My Bouvet Island Adventure Expedition Cruise was arranged by Advantage Travel & Tours, Poway, California to complete the 2012 Antarctica Adventure Expedition Cruise that was aborted at South Georgia Island due to engine failure. This trip was scheduled through the same company: Oceanwide Expeditions, but on a different ship, the M/V Ortelius.
I was traveling with several of the same group as in 2012: Cathy and Bob Parda (Bob P), Lynn Bishop, and Mike Bidwell, from the Advantage Travel group; Bob Bonifas (Bob B), and Roman Bruehwiler from “The Most Traveled People” (MTP) club. In addition there were several of the same people whom I have taken many trips with in the past; Bob Ihsen (Bob I), Neal Pollock, and Laurie Campbell plus Diana Boyer who Lynn and I traveled with in 2010. Beverly and Harold Griffith from Glendora, CA were also in the Advantage Travel & Tours group.
Since Bovet Island is rarely visited many of the World’s most traveled people were on the ship, they included Don Parrish, considered the most traveled person in the world and 22 members of the MTP club and the founder (Harry Mitsidis) and 16 members of the “The Best Traveled” (TBT) club, plus 32 members of the Traveler’s Century Club (TCC). Twenty passengers had visited all the 193 UN Member States and 7 of the 34 travelers profiled in the book “Chasing 193: The Quest to Visit Every Country in the World” which includes a profile on myself, were on board.
Sunday, March 22 2015 Fly from LAX to Panama City
I was scheduled for a 06:30 departure from LAX on Copa Airlines which required a 04:30 check-in and a 03:30 car service pick-up. Judy and I varied our Saturday routine to attend our Saturday movie date in the afternoon instead of the evening. We saw “Above and Beyond”, a very interesting documentary on the formation of the Israeli Air Force following WWII. I still had some things to complete before the trip when I got home as a result I didn’t go to bed and was starting the trip with no sleep since Saturday morning.
My driver arrived about 03:15 and since I was ready to go we left early. I had never ridden with the driver before. He was from Cairo, Egypt, but had immigrated to the US twenty years ago. We chatted briefly, telling him of my travels in Egypt but soon I dozed off. At that time in the morning it took less than thirty minutes to reach the airport. The diver was not that familiar with the Copa airlines departure terminal and despite my telling him that Copa departed from terminal six he drove to the Tom Bradley, International Terminal and didn’t find a sign for Copa and drove on to terminal six.
When I entered the terminal at 03:45 I was surprised to see how many people were in line at the Copa check-in. There was just one person checking in at the Star Alliance Gold counter so I didn’t have to wait long. I saw Bob Ihsen in the middle of the long line for the economy passengers. He had stayed at a local hotel the night before to make sure he could get to the airport on time since shuttle service from his area often takes over an hour.
When I reached the check-in counter, I handed the agent my passport. She flipped through it and then asked me for my Argentina Reciprocity Agreement which I had in the front of the passport and she had flipped past it. She then asked me if I was living in Argentina since she didn’t have a return ticket. I showed her my return ticket from London. That really confused her. I told her I was taking a ship from Ushuaia, Argentina. She wanted to see my boarding pass for the ship and my ticket from Buenos Aries to Ushuaia. Gathering all that paperwork she moved to another terminal and typed in a lengthy explanation. While she was typing I warned Bob Ihsen who still had not gotten to a check-in counter to get all that paperwork out to show the agent. My agent finally gave me my documents back and issued a couple of boarding passes, one from LAX to PTY and the other from PTY to EZE. She would only check my luggage to EZE and she told me I had to retrieve it after Passport Control, pass through customs and take it to another terminal to check-in for my flight to Ushuaia. It was probably the longest check-in for a flight I had ever experienced, over twenty minutes.
I then walked over to the TSA line and found that they hadn’t opened the Security Check Point. Terminal 6 also serves US Air and there were a number of passengers for their early morning departures queued up along with the Copa passengers. Copa did not print TSA Pre on boarding passes but the TSA Pre line was not scheduled to open until one hour after the regular TSA line opened. Once they opened the line moved rapidly since they had many x-ray machines open.
I was disappointed to find that United had finally closed their Terminal 6 Club. I was aware that they were reducing the flights from LAX but the last time I flew United in November the Terminal 6 Club was still opened. With no Club to spend time I proceeded to my gate at the very end of Terminal 6. Boy, it had changed from the days that United and Continental had frequent departures from the large open area at the end of the Terminal. I found they had installed counters with many electrical outlets so I recharged my phone while I waited for my flight.
The plane to Panama City was a B-737-800, so it didn’t have a large First/Business Class section. I was flying on United Miles so I had a Business Class ticket and was one of the first to board the plane. My seatmate was a professor from Caltech. He was with a group of professors flying to Ecuador to help setup a technical university. He was originally from India and we had a nice chat about world travel until our breakfast was finished. I then closed my eyes and slept for several hours. I awoke and started to watch a movie during breakfast but it hadn’t finished when we landed.
Exiting the plane in Panama City I was met by Mike Bidwell. He had arrived from Washington Dulles just a few minutes before us. After Bob Ihsen exited the plane the three of us proceeded to the Copa Lounge for our seven hour layover before our flight to Buenos Aries. I was disappointed that I could not get a strong Wi-Fi signal in the lounge to enable me to call Judy or Wendy on Vonage. It was Wendy’s fiftieth birthday. I was able to send her an email and message on her Facebook. The food in the lounge was just snacks. I did go out and visit the Samsung store in the terminal concourse. My Samsung smart phone had just been upgraded to a new operating system and I couldn’t find where to turn off data when I was roaming. None of the technicians in the store spoke English but I managed to get across my need and somehow they found the setting.
Eventually, it came time to board our flight to Buenos Aries. When we got to the gate we met Lynn Bishop. He just arrived from Washington/Dulles. After catching up with our recent travels we got ready to board the aircraft. Mike was also flying Business Class on miles so we boarded together. My seat companion didn’t speak English so I watched the rest of the movie that I hadn’t finished on the flight from LAX to PTY while I had dinner. The dinner was beef. Not bad, but not great. The dinner and the movie finished about the same time and I settled in to sleep. It was a 6 hour and 45 minute flight and I think I got about four and one half hours sleep.
Monday, March 23 2015 Fly Buenos Aries to Ushuaia
When we landed in Buenos Aires we discovered a very long line at Passport Control. It took us one hour to get through the passport check and pick up our luggage. We then had to get the luggage x-rayed at Customs. They didn’t like the image the machine displayed of my five weeks of pills. It displayed on the machine as a 5 by 7 inch size boxes. I had to open my bag to show that they were seven day pill holders full of pills.
Outside Customs we had to walk a fair distance to the Domestic Terminal C to check in for the flight to Ushuaia. I had two suitcases, one with my normal travel gear and one with the winter and wet landing gear. They charged me for excess baggage and I had to go to a cashier to pay the extra and return with the receipt before they would check my bags and issue a boarding pass. The security check was fast and easy and I entered a large departure area with very few people. One of the people was named Elliot Koch. He wore a vest with MTP and TCC pins and a TCC name tag. He was telling a group of ladies about his travels. I discovered that Mike had found a Sandwich Bar at the far end of the room. The restrooms were down there so I joined him after using the restroom. We were chatting while he drank a beer and Ellie Fox arrived on the scene. We both have traveled with Ellie in the past and she was a recipient of my journals. She purchased a bottle of juice and joined us.
As the departure time approached we returned to the gate area and Bob and Cathy Parda arrived. They had flown in the day before and spent the night in a local hotel. They informed us that Ed Herrman who was supposed to be on the trip had cancelled due to a minor health problem. This meant that Bob Ihsen would be rooming by himself.
When they called the flight we boarded a bus which drove a short distance and turned around and drove back across from our departure gate where we had to exit and climb a flight of stairs to use a sky bridge to get to our aircraft. I didn’t understand why we needed to be ‘bused’ when it was just a short walk from the departure gate to the building with the stair case. At the top of the stairs I followed a group and thought it was strange we were walking towards a Delta aircraft. Halfway there an agent ran down to us and informed us we were on the wrong sky bridge and to go back and enter another walkway to the sky bridge to the Aerolineas plane. The aircraft was a large Airbus 340-300. A number of the passengers were obviously going on our cruise. I spotted Don Parrish who Klaus Billep, Chairman of the TCC, had told me the week before at aTCC luncheon, was his client on the cruise and to say hello. I also spotted Frank Reimer, a frequent traveler who I had first met in Northern Sudan and who later gave a presentation at a TCC luncheon that I attended.
We landed in Ushuaia at 14:00. The luggage took a long time to arrive from the aircraft. Eventually, I got my bags and joined Lynn in a taxi to the Hotel Albatros. The hotel was a lot closer to the dock than the one we stayed at in 2012. It still was located on a hill but it was only one half an block to the level water front area. I was booked to share a room with Bob Ihsen. It took a while to register and just as I finished completing the registration form, Bob Ihsen arrived and informed us that his luggage was the last off the plane and Ellie’s didn’t arrive at all. He and I settled in to a rather small room and then he set out to explore the town. We were told the following day would be a holiday so if we needed to purchase anything for the trip, that we should do it that day.
It took some time to set up my CPAP machine and still be able to use the lamp on the bed side table. I finally was able to get the right combination of plug adapters and then walked down the stairs to the lobby. As I entered the lobby I received a big hello from Bob Bonifas who was standing with Don Parrish. We exchanged greetings and then he and Don left to explore the town.
I walked around the town taking pictures. At one point I met up with Mike Bidwell. We saw our ship docked out on the wharf, stern to stern with the M/V Plancius, the ship we were on in 2012. It made for a nice picture.
Since Ushuaia is a cruise ship port near the dock area were several small parks and displays of the area. One of the displays had a sign in Spanish and English as follows:
We inform our visitors that by the Argentine National Law No 26.552, the Malvinas, South Georgias, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas as well as the Argentine Antarctic Territory, have been included in the jurisdiction of the Province of Tierra del Fuego.
At the same time we should remember that the Malvinas, South Georgias, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, are, since 1833 under the illegal occupation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The sign reminded me that when I was in Ushuaia in 2012 it was the anniversary of the Malvinas/Falkland war and there were demonstrations in the streets. This trip is five days earlier so we will not witness the demonstrations again.
After my walk I returned to the hotel to call Judy and check my email. Elliot was attempting to check his email using a hotel desktop. When I finished my call he started to tell me that he was one of the original members of “The Most Traveled People” and had help design the MTP web site. He has since had a falling out with the MTP founder and is not active on the list. As we were talking I told him that I was on the 2012 aborted Oceanwide Cruise and described some of the activities including the church service where Roman Bruehwiler played the organ. Sitting next to Elliot was a young man at one of the hotel desktops. He introduced himself as William Baekelaud from London and told us that he had just traveled with Roman and that Roman was going on our cruise but without his wife.
I went on another walk around town and stopped at colorful Irish Pub called the “Bar Ideal”. Mike, Neal, Bob and Cathy and Lynn were in there drinking wine or beer. I joined for a beer. Then I returned to the hotel.
Bob and Cathy Parda entered the lobby after a walk around the town and told me that we would be going to dinner at 19:00. I returned to my room to wait until 19:00. The Argentinean’s, like the Spaniards, eat their evening meals at 21:00 so it was difficult for Bob Parda to find a restaurant that was open at 19:00. He found that the La Estancia Parrilla would open at 19:00 so we walked to it and were the first group to enter. Shortly afterwards, Neal and Laurie arrived from a different hotel. I sat next to Ellie and caught up with her most current travels and the status of her husband who has had a severe case of Alzheimer’s for 25 years. It is a tragic situation which I hope to avoid.
The restaurant served buffet style. There was a large salad bar which I piled high on my plate and when I finished my salad I walked to a window where they were serving meat. I selected, lamb, beef and sausage. For dessert I selected tiramisu. After dinner I walked back to the hotel with Ellie following Bob Ihsen.
Bob and I went to bed rather early since I hadn’t slept in a bed for two nights.
Tuesday, March 24 2015 Departure from Ushuaia
Bob Ihsen took the first shower and went to breakfast. I had just finished my shower and packing up my toilet kit and CPAP machine when he returned. When I got to the restaurant I met Lynn and Ellie but they were at a two seat table. The hostess took my room number and showed me to a small table in a different section than Lynn and Ellie. When I rounded a partition to get my food, I found Bob Bonifas sitting with two women and he asked me to join them. One was Carole Ann Peskin who had traveled with Advantage Travel & Tours in the past. The other was Elaine Melville from New Zealand. We talked about the 2012 experience on the M/V Plancius. After I finished my scrambled eggs and bacon we stopped at the front desk to see if we could extend our check out time. We were told when we checked in that it might be possible but the Receptionist told us that they had some last minute bookings and would need us to check out at 10:00.
I returned to my room and finished packing. A few minutes before 10, Bob left for the lobby. I asked him to have the bell boy get a cart and pickup my bags outside the room while I used the bathroom. When I finished Bob entered the room and told me the bell boy hand carried my bags to the lobby. We then went to the elevator and discovered why. The button for the ground floor had been pushed through the cover plate on the wall of the elevator so it was difficult to use. I was going to take the stairs when another guest entered the elevator stuck his finger through the hole in the cover plate and was able activate the first floor button. The door closed and we proceeded down three floors and were met by two Elevator Technicians who took the plate off and reattached the first floor button.
