antarctica-present-future-past

Carol’s Journal: December 1995

December 6, 1995

New York

“You’re traveling the easy way,” said a Norwegian man on the plane. His father went to Antarctica in the 50’s when there were no converted-for-tourist ice ships.

We are at the airport waiting to meet Bruno “Penguin” Zehnder, photographer, ecologist and friend of the Russian Antarctic Expedition, for slides of his clean up at Mirny station and his calenders of emperor penguins to sell to the “rich tourists”. My thoughts are with Lena who leaves St. Petersburg tomorrow to meet us in Ushuaia.

People are quite astonished at what we are doing.

It is 10:35pm and bright. Flying into Ushuaia is amazing. In this commuter Aerolineas airplane with yellow and pink flowery seat covers, we do a dramatic swooping landing on a narrow airstrip next to the water, snowy mountains behind the town. Pablo greeted us. I was happy to see him holding a sign for us, meaning we had help with all our bags. Pablo took us straight to the ship because the Petrov was in port early. Ian Shaw greeted us and gave us a ship tour.

It has been such a strange but good few days, a converging of worlds. The Petrov sailed from Hamburg in 28 days. The crew is green, new to the tourist operation; their former work was as hands on a Russian scientific ice-rated ship. I didn’t realize this is the Petrov’s maiden tourism voyage.

The Russian crew kissed our hands many times. They informed us of the evening social event—the bar in town.

I am deliriously tired and worried about our provisions.

In the restaurant, at a table next to Wendy and me was the ship staff and on the other side senior ship staff dining with the captain and first mate. We were shocked when the man selling red roses pushed two onto us. Laughing, flabbergasted, I looked over at T.’s table and he smiled. He is a macho Polish Argentinean penguin specialist. Who sent the flowers? Adorable and ridiculous. Then Andy came over and said, “Do you ladies want us to chaperone you home?” Was he serious? Is it still 1900?