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Antarctic Diary Extract 5 – One hand for the ship

July 22, 2012

I am woken by a furious voice shouting at me in Russian. Am I dreaming I am in a James Bond movie? I open my eyes, desperate to discover where the voice is coming from. It is through the intercom system and the captain is giving his crew orders. It’s 6:30 am and I have hardly slept. Our small ship cork-screwed through the big swells of the Drake Passage all night. The ship clanged and creaked as I had rolled around my bunk. Splat, I hit the wood on the right of my bunk. Then splat, I hit the left.

I place my feet on the cabin floor and find walking is like standing on one of those fairground gyrating floors. Clinging to the bathroom door handle for stability, I throw it open with a bang (the doors attach themselves to magnets) and then find myself hurled into the shower cubicle and head butt the showerhead. This is certainly a novel way to wake up.

Showering is a challenge: I have one hand on the wall and one holding the shower head to stabilise myself. Getting dressed involves sitting and trying to pull on clothes before I lose my balance and topple to the floor. Time for breakfast. I cling to the handrails – as they say: always, one hand for the ship – and am relieved to see the pale faces and disheveled clothing of the other expeditioners. I’m not the only one. A beautiful breakfast is laid out on the table but it takes guts to get up from the relative safety of my bench, which is conveniently screwed to the floor. I watch the cereal packets and the hot food slide up and down the table, prevented from tipping onto the floor by a little rail that runs all around the table top. I venture to get myself a cup of tea, more worried about pouring it down one of the other passengers than down myself. After some tea, bread and honey I am feeling much better and devour the hot food. I wonder how on earth the chef (Italian) and his team can keep saucepans on the stove? And how do they keep slippery fried eggs in the pan?

Interesting info: You can only visit Antarctica in the summer: November to February/March. For the rest of the year Antarctica is surrounded by thick sea ice which means the continent doubles in size.

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