Bob and I split the room bill and then I proceeded to the lower lobby to setup my laptop to check my email. Judy had received a call from a technician at the Microsoft Store. I had been getting strange messages on my desktop and the Microsoft Customer Help Desk had been unable to remotely fix the problem. The Microsoft Store in the Topanga Mall offered a free service but they had a three week waiting time so I took my desktop to them on my last day in town and told them they could take four weeks because I was leaving town and if they had any problems to contact my wife who will be able to contact me. I was surprised to see a message from Judy that a technician had called Monday night and told her my desktop had serious problems which they could not fix without reinstalling the Windows software. I called Judy thinking she would be up but I woke her up to ask her to take my copy of Windows 8.1 to the technician at the Microsoft Store and have him install it instead of re-installing Windows 7.
A number of people had gathered around in the lower lobby renewing old acquaintances. Following my call to Judy I left the hotel to take pictures for my journal of the places I had visited the day before. When I returned to the hotel I set up my laptop and processed my emails. At noon, Mike and I left for the “Bar Ideal” where we had beers the day before. It advertises itself as an Irish Pub and Mike wanted to purchase a T-shirt with the pub’s logo. I just wanted a quick sandwich to tide me over until we would have the evening dinner on the ship. I ordered a cheeseburger, which was a mistake. It had a large bun and a small thin patty of hamburger with melted shredded cheese and no lettuce, tomato or onion. I should have ordered a pub sandwich. Anyway it killed my hunger pangs.
On the way back to the hotel we noticed that M/V Plancius had departed and the M/V Ortelius had turned around with the bow facing the open sea. I walked down to the water front park to take a good picture of the ship and to survey the route I would have to take when I lugged my bags to the ship.
Back at the hotel I called the Microsoft Technician and discussed options he could take to fix my computer. I then called Judy and ask her to take my copy of Windows 8.1 to the store to be installed instead of reinstalling Windows 7. Cathy was in the lobby and informed us that Ellie’s luggage had not arrived on the aircraft from Buenos Aries even though the airline had told her they had the bag. She was concerned and decided to fly back to Buenos Aries and then home instead of having her luggage sit in Buenos Aries or Ushuaia for thirty days while she took the cruise. I was sorry to see her go.
I continued on my laptop checking email and Facebook. My eleven year old grandson had created a very professional looking video that my son-in-law posted on Facebook. I was surprised at the title sequence and credit at the end. I can’t imagine creating a video like that myself.
As the time to board the ship at 16:00 approached, the hotel lobby started to empty out as the people headed to the wharf with their luggage. Some took a taxi but our hardy group wheeled our bags down the short block to the Customs office. I lagged behind because I had to pack my laptop. It took me about fifteen minutes to reach the ship. A small crowd had assembled at the base of the gangway. I had Bob Ihsen take my picture with the ship’s stern in the background. Mike asked me to watch his luggage while he walked back to the duty free shops along the waterfront. Soon one of the ship’s staff came down the gangplank and marked our luggage with our cabin number in chalk. When Laurie’s bag had been marked she asked what she should do next. The seaman told her to get on board, so she walked up the gangplank followed by Lynn and myself plus several others. The Ship’s Hotel Manager arrived stopped us from going to our cabins. He told us the luggage was supposed to be loaded first and delivered to the cabins and then the passengers should board with only five passengers on the gangway at a time. At that point there were close to twenty passengers on the gangway and it was difficult to turn them around to go back to the wharf.
We eventually boarded and stopped at the registration deck to surrender our passports and get the key to our cabin. Lynn and I were assigned to 516. The fifth deck had recently been updated and we found our room to be larger than the M/V Plancius. As we were unpacking Cathy came by and informed us that she had talked the Hotel Manager into letting one of us take Ellie’s cabin. It was a little larger with three windows. It also had a TV, whereas 516 had no TV and just two windows. I told Cathy I preferred to stay in 516 and let Lynn have the cabin with the TV. We returned to 516 and Lynn repacked his bag and moved to the other room.
I unpacked and an announcement was made to meet in the Lecture Room on deck 3 for the Welcome Briefing. The staff was introduced and then we returned to our cabins and put on our life jackets and met again in the ship’s bar. There roll call was taken and we were shown how to wear the life vests and which of the two lifeboats we would be assigned. We then left the bar and proceeded to climb up to our assigned lifeboat. We were then dismissed to stow our life jackets and return to the bar at 19:00 to meet the Captain and staff as follows.
Captain: Tuomo Leskinen from Finland
Hotel Manager: Robert McGillivray from the UK
Assistant Hotel Manager: Dejan Nikolic from Serbia
Head Chef: Heinz Hacker from Austria
Sous Chef: Matthew Crouch from Australia
Bar Steward: Rolando Garcia from the Philippines
Ship’s Doctor Lise van Turenhout from Amsterdam
Expedition Leader: Jan Belgers from Holland
Assistant Expedition Leader: Brent Houston from Montana – Wildlife researcher
Guides: Bob Brown from the UK – Marine Biologist
Dmitri Banin from Russia – Ornithology and Marine Biology
Victoria Salem from UK - Historian
Christian Savigny from Argentina - Birder
Adam Garde from Holland - Geologist
Details of the ship were: The M/V Ortelius was named after the Dutch cartographer Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) who published the first modern world atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World) in 1570. It was built in 1989 in Gdynia, Poland, as a research vessel for the Russian Academy of Science and was named Marina Svetaeva. In 2011 she was purchased by Oceanwide Expeditions and was re-flagged and renamed Ortelius and reconfigured as a 126-Passenger vessel. Ortelius is 298 feet (91 meters) long, 58 feet (17.6 meters) wide and has a maximum draft of 19 feet (5.8 meters, with an Ice Strength rating of UL1/1A, top speed of 13 knots and one diesel engine generating 3200 kW.
Following the meeting we adjourned to the dining hall for a sit down dinner starting with a Caprese Salad followed by pan fried chicken breast with roasted potatoes and mixed vegetables. For dessert we had a strawberry mousse. The dining room on the ship is in the stern of the ship and is divided into two sections with a buffet bar at the stern end. Bob and Cathy had sailed on the ship before and lead us to the section on the port side. The tables were fixed to the floor and eleven had six seats with one had four seats. On the starboard side they had seven tables seating six and two seating four.
The dinner consisted of pan fried chicken breast with roasted potatoes and mixed vegetables. Dessert was the strawberry mouse again. After dinner I returned to my room and set up my laptop for the ships email. It was a little confusing because unlike Outlook, when the Wi-Fi connection drops a copy of your message is not saved as a draft. I noticed that on the wall next to the power outlet was an Ethernet receptacle. I checked with the Hotel Manager and learned that the cabins are wired so I connected my laptop using an Ethernet cable I always carry. The Ethernet provide a stronger and a little more reliable connection.
I set my alarm for 07:00 and went to bed around 23:00.
Wednesday, March 25 2015 At Sea in the Drake Passage
Jan woke us at 07:30. I showered and shaved and went to breakfast at 08:00. They served scrambled eggs, yogurt, oatmeal and fresh fruit. Following the breakfast I returned to my room. The stewards were cleaning the bathroom and making my bed. They were a couple from the Philippines: Alice Dimaano and Charlie Manabat. They struck me as being very pleasant and efficiently performed their tasks. I sat on the small couch in the cabin as they went about their work.
I connected my smart phone to the Wi-Fi and processed email. At 10:30 I proceeded down to the Lecture Room to attend a lecture by Dr. Bob Brown, titled "A Wing and a Prayer, the life of seabirds". Following his lecture I proceeded up to the bar where there was strong Wi-Fi. I was a little frustrated with the process since I had to enter a long number as a user id to enable me to login and I kept mistyping it. Once I was logged in I was supposed to see a screen that would display a status report and a button to logoff. I was not seeing the status report page every time so I couldn’t logoff and various applications such as the newspapers were pushing updates to my phone using up my purchased megabytes. I had to turn off Wi-Fi to break the connection and not use megabytes.
At 15:30 Jan started calling by deck to proceed to the Lecture Room to be Issued boots. I donned heavy wool socks and waited for my deck to be summoned. When my time came I found the first boots they issued me to fit nicely and returned to my cabin.
I returned to the Lecture Room at 16:30 to attend Dmitri’s lecture on the “Whales of Antarctica”. It is difficult to comprehend the sheer size of these gentle monsters of the deep, but Dmitri explained clearly, with great diagrams and photos, about the different species we hope to see on the cruise.
Every evening Jan scheduled a ‘Recap’ where he tells us of the plans for the next day and when other expedition staff talk about what we have seen and done during the day. Speakers that night were, Victoria and Christian. Victoria about Sir Francis Drake and Christian gave us more birding tips.
Dinner was served at 19:00 and started with a coarse farmer’s pate with wild berry chutney on an apple and walnut salad. I had smoked pork as the main followed by dessert of orange sherbet over fresh fruit salad.
After dinner I returned to the Lecture Room to see a short documentary about “The square-rigged sailing ship Peking”. In the olden days, rounding Cape Horn was a dangerous and exciting enterprise and the movie described the risks and pleasures of sailing around Cape Horn and through the Drake Passage.
When the film ended I retired to my room and wrote in my journal until I went to bed at 23:00
Thursday, March 26 2015 At Sea in the Drake Passage
I slept soundly and woke to my alarm just before Jan’s wake-up announcement. I was surprised at how smooth the cruise was going. In 2012 the first night we experienced a roll that had items sliding off the desk in the room and required a hand on a grab bar in the shower. This time things stayed put on the desk. I had the Hotel Manager give me a foot square piece of rubber mat that I put under my CPAP machine to stop it from sliding off the bedside table just in case. In addition I used the other bed to lay things out such as bottles of water and reading material so they wouldn’t roll around and wake me up.
Breakfast included hard boiled eggs and sausage. I sat with Laurie and Bob Bonifas, Bob Ihsen, Neal and Mike. Following breakfast Jan held a mandatory meeting in the Lecture Room to explain to us the importance of avoiding accidental introductions of alien and invasive species, which can so easily be carried in folds of our clothing and in back-packs, etc. It was not new to me since I attended similar lectures in 2012 and again in 2014. His talked was followed, with a vacuuming session in the bar. I took my “going ashore” gear up to the bar and vacuumed my clothing and back pack to remove any stowaway aliens (otherwise known as ‘seeds’).
At 11:00 Victoria Salem gave us a lecture titled “An Introduction to Antarctica”. Victoria is an excellent lecturer and has a strong voice and did not need to use a microphone. Her presentation was well organized and informative. It was a rapid description of the continent, its weather, its ice, rocks, plants and animal life. She then described the visitors, scientists, tourists and the various aesthetic and cultural associations of Antarctica.
Following her lecture we had lunch which included Asian style Vegetable Soup; Spicy Meat Balls in addition to salad. For dessert they had a small square of Mandarin cake.
After lunch I returned to my cabin and checked email and wrote in my journal until 14:30 when I attended a compulsory meeting in the Lecture Room on: “IAATO Guidelines and - Do's and Don’ts on land”. After a short coffee break we returned at 16:30 to hear Jan explain how to use zodiacs. He told us how to board and dismount (face the sea and swing our legs over the side into the water) and how to handle our back packs boarding, riding and exiting the zodiac.
Bob and Cathy hosted an Advantage Travel get-together in their cabin at 18:00. They introduced the Griffiths to the group. At 18:30 we adjourned to the bar for the daily recap and plans for the landing in the morning at the Russian Bellingshausen station on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands and the Uruguayan Artigas station in the afternoon. The weather forecast was very favorable for easy landings. His briefing was followed by Victoria on the first sightings of Antarctica and the South Shetland Islands by William Smith and Edward Bransfield, and Dmitri on how to distinguish between the ‘Wandering’ and ‘Royal’ albatross.
The dinner was served at 19:00 and started with Italian Parma ham with melon followed by pan fry pork scaloppini and warm blueberry cheesecake for dessert.
After dinner I attended a documentary titled: “Antarctica: of ice and men “. It contained images of how passengers, before IAATO, had cuddled penguins.
Following the documentary I retired to my room and wrote in my journal until I went to bed at 22:00
Friday, March 27 2015 South Shetland Islands
We had an early wakeup call at 06:30. Breakfast was at 07:00. I had a fried egg with baked beans and toast. After I ate I went out on deck to take pictures of King Edward Island in the South Shetland Island chain. It is interesting that islands were named for the Shetland Islands off of Scotland since both islands are equal distance from their hemisphere’s pole. The same applies to the South Orkney Islands.
At 08:00 we were called to the bar for a short meeting on the landing on King George Island.
The ship dropped anchor in a large bay at the south-western end of King George Island, one of the islands in the South Shetland Islands. There were 11 research stations on the island.
We were scheduled to start to depart for the Russian Bellingshausen station at 09:00. I was in the first zodiac to land and the first to return to the ship. I hadn't planned it that way but just before the time to line up for the trip to shore I was at the reception desk getting one of the staff to adjust my life vest. The belt was twisted and I couldn't get it undone. Just after they fixed it they said they were ready to take the first 10 ashore so I joined the group.
We had a wet landing which means there was no dock. They run the Zodiac up the beach and we have to sit on the side facing away from the beach and swing our legs over and drop in the water which was only six inches deep. On the island we had to drop our life vest in a big bag and then wait for the other six zodiacs to arrive. There was one lone Gentoo penguin on the beach as we waited for the rest of the passengers to land. Once everyone was on shore we broke into two groups. One group climbed a hill to visit a church that was built on the top and the other group visited the Russian buildings.
