleasant visit and then excused myself and returned to my seat where I remained for most of the trip.

Preparatory to takeoff, there was lovely music and an animal video on the tv set in the seatback in front of me. I asked one of the FAs if there were a moving map, but it took the Germans in front of me to get it going. She never did answer me. They were babbling away in German during the speech made by the Doctor, but shut up rapidly when I said something.

Initially, much of the action was on port side, and I went as far as first class and most of the windows were taken, but returning to my seat I shot a series of fine pictures. When the digital camera began beeping at me, I unwrapped the throwaway and used it as well, but after removing and reinserting the memory card on the digital, it ceased beeping and seemed to be functioning normally. I had the only male flight attendant (who had never been on the trip before and was as excited as I was or maybe more) take a pic of me by the moving map screen showing the south pole and the whole continent, and later I shot a series my own self, holding up the camera in one hand and my gps in the other, and got an acceptable one for the state line book and another for the series to show others.

While my gps was sluggish in acquiring signals, it finally did and I clipped one south of the 63 latitude line, and captain said farthest south was 64 south. Later, I was somewhat surprised to realize that Edinburgh is a good deal farther from the Equator than Punta Arenas is. Just doesn’t seem so.. Total flight time was 5 hours exactly, with 4:41 wheel to wheel in just under two thousand miles.. AT farthest, I was 7,215 miles from my front door. We cruised home at 40,000 feet and down at 39,000. I suspect the guys up front enjoy horsing an airliner the size of a 767 around at seven hundred feet and below with thirty degree banked turns. We were told that a map of the journey will be prepared and sent to our stateroom in a few days. That would be kewl.
The Antarctic flight is now history, and was nearly flawless in every regard, My overwhelming feeling, frankly, is relief. I am drained physically and emotionally (and financially too if truth were told) but it is only 4PM and I am loathe to sink onto the comfy double bed and relax, as it is daylight and we are in Punta Arenas (for me, again) and besides, I have another Captains Party and this one I’m gonna try not to miss.

The waves hitting the dock on the tv monitor are lovely, and the day is lovely. I am literally forcing myself out the cabin door and back onto at least the deck, and maybe back to the shop at the end of the pier. The pictures that I took on the flight, including a state line one, all came out nicely and I have already deleted the ones that are superfluous.
Back on land, in chatting with the guide on the bus going back to the ship, he was talking about the daylight, and it occurred to me that I was quite a bit further from the Equator in Edinburgh than I am here at the ends of the earth today. This just FEELS a lot further away from everything. So my farthest south on land is about 55 and in the air 64. And apt to stay that way for quite awhile.

//Made one turn around decks 11 thru seven, and picked up some ice cream and two cookies along the way. Quite frankly, fancy though it was, there was no food on the LanChile flight that I could eat. I had one potato and tried the lamb, but couldn’t even cut it with the first ‘real’ knives that I’ve seen on a plane since Bulgaria. S*** would have loved the king crab and champagne.

//More choc strawberries into the room with a note from the hotel manager, but I have not met any of these people, or really tried to. There is so much extra food in the room that I handed it back to the guy who brought the strawberries, which I have finished, and plan on skipping supper tonight.

It is now quarter to six in the eve, and I guess I’ll take another windy turn around deck seven before returning to dress for captain greeting for the Antarctic (rich) folks. I have finished up transcribing the notes of the trip up until this morning, and as I may have said, I stumbled onto a much easier way of getting pictures from the card to the file, and so that job is done as well, with about half of them deleted and the remainder fairly well labeled.

Coming up on eight oclock now, and I have finished most everything to do today. At 1820 I dutifully went to the Captain’s cocktail party and wore the ear off a Frenchman who was a four striper, and I’m thinking now he was the hotel director [yup], but he was polite and interesting and a good listener and also well traveled and he has lost a third of his earnings due to the Euro/dollar slide. My photo was taken getting my certificate (diploma) from the captain. I finished a pair of tonics and the place cleared out before we had scratched the surface. We are both sorta out of touch with what is going on in the world.

Clutching my diploma, I went up to the lido lounge and found the trio had moved up to the top of the crown for tonight, so I went up there are got a nice wave from her from the bandstand, and they took a break and I said I’d do her pix with the background tomorrow night back in the Lido lounge. And so here I am, a little before eight, with nothing left that I feel like doing. Casino does not appeal, internet seems too much effort, so it is more like teevee and the puter for the balance of the day. It has been a long and hugely successful day and I am content just to rest for the remainder of daylight. Departure [ship] was so smooth I never felt it, and first I knew we were under weigh was up top. Decks still very windy. Beginning to peel a bit on the shoulders. My sweet little maid made me an elephant and carefully put my mess back all over the freshly made bed as I had asked her to do. I am ¾ embarrassed. And yes, I did skip supper!

Overflew Antarctica


John0 Juanderlust said...

What a blast. When you look at the globe, things are often in a proximity you don't realize, like Perth in that map shot. Then you realize how close it is to the bottom of South America.

Fijufic said...

Fin - You know I absolutely love these stories and read them several times throughout the day.

Thank you so very much for cheering me up. it means a lot to me.


BethanyC said...

I really like the moving map photo!

Anonymous said...

I am warmed by the heart by your interest.

Virtual Traveller said...

Very glad you got to see Antarctica fin. Jude