Welcome! Thank you for joining me, Sharon K. Schafer, on my journey to one of the most remote, beautiful, and truly wild places left on our planet: The Antarctic. I am an artist and naturalist from Nevada, USA who will be photographing, sketching, and journaling my experiences in Antarctica for two weeks in November 2007.

23 November 2007

Going Home

I apologize for the time break in filing the blog. Due to numerous unforeseen conditions I was unable to file until I returned home. You will understand once you read through the remaining entries.

20 NOV07
Reached Dallas-Fort Worth Texas airport in the USA about 0615 their time about an hour late after spending a restful 11 hours on the plane from Buenos Aires. There was no one in the seat next to me so I could lie down and really sleep. Stepped off the pane in Texas to humid air, overcast sky and a temperature of nearly 21C. We aren’t in the Antarctic anymore!

Wandered sadly through the lines as I presented my papers and was officially stamped and scanned recording my final arrival back into the country. A quick run through customs and I rechecked my bags. Found the skylink and made it to my connecting fight’s departure gate with plenty of time to spare.

I fussed with my computer on the hour wait. I kept reviewing the Antarctic images I had taken, Penguins in their snappy black and white outfits running along the edge of an ice cliff, crabeater seals swimming in the turquoise blue near the edge of an iceberg, emperor chicks playing on the ice, and stunning reflections at sunset in the Antarctic sound. Perhaps the most precious image that I looked at was one that that someone else took of me - there I was in all my gear laying on the sea ice shooting photos as a long line of emperors came tobogganing straight toward me. I’ll never forget it.

On the flight from Texas to Nevada we flew directly over the Grand Canyon. It was a reminder we also have some amazing places. The Colorado River appeared as a silver winding ribbon gradually carving one of the most spectacular places in the world. With any luck at all, I may be on a three-week row trip there in April.

I can’t wait.

I reached Boulder City by 1900 and I was home again in my beloved Mojave Desert. The next two weeks will be filled with hard work and long hours of preparation for my show The Art of Nature: Images from the wildlands of Southern Nevada at Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas opening 8Dec07.

But in those fleeting moments not consumed by work, during that coffee break and during the moments just before sleep. I will be remembering the Antarctic and its precious inhabitants. I will remember the amazing things I saw and I will be forever grateful for having the experience in the land of wondrous cold.

I suspect that each night, once I drop into the mystery of sleep, I will be dreaming Antarctic dreams.

19 NOV07
Reached the dock in Ushuaia sometime during the night so when I awoke and stumbled out to breakfast I could look out to Ushuaia's snow capped peaks. I ran around did the final things I needed to do, said goodbye and went down that gang for the last time in a long time. By 0800 I set foot on the pier and the dream was over. We had visited amazing places, seen things that few people are privileged enough to see, and we had experienced a bit of what the Drake can do. We all had returned relatively unscathed with enough memories for a lifetime.

Picked up my luggage loaded it on the bus for the airport with lots of time to spare. I reached the Ushuaia by 0930 and my plane wasn’t until 1300 so I felt relieved and relaxed. Searched around for Internet. No Internet access. Searched around for a phone and of the 5 phones in the airport not one worked. Perhaps I’ll file during my 5-hour layover in Buenos Aires. Wishful thinking.

The 1300 flight to Buenos Aires finally took off at nearly 1730. Since it was about a three-hour trip to Buenos Aires connecting with the American Airlines flight at 2025 had become a bit questionable. We made it in and ran an administrative gauntlet of gargantuan proportions. We raced around checking bags, getting boarding passes, paying departure taxes, customs, security twice, and any other absurd dance of the bureaucratic polka that we could do.

Sat down on the plane in my seat with 4 minutes to spare. Then we sat for another hour for some unknown reason. Didn’t matter. I was safely onboard ready for a 11 hour flight to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

18 NOV07
Awoke this morning to the ship rolling 25 degrees each direction. It made walking down the halls a sport.

Got into the lounge for breakfast. Just a few hardy souls had braved the rocking and rolling. The Lounge was on Deck 5. Throughout breakfast we had waves crashing on our windows. Entertaining. Nice ambience for a sea voyage.

I set up my computer so I could get some work done but also watch the storm. Just amazing! It was 30 foot seas and up to 75 mile per hour winds just on the other side of the porthole. They canceled the lecture and encouraged people to stay in their cabins. Often times the worst injuries that occur on trips like this are during a storm when things are rocking and rolling and people try to move about. The adage is one had for yourself and one for the ship.

I am generally not a good sailor but for some reason I was blessed with a solid stomach this time and was able to move about without a problem. We it was a bit difficult when I’d be walking down the hall at a 25 % grade and within a few second be walking up a grade at 25-30%. It was like a day long fun house ride.

The oceans were amazing. I spent much of my time at the porthole watching the force and fury of the storm. The Captain had put a fourth engine on line to try and beat the storm across the Drake. As furious as it seemed we were not in the thick of it only skirting the storms edge.

When it’s rocking and rolling they wet the table cloths with water to provide a bit more friction. Despite this, occasionally everything on the table went crashing to the floor. Entertaining.

Once rocking and rolling gets over 15-20% they close the bridge so today I am unable to get to the radio room to file this blog. Even if the room was open I doubt I would brave going up all those four flights of stairs to get there. I really would like to keep my neck unbroken.

Made a fast crossing of the Drake and entered the Beagle channel. The Beagle Channel, though protected, was very rough but far less so then the Drake itself. Spent the rest of the day pacing back and forth in the channel. The high winds prevented us from setting anchor and the only way to maintain position was to pace through the night.

The farewell dinner was manageable without dishes flying around. Nice

The pilot came on board at midnight to guide us through to the docks at Ushuaia.

17 Nov07
On the Drake again we are heading home. Right now the Drake is fine a bit of rolling but nothing too significant. Energy of the passengers is low. We all are a bit saddened that the trip is almost over. It has been an amazing time together.

I wandered through the lounge and people are glued to their laptops processing their pictures. A few are out on deck photographing the clouds of Cape petrels around the ship. Still others are up in the bridge staring at a gentle Drake. A few have started packing. The bar has a steady afternoon business.

The Captain put another engine on line and is trying to out run a nasty impending storm. His hope is to get us to the shelter of the Beagle Channel with time to spare. I think that’s a fine idea. I’d rather not face the wrath of the storm on the open sea. By tomorrow we’ll know how well we did.