I joined the church group and took pictures. The church was Russian Orthodox in which the parishioners stand during the service so there were no pews. The church was constructed Altay village Kyzil-Ozek in 2002. In the autumn of 2003 the church was dismantled and transported by cars from Altay to Kaliningrad because they didn’t trust the railway. From Kaliningrad it was transported by sea on the “Academician Serge Vavilov” and reassembled in its current location and opened for services on February 15, 2004. Inside the church was a wall of icons and religious figures framed in gold leaf. It was very impressive. I had been storing my camera inside my layers of clothing so when I took it out to take pictures of the wall the lens fogged up. Consequently my pictures were not sharp. There were more passengers waiting to enter so I left before the fog left my lens.
When I returned to the beach I visited the Russian building and as was exiting the building when Jan announced that the first zodiac was ready to return to the ship so I took it. As I got on board the zodiac a pool of penguins were swimming around the zodiacs and several climbing ashore. For me it was bad timing because I would have loved to take pictures of them.
Lunch started at 12:00. I had a large salad and an apple. At 13:30 we met in the bar for a briefing on the afternoon landing at the Uruguayan Artigas station. It took me a little time to put my warm clothing and boots on resulting in my being on the last zodiac to leave. The Uruguayans were happy to see us. They rarely have visitors so they invited us to their dining hall where they had tables of pastry laid out and a drink bar. All the Uruguayans were engaged in conversation so I talked with Laurie and Don Parrish, discovering that Don grew up in a Dallas, Texas suburb not that far from where my mother lived and I used to spend summers.
The station manager offered to lead us on a tour of the other buildings in the station. When the tour was over I returned to the beach and noticed that Jeroen Agneessens, one of the passengers was taking his clothes off and then jumped in the water and swam around before returning to the beach and getting dressed again. We certainly have an interesting group of passengers! I then realized he was also alum of the 2012 cruise.
While we waited our turn to return to the ship a Uruguayan was standing by wearing a jacket covered with patches which made a colorful picture.
Back on the ship I returned to my cabin and shed all the winter gear and boots. At 18:00 Bob and Cathy hosted a get together in their cabin. After a drink with them we proceeded to the 18:30 meeting in the bar to hear Jan’s recap of the day’s events and the plans for the next few days.
Dinner was served at 19:00. The starter was Tomato bruschetta with balsamic reduction. My selection for the main course was roast loin of lamb which was outstanding. They served pineapple cake for dessert.
After dinner they showed a documentary titled “Penguin Post Office (about Port Lockroy)” in the Lecture Room.
Following the documentary I retired to my room and wrote in my journal until I went to bed at 22:00
Saturday, March 28 2015 At Sea
I woke at 07:00 and was just finishing my shower when Jan broadcasted the 07:30 wake up call. At eight I went to breakfast. The eggs were poached and they had sausages and pancakes. I skipped the pancakes. My table included Bob Ihsen, Bob and Cathy, Lynn and Laurie.
Following breakfast I returned to my room to check email and write in my journal. There were several whale sightings but it was hard to catch them out of water. At 10:00 I attended a lecture on “Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition” presented by Victoria Salem, the staff historian. It contained some details that were new to me about the expedition. Following the lecture I returned to my room and ventured outside when Jan announced more whale sightings but I never was at the right place and time to take a picture. We cruised past both Clarence Elephant Island away off in the distance.
I spent some time in the Bar which has doors to the deck in case there were some sightings. I missed again and then it was lunch time. The lunch buffet had roast pork shoulder with sauerkraut and potato dumplings. The soup was crab and corn. For dessert I had a bunch of grapes and cheese. Mike, Bob Ihsen, Lynn and the Griffiths sat at my table.
Around 14:30 we encountered a school of whales that came quite close to the ship. I went out on deck and I also saw ice formations in the distance. One formation was in the shape of a ship. The horizon on the starboard side had a continuous line of ice with occasional large icebergs poking up in interesting shapes. The sun was out and the whales continued to be observed so the afternoon lecture was postponed to another day so that we could continue to watch the whales. I had no luck taking a picture of them.
At 18:00 the Advantage Travel group met in Bob and Cathy’s room for cocktails before dinner. Their get together ended at 18:30 so we could attend Jan’s recap meeting in the bar. At 19:00 dinner was served. I sat with Mike, the Griffiths, Bob Ihsen and Laurie. The meal was Asian Chicken Salad as the starter and the main was roast beef loin with red wine sauce, honey glazed carrots and Lyonese potatoes. Dessert was a warm chocolate fondant.
Following dinner Jan showed a movie in the Lecture Room. Jan has a great collection of movies and he displayed the list for all attendees could agree on what they wanted to watch. Of course we couldn’t come to an agreement so Jan selected the 2014 movie “Jimmy’s Hall”. It was based on a true story set in the 1930’s about an Irishman named Jimmy Gralton, who led the Revolutionary Workers' Group, a precursor of the Irish Communist Party, returning to his village in County Leitrim, after he had lived in New York City. He renovated an abandon building his family owned and turned it into a community recreation center where he conducted classes and dances. The local conservative leaders and catholic clergy were offended and fought to close the center down. Eventualy they had him deported back to the New York City.
After the movie I retired to my room went to bed at 23:00
Sunday, March 29 2015 Landing at Argentinian Orcadas station
I woke to my alarm at 06:00 to shower and layout my going ashore clothes, hoping I could put them on with less effort than it took me on Friday. It was a beautiful cold sunny day with a calm sea. My cabin windows were covered with frost so I couldn’t see out but the ship was not rolling. Jan’s wakeup call was at 07:00.
I went down to breakfast at 07:30 and after I ate I went out on deck to view Laurie Island, one of the South Orkney Islands. The sea was calm and there was a bright sun and no clouds in the sky. In the distance were several large icebergs and were the water was very calm ice was forming in a sort of small round groups of slush. I returned to my room and put on my yellow rain pants and parka, grabbed my life vest and got ready to go ashore.
Back on deck I saw we were getting closer to the inhabited side of the island and the sea had a little more of a chop and the ice goblets disappeared. Soon we saw red buildings on the shore. It was 09:30 and we had a clear view of the station. The zodiacs were lowered and my turn to board occurred at 10:25. Brent was the zodiac driver and Bob Ihsen was sitting across from me. I boarded a zodiac for the trip to the Orcadas station.
They were staging the arrival of the zodiacs so Brent first took us over to Punta Cormoran, which had an Aedile Penguin colony. The smooth sea, bright clear sky with ice bergs and rocks with some snow caps was a stunning sight. We approached the colony of Penguins that were molting. They just stand there for three weeks (no coffee breaks or dips in the sea) with tufts of feathers leaving their backs. There was almost no moving around and none of them were diving in the water in search of food. The molting period is a very stressful time for the penguins so we made no effort to land and walk close to them.
Our turn to land at the station finally came. The station was built on a narrow flat area between two mountains with steep slopes. Orcadas station consisted of a number of small red buildings scattered over the flat area that is open on opposite sides to the ocean. The beach consisted of smooth small rocks about the size of a baseball. We walked with some difficulty up to the first building. Nearby were the ruins of the first building on the island. What remained was the rock walls of the “Omond House” constructed in 1903. The house was named after Scottish meteorologist Robert T. Omond, a strong supporter of the idea of making meteorological observations in Antarctica. It was built with over 100 tons of stone manually quarried then hauled on sledges from an adjacent glacial moraine and beams from the ship’s timber supplies. Its main purposes were to serve as a base for meteorological observations made at the nearby weather station, and as living quarters for small parties left behind both when the Scotia returned to Buenos Aires for repairs and supplies, and when she finally returned to Scotland.
A metal walkway has been constructed so that visitors can see the remains and signs with diagrams of the building plan. From the Omond House we toured the Moneta House Museum.
There we learned that Base Orcadas is an Argentine scientific station in Antarctica, and the oldest of the stations in Antarctica still in operation. Established by the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition in 1903 and transferred to the Argentine government in 1904, the base has been permanently populated since, being one of six Argentine permanent bases in Argentina's claim to Antarctica, and the first permanently inhabited base in Antarctica.
The nearest port is the Argentine city of Ushuaia, which is 933 miles away. The base has 11 buildings and four main topics of research: continental glaciology, seismology, sea-ice-zone glaciology (since 1985) and meteorological observations (since 1903).
Orcadas was the only station on the islands for 40 years until the British established a small summer base, Cape Geddes Station in Laurie Island in 1946, replaced by Signy Research Station in Signy Island in 1947. It also had the first radiotelegraph in the continent in 1927.
In the museum we saw stuffed penguins, the kitchen and quarters that housed the first permanent researchers. The walls had pictures of the station as it expanded over the years. It now has 11 buildings to house up to 45 people during the summer, and an average of 14 during winter.
From the museum we walked across the rock grounds to the cemetery which has markers for ten men who died at the station from 1903 to 1998 when three men died at sea on March 31st. I wondered if they would have a memorial ceremony in a couple of days.
It was then our groups turn to tour the red research buildings and observe the research equipment and living quarters. I found that the research station had open Wi-Fi. I was able to download all my email to my smart phone but the bandwidth was not strong enough for me to get a strong connection on a call to Judy via Vonage. I was able to connect and Judy answered but the transmission was so chopped up we couldn’t communicate on either the AT&T land line phone or the Vonage voice-over-IP internet phone.
It was now after 13:00 and time to return to the ship. As we gathered on the rocky beach to await our turn to board a zodiac I observed Roman stripping to his shorts and taking a short swim in the icy water.
I was back in my cabin by 13:45 and took a picture of myself in my cold weather gear with my red ski mask on.
Lunch was at 14:00 and consisted of chicken soup with Thai noodles and the buffet of Austrian beef goulash and salad. For dessert I had a small berry cake.
At 16:30 I attended Brent’s lecture on “Penguin Research on the Antarctic Peninsula”. He has had an interesting career working in Antarctica and described the many researches in which he had participated.
At Jan’s recap he showed us the weather maps for the route to our next destination, the South Sandwich Islands, estimated to be two days away.
For dinner they started with vegetable samosas which looked like a form of an eggroll with a sweet sauce. For the main course I had sautéed Pork which I wasn’t crazy about but the Mango mousse dessert made up for it.
Following dinner I attended the BBC documentary “Ice” about how the Ice Ages on Earth formed our modern landscapes and influenced the evolution and migrations of humans.
After the documentary I retired to my room went to bed at 23:00
Monday, March 30 2015 At Sea
I awoke to my alarm at 07:00. The ship was rolling a little and my cabin windows were covered with condensation so I couldn’t get a clear view of the sea. The temperature announced in Jan’s wake-up call was forecast to be above freezing and thus warmer than the day before.
After breakfast I picked up my laptop and met in the bar with Thomas Buechler, a member of The Best Traveled (TBT) Club who audits and certifies that the members of the club have proof they have visited the territories they claim on the web site. Thomas had contacted me in February about the audit and I didn’t have the time to spend on completing it and since my documentation is primarily in various forms (pictures, flight records, and journals) on my laptop we agreed to complete the audit on the cruise. He found a couple of places where I didn’t understand where the territory was actually located and had guessed that I had been there years ago that I removed from my count but overall I passed the audit.
At 10:00 I attended Dmitri’s talk “Adaptations of Animals to Extreme Climatic Conditions”. He had some well-drawn diagrams and clear explanations, which enabled us to understand how animals in Antarctic conditions can survive and even flourish with feathers, fur and blubber to provide the necessary insulation from the cold environment.
The soup for lunch was French onion without the cheese layer on top. I sat with Bob and Cathy and told my story of the young Lieutenant just assigned to my office in Vietnam who having heard how good the French onion soup was at a restaurant in Saigon, visited the restaurant, ordered the soup, and after cutting through the baked cheese on top found a mouse in his bowl. Apparently the kitchen cooked the soup in a large pot and dished out individual bowls in a sort of assembly line operation with the cook applying the cheese covering hadn’t seen the mouse ladled into the bowl by the other cook.
After lunch I returned to my cabin and at 15:30 attended Adam’s talk on “Life and death of an iceberg”. He touched on all of them briefly (ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice) but focused dramatically on ’The Life and Death of an Iceberg’. With examples of mechanisms from both north and south, he helped us make sense of the ice we’ve been seeing around us, introducing us to some official terminology and of course, talking about why ice often looks blue.
At the 18:30 recap in addition to Jan’s weather forecast, Victoria gave us a short talk on Captain Cook’s discovery of the South Sandwich Islands and Adam talked about the geology of the region that created the islands.
We had a tasty dinner starting with a tuna salad followed by a delicious rack of lamb ending with Semolina pudding for dessert.
At 20:15 Jan showed Part 1 of the BBC documentary “Penguins: Spy in the huddle” in which the BBC planted cameras inside modes of various penguins to room with in the colonies to photograph the lives of penguins. It was fascinating and ready provided an appreciation on the hardships that penguins endure to live, mate and raise their chicks.
Tuesday, March 31 2015 At Sea
I awoke to my alarm at 07:30. The ship had set the clocks forward one hour to GMT minus two hours. It is a time zone with no major land masses in it so my Casio solar watch had no adjustment for it. I had encountered the same problem before on trans-Atlantic crossings. So until the ship resets it’s time again I will have to rely on my cell phone for accurate time.
