We’re Home!

Posted 3 years, 9 months ago at 5:10 pm. 4 comments

photo by Jon McClintock

Most of us are now back from Antarctica, which we all agree was the best trip we’ve ever taken. Nowhere is as surreal and alien as the iceberg-studded seas of the south. The only animals were seals, penguins, whales, and a handful of sleepy seabirds. Everything was covered in snow.

The shot above is all 107 passengers of the Akademik Ioffe, our Russian science vessel and home for 10 days. The Ioffe was built during the end of the Cold War, and has the look and feel of a 70′s Nasa command center. Big light-up buttons seemed to control areas of the ship. It had three levels of passenger rooms, a bar/lounge, dining hall, gym, 2 saunas, and a lecture room. The lounge was home to a game that David Moon brought along called Jungle Speed. We all got minor injuries from that game, and Metal broke a pinky finger. But it kept us from thinking about being seasick in the Drake Passage, the roughest sea in the world.

The Quark expedition staff were largely Canadian, but the ship staff were mostly Russian. Many of them didn’t speak English too well. The captain routinely gave orders to his crew over the intercom and it sounded like an angry Russian barking at you, which wasn’t fun at 7a. Our days started early, as they squeezed in 2-3 continent landings a day. To get to shore, you got on a 10-person rubber boat called a Zodiak, which navigated the icey slushie waters to shore. The zodiak rides were always pretty exciting. We were given really warm waterproof parkas and rubber gumboots, and usually had to step through water to get out. The staff were really careful in helping us in and out of the zodiaks, using a hand-to-wrist technique called the sailor’s grip to make sure they had us.

It took two days travelling through the Drake to get to Antarctica, and we spent an extra day basically going in circles off Cape Horn waiting for a really scary storm to pass. Even without the storm, and dosed up on seasick meds, many people still got super sick through the Drake. The ship’s doctor passed out medicine like candy, and they had barf bags everywhere, even stuck behind paintings and in plants. Octalpus ended up getting a latex allergy to her patch, and we didn’t see her for a couple days. The way back was a lot better, because we had gotten accustomed to the movement of the ship.

November 23, 2010 at 2:22p I saw my first penguin colony. It was when we were first going past some icebergs, and I could barely make out black and white blotches. (They’re between those two rocks). A bunch of people were hanging out at the bridge of the ship taking pictures because we were so excited to finally see icebergs. It was really grey out. Most of those pictures got deleted cuz we saw way better icebergs in really good light for the rest of the trip.

We got to land and see Gentoos the next day. I’ll write about those a bit later.

Jon McClintock has a bunch of pictures up on flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonmcclintock/sets/72157625500986686/

4 Replies

  1. Welcome home. What an epic adventure!

  2. Darnn Dec 4th 2010

    Did any of the English-speaking sailors explain the significance of the name of the ship? It’s named after Russian physicist Abram Ioffe, but the specific phrasing of “Academic Ioffe” comes from a bit of Vladimir Vysotsky lyrics, from the song Morning Calisthetics. The relevant part translates roughly to:

    If you are already tired
    Then just do a couple of squats
    And you won’t fear the arctic
    Or Antarctica

    Leading academic Ioffe
    Has proven that cognac and coffee
    Can be replaced by sports and prophy-
    -lactics.

    It rhymes in Russian, Antarctica and “prophylaktika”.

    This is widely quoted in Russian-speaking places.

    I doubt you would, but in case you want to hear it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxnsB05vug4&t=0m56s

  3. Princess Zamboni Dec 9th 2010

    Awesome song – wish I’d known about it before the trip so we could surprise the Russian crew by singing it on the Drake Passage. XBS thinks the singer in the vid reminds him of JohnM, especially when he’s doing JohnM’s acrobatic moves – only JohnM did it on a boat, which is way cooler.

  4. Darnn, that is frickin’ fantastic! My husband is super tickled by that info and the song. He’s kind of into Soviet-era propaganda.


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