On one of the zodiac rides I had to listen to one of the European twenty-somethings explain how he was out of space on the one memory card he had brought because he filmed the entire camping experience on his GoPro. He was particularly proud that he had captured the lecture on how to toilet on the ice and how to use the bivy sac. I can't understand the video or the GoPro craze - who has time to watch in real time events already lived? And how could it possibly be interesting to anyone to capture the most mundane details of a trip? I prefer stills, spectacular moments, or capturing something quietly. Once again I realized how little I had in common with most of the passengers on the Antarctic voyage.
One of the differences I found striking between the passengers of the two back to back voyages was how they arrived there. Most of the S. Georgia passengers were retired or at least late in their careers; my husband and I were among the youngest, in our forties. While many, if not most, were on a repeat voyage, they were also very well traveled elsewhere. Every bucket list trip I have had been completed already by someone on the S. Georgia trip! (I don't think I've ever been more jealous of someone that of the woman I met whose husband planned trips for her for every birthday and anniversary!) Although I'd been all over the world, I was a novice compared to some of those well-traveled folks. Travel gives you perspective. The guests were interesting, polite, and generally kept to themselves. There was a wide variety of personalities present, yet there was no drama. These people paid for the trip and valued the experience.
The Antarctic portion had passengers who largely seemed to be traveling on daddy's money. Rather than having saved up for a treasured experience, most of them seemed to be treating it like a trip that was a graduation present - "could be neat!" We were among the oldest of the passengers on this portion of the voyage, and it was hard to relate to most of the passengers. The conversations at meals were pained as a result. As an introvert, after nearly a month, I had also exhausted my conversational resources almost completely.
The meals were pained too. The ship, which we had been on nearly a month, was in its third rotation of available menus. I absolutely despise green peppers, and since they seem to keep well, they were in almost every meal. The super dry air of the southern ocean dried almost everything out immediately, so even a freshly sliced piece of bread was nearly hard. The food had become very tiresome and I was already making a list of all the things I would be cooking or baking once I was home again.
One of the landings we were offered was actually a repeat of the Chilean base we had landed at previously. Had we not had the constraint of campers, the ship could have gone to other landing sites, but it didn't - and as a result, we had a repeat site. For such an expensive trip it was ridiculous to land at the same place twice...not just frustrating, it was infuriating.
Luckily we finally had a perfect weather day. Also luckily, my husband's lottery came up for mountaineering that day - the one activity he really, really wanted to do. As he had planned to do the Shackleton hike on S. Georgia and it had been cancelled twice due to weather, we had brought an entire duffel of climbing gear that hadn't been used. He had trained for glacier climbing and not gotten any in at all, except a bit on snowshoes. As much as I wasn't thrilled he would be going with the Italian who did not communicate well as a leader, rather than the vastly more qualified mountaineering leader that had been on the previous voyage, I wanted him to get a chance to climb. It was very good luck that he had the opportunity on the best possible weather day. I was out in a zodiac, struggling to get photos while some Chinese passengers constantly got in the way. I did manage a few of the mountaineers though, on a ridge above, roped together.
|A lone Gentoo in the lower left|
|I finally captured a leap|
To make matters worse, a large number of passengers wanted to do an idiotic dive into Antarctic waters, a polar plunge. This necessitated the doctor, and tied up several zodiacs. The ship was more than a mile from the landing site. Once one dove into the freezing Antarctic waters (for no reason other than to apparently say one has done it, and catch it on the iphone for posting on Youtube) there was a long, cold zodiac ride back to the ship. I couldn't think of anything dumber. Chaperoning these twenty-somethings hollering and hooting as they "swam" in frigid waters consumed all of the time of the "trip leader" and the doctor and several of the staff.
As a result, there was no staff to watch over the remaining passengers who were visiting the penguin colony trying to exist among the human buildings. The colony was a hike off to the right from the landing site. I sat in the snow and watched the penguins, getting a few decent captures.
It is too bad that there is not a way to screen tourists. We live in a world where people will take sharks and baby dolphins out of the water for selfies, literally killing them in the process. I can't understand these things. It is beyond stupid and selfish to harm other living creatures for photo ops. I can't understand, either, coming to Antarctica and behaving so badly. It made me sick. I avoided the passengers I saw doing this for the rest of the trip as I feared I might actually punch them in the face if I had any contact with them at all.
This brought up another hard thing for me about being on a ship for a month - I didn't have any of my animals to comfort me. Typically when I am fed up with the human race, my dogs, cats, horses - even the goats and chickens offer solace. I was without them, and had been for a very long time, and I could not even be in any contact with my petsitter to know if all was well. My anxiety to rejoin them, and to know how they were all doing, was mounting by the day. Despite the beautiful weather of the morning, it began to feel like a gloomy day again.
As I waited a long time for a zodiac back to the ship, I watched some cormorants gathering grass from the bottom of the sea, which was shallow in the bay, for their nests. I tried not to think about the disrespect for nature I had just walked away from.