Just before 08:00 Jan announced that there were some Humpback whales off the bow of the ship. As a result many of the passengers rushed out to the deck to see them. They were gone by the time I reached the deck so I proceeded to the dining room and found the doors were not open and a big crowd was waiting to enter. Lynn and Bob Ihsen were among them. When the doors did open I when straight to the buffet before selecting a place to sit and when I returned to the tables the stewardess told me she had already poured my coffee and had set aside a place for Bob, Lynn and myself. The two stewardesses in our area are: Raquel Queri and Charlotte Cadiz from the Philippines. They know our names and what we prefer to drink at the various meals and where we like to sit. Neal and Laurie joined us and then Steve Newcomer from West Hollywood sat at our table. Steve was a Los Angeles City librarian for 25 years. Although he was a member of the TTC he told me that he doesn’t attend their meetings.
Following breakfast at 10:00 I attended another lecture by Brent about his research in the Antarctic. He has a wealth of experience having worked at various research stations and taking over 100 trips to the area. He gave us undisputed facts about the climate change in the area and the impact it has had on the different species of penguins. He didn’t get into the political debate over how much is caused by man just showing what is happening to the ice shelf, glaciers and sea ice both in Greenland and the Antarctic. The migration of birds, penguins, whales and sea lions have dramatically changed in the over 25 years he has worked the areas.
There was a strong Wi-Fi signal in the Lecture Room and I cleaned up a lot of old mail which unfortunately used up the 100mb allotment I had purchased.
I had chili con carne and salad with a nice little cake topped with strawberries for lunch. Bob & Cathy, Mike, Neal and Bob Ihsen sat with me. After lunch I wrote in my journal until there was an announcement that a lot of whales had been spotted so I went up to the bar area and out on deck to see if I could catch a good picture. The deck was very slippery and I wasn’t having much luck taking a picture when they broke out of the water so I returned to the bar area.
Don Parrish approached me and congratulated me for passing “The Best Travel” audit. One of the interesting aspects of this trip was getting to know the prolific travelers in the world that were on board in hope to set foot on Bouvet Island. I then spent several hours talking with Don Parrish the “most traveled” person in the world. He is a gentleman with a variety of interests such as not only travel but he tries to average 10,000 steps per day. He uses a Fitbit to record his steps on a daily basis in an excel spread sheet. He showed me his spread sheet for this year. The day we went ashore he recorded 20,000 steps. The following is his website which is worth visiting: http://www.donparrish.com/. Bob Ihsen was included in our conversation and has his interesting history to tell. I never get tired of listening to Bob discuss things that relate to history. Don told us he was related to the man that shot President Garfield and Bob was able to quote things that he said at his trial. They also discussed the history of Alexander Bell. It was a very informative and enjoyable afternoon.
At 14:00 we had a Mandatory cleaning of clothing in the bar. Because the South Sandwich Islands are a British Overseas Territory we had to follow the British regulations for visiting South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. They demand a cleaning session together with a signed bio-security form to be sent to them before landing on the islands.
After I completed my turn vacuuming my ‘going ashore gear’ again and stowed them back in my cabin I attended a lecture by Victoria at 16:30 in the Lecture Room on: “Southern Thule and the South Sandwich Islands”. She told us about Cook, Bellingshausen, Biscoe, Bruce, Larsen and Filchner to name but a few, all of whom braved icy, uncharted seas in order to put another piece into the jigsaw map of the known world. Their journals reiterate how tough it was sailing in these regions before modern technology came to our rescue. Accurate maps were rare, and what was thought to be land often turned out to be icebergs, mirages or products of over-active sailors’ imaginations. It proved to be a very interesting talk.
At the 18:30 recap, Jan had us sign the bio-security form and he briefed us on the next day’s landing on South Thule Island. Adam gave a short talk on the ice we had been observing and Dmitri ended the meeting with a short talk on the ozone holes that form at the poles.
For dinner we had one of the best on the cruise. It started with a mixed salad with balsamic dressing (my favorite dressing) followed by a tender roast beef and to finish off this great combination vendetta ice cream with chocolate sauce!
At 20:15 Jan showed Part 2 of the BBC documentary “Penguins: Spy in the huddle”.
Wednesday, April 01 2015 South Sandwich Islands
I woke to my alarm at 06:00 to shower and layout my going ashore clothes. Jan’s wakeup call was at 06:30 and he announced that we were not going to be able to go ashore. A minute later he declared it was April Fool’s Day and breakfast was at 07:00 followed by a meeting in the bar at 07:30 to discuss the landing schedule.
The weather was above freezing but I wore my red ski mask again because the zodiac ride can be nippy. As I waited to go ashore I viewed Hewison backed by steep slopes of snow and volcanic cliffs reaching high up into the clouds that swirled around the top of the volcano. I also had a fine view of Cook Island which forms the other side of an ancient caldera. With a clear approach into Ferguson Bay, Ortelius came to a halt and anchored. It was an impressive scene.
The Expedition staff went ashore first to check conditions at the beach and the presence of wildlife. The swell was slight so landing would be easy, but there was a slumbering group of Elephant seals and large numbers of Fur seals on the beach and further inland, so ‘negotiations’ for access took place.
Once the landing spot had been determined the zodiac I was on departed the ship and beached at the cleared spot between the animals. I climbed a slippery slope of smooth volcanic rocks, up to the flat plain of Hewison Point. It was a spectacular scene – the staff estimated some 10,000 Chinstrap penguins, most in various stages of molting (and other rather confused birds attempting to build nests!), were within view across the point. This was far more than had been expected, and I made my way very carefully across the plain towards the old field station, with a lone flagpole. Our guides stopped us from reaching the flag pole because of the semi buried remains of the camp. I was surprised that there wasn’t snow on the area. The ground was a reddish color with a lot of poop and penguin feathers. The temperature was right at freezing so there were some ice patches which made it a little tricky walking and avoiding disturbance to the birds at this very sensitive time. I came very close to a few satellite groups of molting Gentoo penguins. The penguins were mostly Chinstrap but I did see some Gentoo wandering amongst the Chinstrap. Some of the penguins were molting but most of them were just wondering around. There were a large number of seals and some charged us and we had to face them head-on and scare them back. I had been on the first zodiac of passengers to land and stayed over an hour and returned a bit early because of a ‘nature call’.
When we arrived on board we were offered a spiked hot chocolate by Dejan. I quickly returned to by cabin, shed my ‘going ashore gear’, took care of nature, and climbed the stairs to the bridge to continue to see the penguin sight on shore. While up on the bridge I read the plaque describing Abraham Ortelius
Abraham Ortelius (1527 – 1598) was a Flemish geographer and cartographer, born in Antwerp (then part of the Habsburg Empire). Although his family was not especially wealthy, he was intelligent and hard working.
He began his adult career as a map engraver and illuminator, but supplemented his income by trading books, prints and maps. This aspect of his work involved travelling extensively in Europe and it was at the Frankfurt book and print fair in 1554 that he met Gerardus Mercator (of the Mercator projection). By 1560, Mercator had become a close, influential friend and travel companion, and had persuaded Ortelius to become a full-time scientific geographer; in 1575, Ortelius was appointed geographer to the king of Spain, Philip II.
Ortelius was the first person ever to underline the geometrical coincidence between the coasts of America and Europe-Africa, and to propose continental drift as an explanation. He suggested that the Americas were “torn away from Europe and Africa…by earthquakes and floods” and went on to say: “the vestiges of the rupture reveal themselves, if someone brings forward a map of the world and considers carefully the coasts of the three (continents).” This theory was generally accepted in geoscience only during the second half of the 20th century, after Alfred Wegener’s hypotheses had been support through the discovery of a mechanism for continental drift (now called plate tectonics).
But Ortelius is most famous as the creator of the first modern world atlas – the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (“Theatre of the World”). His first map was published in 1564 and his atlas in 1570. 25 editions of his atlas appeared in his lifetime, with 12 more after his death and the atlas was not superseded until about 1612.
Lunch was served at 12:30 with Garlic cream soup, chicken ala king and apple strudel. I returned to my cabin after lunch to write a long email describing the day’s wonderful events.
At 16:30 in the Lecture Room Jan gave a presentation on the “History of Whaling”. It was very appropriate and informative since we had been cruising in the areas that were heavily used by whalers.
Jan’s recap at 18:30 reviewed the day’s events and Christian (the lone voice for Argentina on the staff) provided an account of the history and destruction of the Argentine base on Thule Island. His view from the Argentine perspective was very enlightening.
For dinner we had a shrimp and avocado salad as a starter and orange marinated duck breast for the main and a bread and butter pudding for dessert.
At 20:15 Jan showed Part 3 of the BBC documentary “Penguins: Spy in the huddle”. I returned to my room after the show and retired.
Thursday, April 02 2015 At Sea
I had set my alarm for 07:00 but during the night I woke to the heat in the room. What a dilemma. After a week of uncomfortably cold nights where I wore my puffy coat to bed having the portable heater on swung the pendulum to uncomfortably warm and I had to get up during the night to turn it off, therefore I turned off the alarm and slept until Jan’s greeting at 07:30. I was still able to shower and dress before 08:00 when the dining room opened. I sat with Mike, Laurie, Bob Ihsen, Neal and JoAnn Schwartz. I had scrambled eggs with pieces of tomato mixed in.
After breakfast I returned to my cabin until 10:00 when Victoria’s presentation on “Shackleton's Forgotten Men - Ross Sea Party 1914-17”. The Ross Sea party was a component of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–17. Its task was to lay a series of supply depots across the Great Ice Barrier from the Ross Sea to the Beardmore Glacier, along the polar route established by earlier Antarctic expeditions. The expedition's main party, under Shackleton, was to land on the opposite, Weddell Sea coast of Antarctica, and to march across the continent via the South Pole to the Ross Sea. As the main party would be unable to carry sufficient fuel and supplies for the whole distance, their survival depended on the Ross Sea party's depots, which would cover the final quarter of their journey.
Shackleton set sail from London on his ship Endurance, bound for the Weddell Sea in August 1914. Meanwhile, the Ross Sea party personnel gathered in Australia, prior to departure for the Ross Sea in the second expedition ship, SY Aurora. Organizational and financial problems delayed their start until December 1914, which shortened their first depot-laying season. After their arrival the inexperienced party struggled to master the art of Antarctic travel, in the process losing most of their sledge dogs. A greater misfortune occurred when, at the onset of the southern winter, Aurora was torn from its moorings during a severe storm and was unable to return, leaving the shore party stranded.
Despite these setbacks, the Ross Sea party survived inter-personnel disputes, extreme weather, illness and the deaths of three of its members, to carry out its mission in full during its second Antarctic season. This success proved ultimately without purpose, because Shackleton's main expedition was unable to land after Endurance was crushed in the Weddell Sea ice. Shackleton eventually led his men to safety, but the transcontinental march did not take place and the Ross Sea party's depots were not required. The Ross Sea party remained stranded until January 1917, when Aurora, which had been repaired and refitted in New Zealand, arrived to rescue them.
The lunch soup was cream of potatoes. I had a nice salad on top of the teriyaki beef and a small square of mandarin cake for dessert.
After lunch I went out on deck for a phenomenal sight. First we were passed close to several large ice burgs but what made it more unusual were they appeared at a distance to have a dark line through the middle or on their top. As we got closer the dark area turned out to be Chinstrap penguins molting. I had never seen a sight or even a picture like it. Unfortunately my camera’s 30x lens could not take a clear picture at the distance they were from the ship. Several of the birders with their powerful binoculars let me take a look before leaving at 14:00 for the Lecture Room to see a Discovery Film’s documentary “Encounters at the End of the World”. It documented people who live and work in Antarctica, and captured footage of the continent's unique locations.
After a coffee break and a stroll on deck to see if any more interesting ice bergs were in view I returned to the Lecture Room at 16:30 to attend Bob Brown’s lecture: "Leviathans: the Life of Whales”. Bob went into great detail on the different types of whales and how they migrate and obtain food.
At the 18:30 recap we were shown some close up pictures of the penguins on the ice berg. It will go down in my mind as one of the most memorable sights I have seen in the Antarctic.
Dinner started with one of my favorites: fried calamari followed by shaslick - pork skewers and pavlova with fruits for dessert.
After dinner I attended the movie “Paddington” and retired by 23:00.
Friday, April 03 2015 At Sea
The ship’s clock was set forward another hour so Jan delayed the wake-up announcement to 08:00 and breakfast at 08:30. I didn’t use my alarm because I was not sure that my cell phone had the right time set. Breakfast had boiled eggs and sausage. I had oatmeal instead. After breakfast I returned to my room to check email and then walked out on deck for some fresh air.
At 10:30 I attended a lecture by Christian titled “Shackleton’s Forgotten Expedition: the Nimrod Expedition”. I know from many of the travelers on this trip that a lot of people have a desire for adventure but I can’t relate to the men that accompanied Shackleton and Scott on their adventures to reach the South Pole and explore the Antarctica. It took a real unusual person that wanted to endure the hardships required. The Nimrod Expedition was an interesting challenge. After the lecture I went to the bar and had a cup of chocolate coffee.
Lunch was at 12:30 and they served a tomatoes and egg soup followed by various pizza. I had two small squares of pizza which was loaded with various meats and vegetables plus my usual tossed salad. I skipped the dessert. Bob and Cathy, Lynn, Neal and Mike sat at my table. We had a lively discussion about Jim Webb running for president against Hillary Clinton and the pros and cons of Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz.
After lunch I returned to my room and sent Judy an email. At 14:00 I went to the Lecture Room to watch a BBC documentary titled “The Secrets of Scott’s Hut”. It was very interesting since the hut is over 100 years old and there is a project to maintain it in its original condition. The documentary also covered Shackleton’s hut and the contrast between the two. It tied in very well with the morning lecture on the “Nimrod Expedition”.
After the lecture I returned to my cabin and read a little bit before returning to the Lecture Room at 16:30 for a lecture by Dimitri on “Antarctic Seals”. He pointed out that there 35 species of seals in the world but only six live in Antarctica but those six make up the majority of the world’s seal population. He lectured on the differences of the six seals. It made for an interesting lecture.
I returned to my room and wrote in my journal until 18:20 when Jan announced the recap session was about to start in the bar. I proceeded to the bar and stood next to Lise van Turenhout, the ship’s doctor and JoAnn. Jan informed us the ship is in a sort of internet black hole and he has not been able to obtain a weather forecast for Bouvet Island. The ETA to Bouvet was estimated to be Sunday.
For dinner they served a vegetable spring roll over a rice noodle salad. The main course was chicken breast wrapped in bacon. I sat with Lynn, JoAnn, Laurie and the Griffiths. The dessert was a vanilla panna cotta.
The evening movie was “Big Eyes” which I had already seen. I had really enjoyed seeing it but I skipped it to write in my journal. If I attended every lecture, movie, meetings and meals there is only about three hours in a day to read and write.
I retired about 22:00.
Saturday, April 04 2015 At Sea
The weather turned against us. After 11 days of really calm seas we ran into heavy seas during the night. The door to my bathroom was not tightly shut and it started to bang during the night and woke me up so I had to stagger out of bed to securely close it.
Jan’s wake-up call was at 07:30. I had skipped taking a shower the day before so I braved the rocking and rolling to take a shower and shave. It was tricky to hang on to accomplish the feat and the floor of the bathroom got flooded as the shower curtain flapped during the rolling and water sloshed out of the shower basin .
I succeeded in finishing my shower and shaving in time for breakfast at 08:00. I joined Lynn, Neal, Laurie, Bob Ihsen and Steve. The eggs were poached and they had bacon.
Due to the rocking and rolling of the ship the 10:30 lecture was moved to the bar. Bob Brown gave a presentation on: “Plankton – smallest creatures, biggest impact”. In the lecture Bob described different groups of plankton: Phytoplankton: vast in number few species and Zooplankton: Almost all main animal groups the most numerous creatures on earth typical for Antarctic waters, and their role in the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean.
Lunch was served in the dining room – different from the usual ‘buffet’ style because of the rolling ship. They served cream of cauliflower soup followed by spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce. Lynn, Mike, Bob and Cathy and Bob I sat with me.
After lunch I ventured down to the Lecture Room at 14:00 to see the documentary “Killer Whales Up Close and Personal” a film about the life of the orca family in the waters around the Sub Antarctic Crozet Islands.
After a break for afternoon tea, we returned to the Lecture Room at 16:30 to attend Victoria’s presentation: “A History of Bouvetøya”, “Essentially, Bouvet is an ice-covered, glacier-surrounded, inhospitable lump” (Rupert Gould). She described historical events of discovery and various expeditions that visited the island, including the mystery of the Italian visit (or non-visit!) to Bouvet in 1959, and the even more mysterious life boat found there in 1964. The island has a volcano top and is 5.9 x 4.3 miles, 93% glacier covered, with very few plants and millions of seabirds and thousands of seals.
It was discovered by Jean-Baptiste-Charles Bouvet de Lozier on January 1, 1739. He couldn’t land due to the heavy sea and he recorded the coordinates wrong which made it difficult for others sailing in the area to find it. It is considered the most remote uninhabited island in the world.
During the 18:30 recap, Jan informed us about weather predictions for the next two days and tried to give us an approximate time of arrival at Bouvet Island. To finish off the recap session, Brent showed a few videos of his travels in the Antarctic Peninsula region - featuring avalanches, collapsing icebergs and a highly-stressed Adelie penguin escaping from orca.
At dinner I sat with Lynn, Mike, Bob I and the Griffiths. They served a marinated antipasti platter, grilled beef medallion "Normandy" and Swiss roll with strawberry sauce for dessert.
After dinner, I watched the 2010 film: Ghost writer which I had seen before but forgotten the plot and ending. It was about a gifted author hired to ghostwrite the memoirs of a controversial former British Prime Minister becomes a hunted man when he uncovers explosive secrets about the past.
Before bed we had to change our clocks and watches again - one hour forward. It was the last time on the cruise. From April 5th on the ship would be on Greenwich Mean Time.
During the cruise Frank Reiner took a poll of the passengers and discovered half (34) of the sixty seven passengers were members of the Traveler’s Century Club. He also gathered statistics on the other two major travel clubs: The Most Traveled People (MTP) had 22 members on board and the Best Traveled (TBT) had 15 members. .
Passengers on board: 67
Members of travel ‘clubs’:
Traveler’s Century Club (TCC): 34
The Most Traveled People (MTP): 22
The Best Traveled (TBT): 15
No club affiliation: 26
Natives of 23 different countries - From the US ten are from California, 5 from LA, 2 San Diego, 3 three from northern California including the TCC National Treasurer (JoAnn).
Sunday, April 05 2015 Easter Sunday at sea in the Antarctic
Since the ship’s clock had been set forward another hour , Jan delayed the wake-up announcement to 08:00 and breakfast at 08:30. I awoke to Jan’s announcement, showered and shaved, dressed in a white shirt and proceeded to breakfast. I arrived before the doors were open and there was a basket of candy eggs on the reception counter. Once the door opened I saw the staff had set the tables with colorful napkins, many with pictures of colorful Easter eggs printed on them. Each place setting had a small plate with a chocolate Easter egg on it. The breakfast eggs were fried on a slice of ham on top of a muffin. I sat with the Griffiths, Bob I and Bob B. Bob and Cathy arrived and asked us to wear our Advantage Travel shirts for the day.
I returned to my cabin, changed my shirt and read until the announcement for the 10:30 lecture by Dimitri on “The Origin of Whales”. Dimitri discussed the two basic types of whales, those with teeth and those with baleen that enables the whale to take big gulps of water full of krill and push the water through the baleen keeping the krill in their mouth. He also talked about a bone in the ear of whales that is also found in human beings is the thread between the bones of ancient animals and the whales of today.
Due to the rough seas we had a served lunch of carrot and ginger soup followed by beef ragout over pasta and a small square of chocolate cake. I sat with the Griffiths, Bob I, Mike and Laurie.
After lunch I read in my cabin until the 14:00 Documentary which was titled “BOUVETØYA - The Last Place on Earth” about a February 2012 expedition on the M/V Hanse Explorer by Jason and Bruno Rodi. A description of the documentary is as follows:
“They have climbed the highest mountain on every continent and walked across deserts of snow to the North and South Poles. Now, father and son are sailing across some of the toughest oceans to the most remote, unexplored place on Earth – Bouvet Island. Jason Rodi, a filmmaker, joins his father Bruno, a globetrotting explorer, on a remarkable adventure to a volcanic land mass located in the heart of the Antarctic Ocean. On Bouvet Island, Jason and Bruno trek to the summit and plant a time capsule, a titanium tube filled with messages from around the world. The content of the time capsule, like the challenges facing them on their journey, make THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH – a dramatic quest, a stunning documentary that combines wildlife, human adventure and a distinct global message.”
It was a fascinating story and interesting that they climbed to the top of the island’s mountain to plant a time capsule with messages to their descendants. Before I started the trip I was lead to believe that the last group to land on the island was in 2006.
I returned to my room to ponder about the documentary and why people would take the time and effort to plant the time capsule on the mountain. Our ship was full of people that just hoped to set foot on the island and walk around abandoned buildings, penguins and seals and not take the effort to climb the mountain and plant a time capsule.
Soon it was time to return to the Lecture Room for Bob Brown’s lecture at 16:30 on “Antarctic - Arctic What's the difference?”. It is interesting to think that if the ice all melted where there would be land and where there would be sea. The other thought provoking issues are why Polar Bears are only in the Arctic and not in the Antarctic and why Penguins are only in the south and not the north.
Bob and Cathy hosted a Easter Celebration in their cabin at 18:00. Cathy had candy Easter eggs and other “goodies” for us. The party moved to the bar at 18:30 to attend Jan’s daily recap which was demoralizing. The weather report was not encouraging but they would continue to circumnavigate the island the next day in the hope of finding a calmer sea to launch the zodiacs.
It was a dejected crowd that left for dinner at 19:00. The dinner picked up our spirits. Cathy had reserved the back two tables of the Advantage Trave group. We all wore our “Bouvet or Bust” shirts and had bottles of champagne. The meal started with a Brie cheese with cranberry sauce, followed by a rack of lamb and English trifle for dessert. The movie they selected for the evening was another excellent one I had seen: “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. I was behind in writing my journal so I skipped the movie and returned to my room.
Monday, April 06 2015 Bouvet Island – Day 1
I awoke to my alarm at 06:00. The ship was rocking and rolling. The window was covered with condensation and I wiped an area to see through the dirty window the island of Bouvet with the moon emerging from a orange covered top of the mountain. How I wish I had a clean window to capture that picture. I tried to quickly dress but on the outside chance we would be able to go ashore I put on my long johns, rain pants and boot socks. By the time I finished and climbed up to the bar area the deck was crowded with passengers taking pictures of the island. The moon had disappeared but the view was spectacular. Unfortunately, there was a hurricane force wind making it difficult to stand on the deck to take steady pictures.
We were close but so far away. The wind was so strong that Jan didn’t even try to launch a scouting party to survey the islands to determine if there was a sheltered location to land the zodiacs. Disappointed I returned to my cabin for a few minutes before the Hotel Manager reminded us that the dining room was open for breakfast. I proceeded to the dining room and very few people were seated. The table I usually sat at was full with my Advantage Travel colleagues but Mike was sitting by himself at a table and I joined him. Soon the twins joined us, Mike left and Laurie took his seat and Neal joined the table. They had poached eggs and sausage in the buffet table. We talked a little about ‘lists’ and the various rules that the lists have. The twins belong to the TCC but not the other two lists. It is a funny game that the participants play on the list to outscore each other. Before the cruise I had never looked at the lists as earning “points”. I had just counted how many destinations they had and how many I had visited. They provided me with objectives to achieve, so to have even gotten within two miles of Bouvet was an accomplishment for me to count although the list purest would not count it because I had not set foot on land. So what?
The twins left and I briefly sat with Frank Rainer. He told me that from his standpoint he got close and would not spent the effort to return just to set foot on the island. He has just Diego Garcia left to visit on the TCC list and is resigned to the fact that until the British start allowing visitors to the British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos, Arch, Diego Garcia) he will never visit all the TCC destinations anyway.
I returned to my cabin and changed into my normal shipboard clothes and wrote in my journal. The ship started to circumnavigate the island so I went up to the bar and out on the deck to take pictures of the various sides of the island. At one point Jan announced that we should be able to see the Norwegian Meteorological Station. I could not see it with the 10x lens on my camera but Brent was there and lent me his binoculars. It was painted white so with the binoculars I could see it.
I had a nice discussion with Harry who I had been told had researched the web to find all the people that claim to have visited all the UN member states and he thinks the list is about 105 people. When you think of the number of people in the world and even the number of people that travel outside their home and their country it is still a very elite number.
As the morning progressed the ship continued to circumnavigate the island enabling us to take pictures of all sides of the island and in various shades of light. Some sides had more bird activity than other sides. I returned to my cabin and read wondering why the stewards had not made up my room.
At noon Jan called us to the bar for an update on the situation. As I left my cabin I noticed that I must have bumped the “Do Not Disturb” switch on a previous coming and going and that was why the stewards did not make up my room. Oh well, I could make my own bed. Up in the bar Jan told us that the forecast was not any better and he was waiting for official word from Oceanwide Headquarters to abandon any attempts to land on Bouvet and cruise on to Gough Island. Of course many people were disappointed but we had been able to take pictures of all sides of the island and since there were no wide beaches all we missed by not riding ashore was the opportunity to get soaked by the surf. My solution was the diehards should take a shower with their going ashore clothes on and take credit for a landing.
The meeting adjourned and I glanced at my watch to see the time and found my solar watch had stopped working. I held it up to a light and up to the window but the display was blank. I removed it from my wrist, set it on the rubber mat on my desk and went to lunch.
For lunch I had breaded fried chicken with corn on the cob, warm potato salad and made my own salad. It was a tasty lunch and I sat with Lynn, Bob I, Mike and the Griffiths. When I returned to my room my watch was working. Go figure? I guess it was trying to find the radio signal to update the time.
At 14:00 I attended a documentary titled: “Fur Seals - The Dark Side” about how playful and talented Fur Seals can be in a “Sea World” setting but how they attack and rip apart penguins to obtain their food. It showed that the sea floor near islands that are the home for fur seals are littered with the skeletons of penguins. Attendance was low in the Lecture Room and I dozed off more than once during the show.
After the show Jan called another meeting in the bar. He showed us the weather forecast in six hour increments that indicated the winds are scheduled to diminish and at 06:00 Tuesday they will be favorable. The wind charts don’t indicate the sea swell but Oceanwide Expeditions had decided we should stick around Bouvet and try to land Tuesday morning. It was interesting that the disappointment displayed in the morning did not change to glee on the announcement that we still had the possibility to go ashore. I guess most everyone was resigned to passing the opportunity to set foot on Bouvet.
The afternoon lecture was cancelled and I returned to my cabin to read and wrote in my journal until 18:00 at which time I went to the bar to socialize until Jan gave the daily recap at 18:30. He showed us the weather map with displayed a period of calm winds heading in the direction of Bouvet Island. The forecast provided some guarded optimism for changes to land on the island Tuesday morning. His major concern was the swells and the surf crashing on the shore which would make it difficult if we did land to re-launch the zodiacs to return to the ship. He also told us that the ship was going to turn at 22:00 and it would be buffed during the turn so we should secure any loose items in our cabins.
For dinner they served an Asian style Duck salad with Orange dressing and fillet of Plaice on tomatoes with roasted potatoes. Dessert was a delicious Apple and banana crumble with vanilla ice cream. I over indulged and accepted a second when the waitress was handing them out. I sat with Bob and Cathy, Neal and Phillips (Flip) Connor. Flip lives in Singapore and he was telling what it is like in this day and age to live there. We talked about my first visit in 1971 on a weekend from Vietnam and how rural Orchard Road was back then and how it changed when I worked there in 1984 and again how it restricted traffic by the time Judy and I visited in January of 2001.
The movie that night was the “Hundred Foot Journeyl” another I had seen, so I skipped it to go to bed early. I was asleep when Jan announced at 22:00 that the ship was going to turn. I felt a few bumps but none of the objects in my room or bathroom flew around.
Tuesday, April 07 2015 Bouvet Island – Day 2
I awoke to my alarm at 05:30 and went out on deck to photograph the color of the sunrise. It was not very cold outside but there was a strong wind and heavy swells. The moon over the island view that I had seen the day before was not there that morning. I took several pictures and one showed the color of the sun rise but the color disappeared rapidly and I just saw the island with its white top and black cliffs. I could see that the surf was breaking with fury on the edge of the island. The wind had diminished but the swells were still high. I returned to my cabin to shower and shave and don my ‘going ashore’ clothes, just in case they determine that there is a sheltered area where it would be safe to land and more important be able to safely launch the zodiacs in the crashing waves to return to the ship.
There was a light turnout for breakfast. I skipped the eggs and meat and settled for oatmeal and fruit and sat with the Griffiths, Laurie, Lynn and Neal.
After breakfast I proceeded up to the bar and out on deck to take some more pictures of the island and then returned to my cabin to read. The stewards cleaned the cabin and changed the bedding. At 09:00 Jan summoned us to the bar and announced that they would not attempt to land and the ship was going to depart the island and head to Gough Island four days away.
At 10:30 I watched a documentary titled “Survival Island” in the Lecture Room. It was filmed on one of the South Georgia Islands and focused on the life of Elephant Seals and a large colony of penguins.
For lunch we started with tomato soup and then made our own hamburger with French fries and fruit cocktail for dessert. I sat with Mike, Bob I, Lynn and the Griffiths. After lunch I read and wrote in my journal.
At 14:00 Jan showed us a BBC documentary on: “Part 1 Rise of the Continents-Americas”. The first part was about the creation of North and South America splitting away from Africa and Europe as separate continents and then the action to join them together. The documentary showed how the rivers in South America initially flowed into the Pacific and as the plates collided creating the Andres Mountains the rivers then flowed into the Caribbean and eventually to the Atlantic. It was very interesting with the Geologist going into the silver mines to prove his findings.
Afterwards I read and wrote in my journal until 16:30 when Victoria gave a lecture on “The History of Gough Island”. Following her lecture I climbed the stairs to the bridge and was able to take some colorful photos of the sunset.
Bob and Cathy hosted a get together in their cabin at 18:00. Bob led a discussion on whether our circumnavigating of Bouvet Island without setting foot on it should count as a TCC destination. He plans on raising the issue with the TCC board and he asked us if there were other locations that should be put in the same category. Diego Garcia was one that some of the people think should be in the same category but my thinking is the British would not allow a vessel to circumnavigate it any more than letting tourist go ashore.
At 18:30 we adjourned to attend Jan’s recap meeting in the bar. Jan told us the weather report on the cruise to Gough Island is mixed. We will have heavy winds against us followed by a tail wind. Bob Brown followed Jan with a short presentation on “Why penguins don’t fly: lessons from the great auk”. He discussed the ancestors of the penguin and how they flew but made the point that weight of the penguin made it more appropriate to being able to dive deeper than the birds that feed from the sea. He finished at 19:00 and we adjourned to the dining room. I sat with Neal, Bob Bonifas and Bob and Cathy.
Dinner started with saffron risotto with scallops. I only had one scallop on my plate. For the main course I had baked fish on a bed of Chinese cabbage with steamed rice. Dessert was a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of strawberry ice cream. Towards the end of the meal Bob Parda, Neal and I got into a lively discussion about gun control.
I returned to my room and answered email from Judy, wrote in my journal and retired early because the movie was “The Imitation Game” which was another movie I had already seen.
Wednesday, April 08 2015 At Sea
We had reached the half way point of our cruise, with fifteen more days on the ship. I awoke a few minutes before my alarm which I had set for 07:00. The ship was still rocking and rolling with occasional loud bangs as the waves hit the ship. I managed to shower and shave while still hanging on to a grab handle in the shower. Jan’s wake-up call was at 07:30.
When I went down to breakfast at 08:00 there was not a crowd. I sat with Bob Bonifas, Bob I, Lynn and Laurie. The eggs were scrambled and the meat was a sausage the color of a hot dog. I passed on the sausage and got a slice of cheese and a slice of ham. I asked Bob B if he knew the young US Representative from Illinois that just resigned. He told us he did and it is a shame because he was a bright guy that made some bad choices. Bob then started a discussion on Illinois politics. A special election was being held in Chicago to challenge Ron Emanuel as mayor. Bob said that the man running against him was a Teacher Union candidate and that the high cost of teachers and public employees is sinking Illinois and Chicago budgets. Of course sitting across the table from Bob B were Lynn, Laurie and Bob I, all three teachers. It was a lively discussion with no conclusion.
I returned to my room and was happy to get an email from Judy and one from Wendy. Wendy sent me the details on the Red Sox’s first game of the season which they beat Philadelphia 8 to nothing and hit four home runs. It was a good start for the season.
I sent out some emails and then wrote in my journal and read. At 10:30 I attended a lecture by Christian he titled “Birding en route to Tristan da Cunha”. I was surprised that he profiled so many different birds and one of the passengers asked how so many variations of the same species fly around in this area.
I returned to my cabin and finished reading a Time magazine. I noticed a picture in the magazine of a uniquely designed building at a Technical school in Singapore. I carried the magazine up to the bar and looked for Flip to see if he knew of the building which was designed for round shaped lecture halls. Flip was in the bar but was not familiar with the building.
Because of the rocking and rolling they served the lunch. It was Penne pasta with artichokes, sundried tomatoes and pesto. I sat with Bob and Cathy, Neal and the twins. For dessert they served a berry compote which we all thought was too tart.
After lunch at 14:00 they showed the BBC Documentary “Part 2 Rise of the Continents-Africa”. The documentary predicts that at some point an area of Africa in the Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania will split from the rest of the continent. Of course it will not occur in my lifetime.
After the lecture I invited Laurie to see how easy it would be for her to record her travels on the MTP list. We went over the list on my laptop and easily checked off over 400 destinations and that did not include Russia, China, Brazil, Argentina and Switzerland’s many political areas that would require a detailed map to determine where in her travels to those countries she actually visited. That set the stage for the afternoon talk.
At 16:30 Harry Mitsidis, founder of “The Best Traveled” web site gave a presentation on the web site. He demonstrated the unique features of the web site which he calls a Travel Club. At the end of the presentation he handed out calendars and a list of the 1281 that he calls regions. It was an interesting presentation but nothing new as far as I was concerned. Although he did mention that only ten members have been fully vetted, this would include me. After the presentation I talked to Harry about my desire to color code places I have worked and places I have lived on the sites map.
At 18:00 I went up to the bar to have my usual Bitberger beer. Jan started the daily recap with some bad news. Over half the inhabitants on the island of Tristan de Cunha are sick with a virus. Oceanwide has been told that if the ship lands anybody on the island that the ship will be quarantined and will not be allowed to off load passengers on Ascension Island. The news did not set well with the passengers and provoked a lot of discussion and questions that Jan could not answer.
At dinner I sat with Neal, Laurie, Bob and Cathy. After talking about our bad luck we moved on to other topics discussing past trips and future possibilities. The meal was delicious. It started with a salmon gravlax, followed by roast beef tenderloin with red wine sauce, roasted potatoes and cauliflower. Dessert was a strawberry mousse.
The movie for the evening was “Philomena” which I had seen so I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal, answered email and retired at 22:00.
Thursday, April 09 2015 At Sea
It was a strange night. The ship was rocking and rolling like the previous nights but it seemed that the bangs were louder. They woke me up several times about an hour apart all night. I got up at 05:00 and found the room chilly so I turned on the space heater and went back to bed. I ignored my 07:00 alarm and stayed in bed until Jan’s wake-up call at 07:30. Showering and shaving was a challenge again. Things kept dropping on the floor but somehow I muddled through.
I was a little late for breakfast but there were just a few people in the dining room. They served fried eggs with potatoes and bacon. I sat with Bob I, Bob B, Lynn, Neal and Laurie. Bob B informed us that Ron Emanuel won the Chicago mayor’s election. We had a lively discussion about The Best Traveled presentation. Bob I told us he had reviewed the list and found he had traveled to hundreds of their “regions”. Bob I said he was sticking to just the MTP list because he could not make sense of how the “regions” were defined. Laurie left to hopefully check her email. We continued on discussing politics. Bob B told us about his experience attending a Supreme Court session and how the Justice’s decisions are never leaked. The waitresses finally kicked us out. I always enjoy eating with the Bobs. Their conversations are always interesting.
After breakfast I returned to my cabin and checked emails and responded to several. I then wrote in my journal. I still haven’t caught up documenting every day of the voyage.
The morning lecture at 10:30 was “The Life and Death of Volcanic Islands” presented by Adam. It was short but very informative. Following the lecture Laurie asked Cathy something about the Russian visa which reminded me that I had a copy of the visa form. I returned to my cabin and got it out. One of the entries I have to make on the form is “List all countries you have visited in the last ten years and indicate the year of visit.”
I sat down at my laptop and started to compile the list. It was more time consuming than I expected. I have the daily itinerary but the trick was to just have the year and the country and then eliminate duplicates.
I broke for lunch and sat with Bob and Cathy, Lynn, Laurie and Robin Grigg from New Zealand. The lunch option was lamb madras curry. I added a mixed salad. For dessert they had a small piece of apple pie. The conversation centered on New Zealand experiences.
After lunch I purchased another 100mb of Wi-Fi and then returned to my cabin to continue my Russian visa project. I needed to delete from my list destinations that were not countries and add the ISO two letter code to the list. At 14:00 I went to the Lecture Room to see the BBC Documentary “Part 3 Rise of the Continents – Eurasia”. In the documentary they predicted that eventually the Mediterranean will disappear and Great Britain will move to the north. I connected to the Wi-Fi for the first time in over a week in the Lecture Room and was flooded with Facebook messages. I can’t afford to open any of them because they use up so many megabytes. LinkedIn was another message generator but it at least didn’t have pictures associated with its flood of messages.
I returned to my project and completed the list by 16:30 when Victoria gave her lecture “a History of Tristan da Cunha, Part 1. Discovery, Settlement and Shipwreck”, I had received lectures on Tristan da Cunha in 2012 but I didn’t remember that it include the history that Victoria presented. It is interesting that for such a remote location eight families with multiple generations have lived on the island and how they came to be there in the first place.
During the lecture I got a splitting head ache and neck ache. After the lecture I asked the doctor if she had some head ache pills. She interviewed me and gave me two pills which I took. I didn’t think it was from the rough sea but rather from the time I spend on the computer all day working on the Russian visa list.
At the recap I switched from beer to a Bloody Mary and found it a better drink for my situation. The headache started to subside. But, then I was called out. The woman handling the flight reservations from Ascension Island to England had sent a message that if I didn’t pay by tomorrow she was going to cancel my reservation. I obtained her email address and returned to my cabin and sent her different credit card details. I speculated that she had delayed processing the card I used when I originally made the reservation and when she got around to using it the card had been cancelled.
In order to lighten up the dejected crowd Bob Brown showed a BBC April fools film showing penguins flying.
After I sent the message I went to dinner and sat with Bob and Cathy, Neal, Laurie and Sara Wu. The menu started with Rustic Pasta salad with roast chicken which did not appeal to me so I asked for and received a small mixed salad. The main was a delicious pan fried lemon sole filet with zucchini and parsley potatoes on a white wine butter sauce. Dessert was a brownie a la mode.
The conversation started with a discussion on what the US should be doing about ISIS but soon turned to a discussion on what constitutes a country. Bob Parda and I disagreed on whether Taiwan is a UN Observer state. I thought it was but discovered later that its application to be an Observe state is annually rejected.
After dinner I had a brief conversation with Bob Bonifas on his thoughts about Rand Paul declaring his candidacy for President. He agrees with me that governors are better suited to be president than Senators since they have more executive management experience, especially Governors that have had to work with legislatures of the opposite party.
The movie for the evening was “The Theory of Everything” which I had seen so I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal until 22:00.
Friday, April 10 2015 At Sea
I awoke five minutes before my alarm was to go off at 07:00. The room was bright as we are cruising north the sun rises earlier and even though the sky was overcast it was a bright day outside. The banging and rocking had stopped and the ship had just a slight roll. There were almost no white caps. I showered and shaved with little trouble. Jan’s wake-up call announced that the temperature was 44˚F. He announced the wrong date and had to make a second announcement to correct the date. I thought of Neal who complained the day before that he would like to sleep later on sea days but wakes up to the wakeup call and can’t get back to sleep.
At breakfast I sat with Lynn, Bob I, the Griffiths and Laurie. Laurie was happy that she had been able to connect to her Gmail for the first time in several days. Bob Ihsen kidded that he couldn’t get his email because he doesn’t have an email account. I skipped the poached eggs and had cereal.
When I returned to my cabin I checked my ship email account and got a message from Ascension booking that the credit card I sent them went through and I am confirmed on the flight to England.
I notified Cathy. She and Bob were having trouble getting their email messages. I logged on to Wi-Fi and connected but mostly received Facebook messages. I have to figure out how to turn them off because in less than a day I have used 30 megabytes of my 100mb purchase. I logged off and returned to my cabin to write Judy on the ship email system.
I returned to my cabin and applied a fresh sea sickness patch.
At 10:30 Christian gave a lecture on: “Seabirds, the Difficult Ones on Route to Tristan”. He went into great detail on the differences between Albatrosses. He was passionate about the subject refuting the findings of some of the authoritative authors of books on the subject. If one was a birder which I am not you would have to get a close view or picture to distinguish the subtle differences in the birds. Apparently Christian has or is in the process of writing a book on the subject and didn’t want us taking pictures of his slides.
The fresh patch made me a little sleepy and I lay down in my bunk waiting for lunch. Lunch was delicious. They served Hungarian cabbage soup and the buffet had tempura fish and home style potato wedges. I added lettuce and tomatoes to my plate. For dessert I had a bunch of grapes with cheese and crackers. Overall, for my tastes it was one of the best lunches on the cruise.
I sat with Bob and Cathy, JoAnn, Laurie and Michel Tran. Michel is in the Import, Export business between Hanoi and Paris. He is an interesting fellow. We often find him in the Lecture Room listening to rock music.
After lunch Laurie, Lynn and I met with Cathy in her cabin to go over the information we need to fill out a Russian visa for the Trans-Siberian trip in July. The meeting broke-up to enable us to attend the BBC Documentary “Part 4 Rise of the Continents-Australia”. After the documentary I returned to my room to write in my journal. I had not understood Michel Tran’s name at lunch and I went up to the bar to ask one of the passengers who I thought might know him. While I was in the bar I was interviewed by Sara for her survey of the people on the Expedition. Finishing the survey I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal until 16:30 when I attended Bob Brown’s lecture on the “Wales of the South Atlantic-a Wish List”. He emphasized the wales we will likely see in the mid-Atlantic waters.
I returned to my cabin to write in my journal. At 18:00 I went to the bar. They were having a special on Argentine wines. I had a glass of red. It was pretty good and then a Bloody Mary. Jan gave the recap at 18:30. There was no good news about landing on Tristan da Cunha. The weather prediction showed a front passing out track from west to east. So, we are going to have some rough seas again and some smooth seas.
I joined Mike for dinner. Bob B sat next to me and across the table was Dan and Marilynn Walker the Canadian couple that now live in Costa Rico. Next to them sat JoAnn. The dinner stated with a Herring salad and I had Viennese Tafelspitz – boiled beef. They served vanilla pudding for dessert. Politics entered into the conversation. We also talked about our adventures visiting North Korea.
They finally showed a movie I hadn’t seen and wanted to see: “St Vincent”. It had a few laughs and brought tears to my eyes. Bill Murray was outstanding as was Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy.
I turned in at 23:00.
Saturday, April 11 2015 At Sea
I awoke to a bright sunny morning. They announced that the temperature is in the fifty’s. Last night marked the mid-point for those going all the way to Cape Verde. There were a lot of waves banging the sides of the ship when I went to bed last but the sea is a little smoother this morning. I showered and shaved and went to breakfast where I sat with Lynn, the Griffiths and Sara. The conversation started about the movie from the night before and then shifted to schools. Bob attended the movie and rarely goes to movies at home. He wanted to know who the main actors were in the movie. Instead he attends his high school athletic events. The Griffiths also attend some of their old high school games. We also talked to Sara about how Hong Kong has changed over the years. Sara who lives in Kowloon told us she occasionally visits Stanley Market but not the Tuesday night market or the Peak.
After breakfast I returned to my cabin and checked my email. One of the messages was from Wendy informing me that the Red Sox had beaten the Yankees in the opening of a three game series in New York. The game lasted 19 innings. What a tiring game for the teams so early in the season.
I attended a BBC Documentary at 10:30 titled: “Captain Cook, The man behind the legend”. It was very informative. I had forgotten some of the details of his life including the fact his wife burned all his correspondence which I imagine contained a wealth of information about his discoveries.
Following the documentary I went up to the bar for a cup of coffee with chocolate. Neal and Mike were sitting at the bar. It wasn’t open for drinks but I guess they wanted to keep a seat warm. Neal was drinking tea. We talked until lunch time I stopped in my cabin and their table was full when I got to the dining room. I sat with Bob and Cathy, Laurie, Bob B and Jan. Bob Parda asked me about the time it would take for an Air Force aircraft navigator to take a celestial fix. This lead to a discussion on a typical mission in KC-135s with air refueling and how air refueling was conducted with differently designed aircraft. The conversation with Jan was focused on Socotra Island which Jan hasn’t visited and was surprised that my trip and Bob and Cathy’s trip to the island was so recent (2013).
The after lunch activity took place in the Lecture Room at 14:00 where we watched a BBC Documentary on the “Science of Bones”. We watched part 1 “Size Matters” and Part 2 “Down to Earth”. The narrator for the series was Ben Garrod, an Oceanwide Expedition scientist. Of course the documentaries were informative discussing aspects of bone composition and skeleton formation that I had never learned.
I returned to my cabin, read and updated my journal until 16:30 when I returned to the Lecture Room to attend Victoria’s lecture on “a History of Tristan da Cunha, Part II: Visitors & Outsiders, Evacuation & Return - A Social History of the 21st Century.” In 2012 I had attended a lecture on the island given by one of the guides on the M/V Plancius who had spent a year living on the island so I thought I knew a fair amount but Victoria presented a lot of new information. She approached the subject will a detailed historical perspective. It kind of bummed me out that we are not going to go ashore and meet the people and hear the way they speak.
Bob and Cathy hosted a get together in their cabin at 18:00. We then adjourned at 18:30 to hear Jan’s recap in the bar. He estimated that the ship should arrive in Gough Island waters before sunrise and the sea will be too rough to lower the zodiacs but the Captain will get as close as he safely can so we can take pictures of the island. We are essentially a day behind schedule so he will not circumnavigate the island and we will continue on to Tristan da Cunha where we might be able to make a touch and go on one of the neighboring islands.
Dinner was a little interesting because the main choice was either creamy seafood chowder or a rib fillet medallion with onion sauce on pumpkin and potato mash with green beans. When they asked for our choice at lunch, Cathy requested both a cup of chowder and the fillet. I selected that option. It was a very tasty choice. The dessert was lemon sorbet over fruit cocktail. I sat with Bob I, Neal, Mike and the Griffiths. The conversation centered on future trips and whether they should be land or sea trips. Mike pointed out that we will have 18 sea days before we go ashore on St Helena Island. He doesn’t attend all the lectures and documentaries that several of us do and finds the sea days boring. I can’t say that I am bored during the sea days but the constant rocking, rolling and banging is tiresome.
The movie at 20:15 was another one that I hadn’t seen titled: “My Old Lady” with Kevin Kline; Maggie Smith; and Kristin Scott Thomas. The concept was funny and tragic and it had some funny parts but was depressing in a lot of scenes.
After the movie I updated my journal and answered some email before turning in at 23:00.
Sunday, April 12 2015 Gough Island
It was a rough night. I think it was the roughest night of the trip. I rolled around in my bed a lot but still was asleep when my alarm went off at 06:30. Due to the rough seas I skipped taking a shower. Jan had predicted that we would reach Gough Island before sunrise but due to the rough seas we hadn’t reached it yet. In Jan’s wake-up call he told us we were still hours away at the slow speed we were traveling by due to the heavy seas.
When I finished dressing I went outside and took some pictures of the sunrise. At 07:30 they opened the dining room. Bob I and I were the first ones to enter on the starboard side. They had scrambled eggs and sausage in the buffet bar. We sat at the first table and were soon joined by Frank Rainer, Bob B, Lynn and Carole Ann. The conversation centered on how many sea days we have had since last touching land.
An announcement was made that the island was in sight in front of the ship so after breakfast I went up to the bar. Frank had already gone up and he told me that there was a lot of spray outside even up on deck 6. He recommended that I get my rain coat if I planned on taking pictures of the island. Returning from my cabin with my rain gear I went out on the deck to take pictures of the island. The wind was blowing up to 50 knots and the swells were up to 25 feet which had spray up to the top decks. Fortunately as were got closer to the island the swell diminished. Almost everyone was out taking pictures.
Once we passed by the island I returned to my cabin and the swells built up again. I just laid down in my bunk and waited for lunch. They served the lunch and even then the waitress had a difficult time serving. I sat with Bob I, Neal, Mike and the Griffiths. The soup was crab meat and corn which was delicious. The main was Chinese style beef ragout. Mike was smart and didn’t accept the main and they gave him a plate of brie cheese and crackers. I found the lunch to be too heavy and wished I had requested a salad plate. Mike was cutting the outer cover of the cheese and I asked him if he would mind giving it to me. I found it a lot more to my liking than the ragout. They served jello for dessert.
I returned to my cabin and read until they announced the documentary at which time I went down to the Lecture Room. The documentary was: “Science of Bones: Part 3: Into the Air & Part 4: Sensing the World”. I found it educational because I had never given skeletons or bones much thought so it was all new to me.
After the documentary I climbed the stairs to the bridge. There were still heavy swells but nowhere as rough as it had been earlier. The sun was out and the wind a little less than earlier. Overall, it was the roughest sea day on the voyage so far.
The next activity was at 16:30 in the Lecture Room. Brent Houston and Bob Brown gave a talk on the eradication of rodents on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Islands. Since the first settlement on Tristan da Cunha there has been a problem with rats on the island. They came ashore from ships hiding in the cargo delivered to the island. In the 1800’s they have been known to destroy the potato crops, the peach crops and have developed into flesh eating predators’ feeding on the chicks and eggs of the birds breeding on the islands. Brent gave us facts and figures and expense that has occurred to eradicate the rodents. In 2012 we were briefed on the efforts to remove them from South Georgia and last year on the efforts the Australians and New Zealanders have taken to eradicate rodents but they also had problems with rabbits so it was not a new subject for me to listen to.
I wrote in my journal until 18:00 and then went up to the bar. Jan’s recap included a weather map that indicated the winds will be dyeing down during the night and hopefully the seas will be calmer. We had to sign two forms for the authorities at Tristan da Cunha.
Dinner started with Salmon tartar and for the main, a smoked pork steak topped with a slice of tomato and melted cheese. Dessert was Tiramisu. I sat with Bob I, Mike, Lynn and the Griffiths.
The movie was a Cohen Brothers movie from 2013 that I had never heard about titled “Inside Llewyn Davis” about a singer trying to make it in show business in the late 1950s. Unfortunately Jan’s copy stopped before the end of the movie so we don’t know how it turned out. Weird!
After the movie I answered email and retired at 23:00
Monday, April 13 2015 Tristan da Cunha archipelago
In the hopes that we will finally touch land today, I set my alarm for 06:30. It was still dark outside but the sea was calm. I showered and shaved, dressed in my going ashore clothes and went out on deck. It was light but the sun was still below the horizon. To the northeast of the bow was the silhouette of Tristan da Cunha and on the west side three islands. The biggest was Nightingale beautifully bathed in light. North of it was two other islands. The larger of the two was “Inaccessible Island” and in between was “Middle Island” which is the island we would attempt to land on.
After taking a lot of pictures of all the islands I went down to breakfast. They had hard boiled eggs and pancakes. I sat with Bob I, Lynn, Carole Ann and the Griffiths. They had not been out on deck to see the islands up close. I rushed through my breakfast and went back on deck to catch the sun just rising on the horizon. I took a lot of pictures as it rose to be 100% clear of the horizon. It was really beautiful with the calm sea and thin colorful clouds. I returned to my cabin to await an announcement on the morning’s schedule.
At 07:30 Jan announced that the ship was maneuvering to find the best place to board the zodiacs. Even though there were no white caps on the sea he told us that there was enough swell to make boarding the zodiacs challenging. Eventually the ship stopped and Jan announced that we would soon be loading the zodiacs. I donned my going ashore gear. It was warm outside so I didn’t put on my long johns but I did wear my yellow rain pants. When I reached the reception area I joined the Advantage Travel group. They were in line to board the zodiacs on the port side but at the last minute Jan switched to the starboard side. When we lined up on that side Laurie and Neal were together and the rest were scattered. I joined up with them and it turned out that we were the first group to load. Demetri was our driver. Boarding wasn’t too difficult and off we went at 09:00 to Middle Island.
We were in the zodiac for almost three hours cruising around Stoltenhoff Island, Middle Island and Nightingale Island. When we first reached Stoltenhoff Island there were several TCC members on our zodiac that wanted to touch the side of the cliffs. Jokingly I said touching doesn’t count, your feet have to touch so they had Demetri maneuver close to a cliff and they swung their leg around and had a foot touch the cliff. We cruised close to the Nightingale landing location. There were a number of huts high on a bluff and the research station zodiac beached up a grade from the water. We stopped to take pictures of a few Rock Hopper penguins and dozens of Sub-Antarctic Fur Seals. Up on the bluff one of the men from the research station was looking down on us. The seals were fun to watch and the frolicked around the rocks some tumbling into the water. They were mostly pups and the few older seals were making loud noises giving me the impression that we were disturbing them whereas the pups thought it was a lot of fun to have visitors watching their antics.
The islands had a number of caves and the cliffs and insides of the caves were streaked with color. Mostly red and white it made it look like Jackson Pollock had painted the cliffs. Finally a landing spot was found and the zodiacs took turns landing and letting the passengers step out on land. The approach the zodiac pilots took varied. One of the zodiac s we saw had Flip jump out with a rope and hold the zodiac close to the rocks so it was easy for the passengers to disembark and board. When our turn came Demetri didn’t seem to have a plan that he communicated to us. Joao was sitting next to me the closest to the bow. Demetri rammed the rocks several times so I thought one of us should grab the bow rope and jump out and hold the boat against the rocks. Demetri yelled at me to let go of the rope and sit back down stating that he had not given anyone permission to get up. As I sat Joao then started to get off the next time we beached. Demetri ran forward and told him he was the pilot and would give the orders to land and if Joao thought he could do better then he should be piloting the zodiac. We just sat there in shocked silence until Demetri finally told us to jump out the bow one at a time. The rocks were a little slippery but they had grooves as though they had been cut to provide traction. I walked around the area for a few minutes and then Demetri ordered us back on the zodiac. After almost two weeks we had stood up on land that wasn’t rocking and rolling.
After the landing we continued to cruise around the islands. At one point we traveled between rocks and circled back through the narrow channel. I thought we would be so close to the side of the rocks that we could touch but it turned out the channel was wider than it appeared. We then cruised back to the ship. We had been the first zodiac of passengers to depart and we were the last to return two hours and fifty minutes of cruising.
By the time I shed my going ashore clothes and changed in to my ship board clothes lunch was announced. I sat with Bob and Cathy, Mike and Neal. The buffet was open with three choices of pasta and salad. The soup was curried potato and cauliflower. It was nice to be able to make my own salad after the last several days of “served” lunches. For dessert I had a few grapes and some cheese.
Following lunch Jan called us to the bar to tell us the afternoon plans. We were cruising to the Tristin da Cunha harbor where the plan was to deliver medicine and have them stamp our passports unless you didn’t want the stamp. Some people didn’t want the stamp because it would take up a full page in their passport. I didn’t care and passed on the opportunity.
As we approached Tristan da Cunha it seemed that everyone was out on deck either taking pictures or viewing the island with binoculars. Don Parrish had been ashore on the island the previous year and he told us where to look and what we were looking at. We were first seeing the potato fields and as we were getting closer to the settlement Jan announced that due to the swell increasing the Captain had decided not to launch a zodiac and instead had requested the people from Tristan da Cunha visit our ship in a long boat and we would lower the medicine and post cards to their boat. The result was no passports would be stamped.
Four men came out to our ship in a powered long boat and we lowered packages by crane down to their boat. Once loaded they backed away and we started to cruise on to St Helena.
I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal. Around 17:30, I heard a lot of commotion in the hall. I finished what I was writing and decided to investigate. There was no longer anyone in the hall but it sounded like the noise makers were going up the stairs to the bar. I returned to my room and fetched my camera and proceeded to the bar. There I found that Cathy had organized the ladies in our group (Beverly Griffiths, Diana Boyer, Laurie Campbell and JoAnn Schwartz) to dress in Caribbean attire with paper flowers around their necks. It made for a festive atmosphere. Frank Rainer and Bob Bonifas had joined in and a lot of pictures were taken. The ladies sat at the front of the bar where Mike and Neal usually sit. They moved to seats on the side and I joined them. On the bar was a closed laptop. The hotel manager arrived with a big pot of Sangrias and he was filling classes and passing them out. I was sitting at the bar next to Mike and Neal when a young man approached and told me I was in his seat because his laptop was there. I pointed to an outlet on the wall by a table and told him he could plug in there. He became belligerent and I didn’t want to disrupt the festive Caribbean theme so I gave up my seat and moved to the other end of the bar where there was no seat and drank my Sangria. I actually had several before dinner and one more at dinner.
Dinner started with Fried calamari, a favorite of mine, followed by pan fried hake filet and a French vanilla mousse for dessert. I sat with Bob I, Mike, Lynn and the Griffiths. Lynn had not gone to the recap and Mike explained to him the free Sangria he missed. Later they served it along with the dessert.
After dinner I went down to the Lecture Room to see the movie “The Lovely Bones”. It had some good actors in it but I couldn’t figure out the story so when nature called I returned to my cabin and retired by 22:00
Tuesday, April 14 2015 At Sea
The strong headwinds and rough sea returned during the night. There was some moderate rocking and rolling and a few bangs that woke me up. I had set my alarm for 07:00 and planned on sleeping through until Jan’s wakeup call at 07:30 but nature called. I showered and shaved and went out on deck. The temperature was in the low 70’s with an overcast sky. No opportunity to take a picture of the sunrise like I had the day before.
The breakfast buffet featured fried eggs. I sat with Lynn, Bob I, Bob B and Carole Ann. The conversation ranged from passport pages, dangerous cities, the beaches of Rio, to overweight children to school lunches and discipline.
When I returned to my cabin I transferred my pictures from my camera to my laptop. I had taken over 200 pictures the day before, some good, many bad.
At 10:30 I attended Brent’s talk about the MS Oliva ship wreak off Nightingale Island in March 2011. Brent also told us about his experience cleaning up after an oil spill from the MS Bahia Paraiso off Palmer Station, Antarctica. Then told us about the Oliva’s navigator thinking the island was a rain squall on the radar steered right into the island. Over 20,000 northern Rockhopper penguins were coated in oil. They used a swimming pool in Tristen da Cunha as a hospital to clean and treat as many penguins as they could. As I have said before Brent has had a lot of experience in the region and he is a good presenter.
We returned to the sea day schedule of a buffet lunch at 12:30. I sat with Bob and Cathy, Bob B, Laurie and Sara Wu. The soup was Pork and Ginger. Something I had never had before. The main course was Chicken Adobo, a Philippine national dish which had the chicken marinated in garlic, vinegar and soy sauce. Another first I think for me but one I liked. Of course since it was served buffet style I had a big salad. I was told that since we were not able to land at Tristen da Cunha the fresh salad makings they had expected to obtain on the island were not picked up so we would soon be running out of tomatoes and lettuce. To go with the Asian theme the dessert was Mandarin cake. The conversation centered on Sara’s interviews of all the passengers. She was compiling people’s thoughts about coming all the way and not being able to land on either Bouvet or Tristen da Cunha. It would be an interesting study.
The afternoon documentary at 13:30 was the final parts of the series on: The Secret of Bones. Part 5 was “Food For Thought” and part 6 was “Sex”. In “Food for Thought” Ben Garrod discusses how vertebrates capture and devour their food. It is a subject I often had wondered about how a snake could devour a larger animal and in so doing expand their bone structure. In “Sex” Ben described how bones play in reproduction.
After returning to my room to read and write I returned at 16:30 to the Lecture Room to see Adam and Brent’s slide show on the “September 2014 Bardabunga volcanic eruption in Iceland”. The photos were spectacular.
At the 18:30 recap Christian and Bob Brown discussed the Coriolis force in the two hemispheres and the effect on wind and storms.
At dinner I sat with Bob and Cathy, Laurie, Neal and Harry Mitsidis. For a starter they had a decorative presentation of a cream cheese mousse with a bread stick on top and two walnuts, (The sous chef must had time on his hands to make the artistic arrangement for 70 plus meals), followed by a pork cordon bleu with potato salad and Banofee pie for dessert. With Harry at the table the conversation was about The Best Traveled web site and club. Harry was a very interesting traveler to talk to. It was a memorable dinner.
The evening movie was “Wild” another I had seen so I returned to my cabin to write in my journal.
Wednesday, April 15 2015 At Sea
We were still cruising in a storm so there was a lot of rocking, rolling and banging. I was sound asleep when my alarm woke me at 07:00. The outside temperature was in the 70s but the swell high, the wind very strong at around 60kts and it was raining. Taking a shower and shaving was not as challenging as some of the other mornings but still not easy.
When I arrived in the dining room I found very few people and I sat with Bob I, Neal, Lynn, Laurie and Bob B. The buffet had poached eggs which I skipped to have cereal. The conversation centered on politics since we were informed that Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio had declared they are running for President. The discussions also touched on immigration policy.
Following breakfast I returned to my cabin to check email and send some emails. Wendy sent me an email that informed me that the Red Sox are off to a good start.
At 10:30 I attended Bob Brown’s lecture on an overview of Atlantic Islands. He showed us the different wild life on the islands that are so remote from Africa, South America and each other.
Just before lunch I checked with Robert, the Hotel Manager on the status of my Wi-Fi account. I had received a message when I tried to login that my account had expired. Robert told me that I still had around 25mb left and that sometimes if the Wi-Fi signal is weak the message appears.
At lunch I sat with Bob I, Mike, Lynn and the Griffiths. Due to the rough sea it was a “served” lunch of Nasi Goreng, Indonesian stir fried rice with chicken, shrimp and vegetables. It did not appeal to me and asked if they could give me a salad plate. After the waitress researching it I was informed that they finally run out of lettuce. So I got an apple and orange from the fruit basket and ate that for lunch. They served Orange Sherbet for dessert. The conversation was about income taxes and what aspects of travel could be deducted by school teachers.
The afternoon documentary at 14:00 was: “What Darwin Never Knew”. It was interesting that with the advent of DNA researchers have confirmed Darwin’s findings and have expanded it to a whole new level to prove how species have developed over the years with almost identical DNA. Just a switch here and there or the small addition makes a big outward change in the evolution.
In place of the 16:30 lecture they scheduled Team Trivia. Our team “Advantage Travelers” was composed of Bob Ihsen, Lynn, Neal, Laurie, Diana and I. We won. I didn’t contribute any correct answers and contributed one wrong answer. Bob, Neal and Diana were heavy contributors of the correct answers.
Following the completion I went up to the bar. They were having special drinks but I stuck with drinking Bloody Maries. At Bob Parda’s request I showed Bon Bonifas the detailed booklet that Bob and Cathy produce for each person on each trip arranged by them. He was amazed at the detail they put into the document. The bar had run out of snacks. They had planned on adding fresh provisions at Tristan da Cunha which due to the epidemic on the island was not possible.
At the recap Jan showed us a weather forecast which indicated the sea would get smoother during the night.
The dinner was described as BBQ. On the M/V Plancius the BBQ night was outside and we sat at folded tables and the meat, corn and baked potatoes were cooked on 55 gallon drum BBQs. Because of the weather they held it in the dining room buffet style. They had small steaks, bratwurst, ribs, corn on the cob, and baked potato. I sat with Bob I, the Griffiths, Neal and Mike. They served free wine and since Bob I and the Griffiths didn’t drink I had more than one glass of red.
The movie for the night was “Birdman” which I encouraged everyone to see. I skipped it and with a little buzz from the wine I turned in early.
Thursday, April 16 2015 At Sea
I slept soundly for eight hours but woke before my 07:00 alarm. The sea was calmer with no white caps but the sky was overcast. On Jan’s wake-up call he told us that the temperature outside was in the mid-seventies. It was a lot easier to shower and shave than it had been.
The breakfast buffet had French toast, hard boiled eggs and bacon. I skipped the eggs for the French toast and a bowl of fruit mix. Our table had Bob B, Neal, Laurie, Lynn and Bob I. The conversation was about Broadway shows.
After breakfast I returned to my cabin and checked email. At 10:30 I attended Christian’s lecture on “Birding en route to St Helena and Ascension Islands”. It was not a lengthy presentation and at 11:30 Robert announced that on deck seven they were serving lemon sorbet and Champaign. Almost everyone took up his offer. On the helicopter pad they had set up folding tables but the wind was strong which made it a little difficult and occasionally the benches would turn over. The temperature was 77˚F and the sky was bright with a high overcast. I sat with Bob and Cathy, Neal and then Mike and Bob I. It was a delicious drink. We were only up there for forty minutes and then it was time for lunch.
The lunch buffet featured roast pork neck in mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes. The soup was Eggplant cream. I sat with Bob and Cathy and Bob B. The conversation initially was about the movie “Birdman” and speculation on the ending. Bob and Cathy had sat through it and couldn’t understand why it was an academy award movie. When Bob B joined us the conversation turned to the speed of the ship and when we would reach St Helena.
The afternoon documentary was “Solar Storms – The Threat to Plant Earth 2009”. It documented the research that is being performed on the sun flares and how they affect the magnetism on earth. Based on the effect a solar storm had on Quebec City when it shorted the main power system and plunged the city into darkness for nine hours the researchers predicted more to hit the earth. In retrospect it didn’t happen as they predicted.
I returned to the lecture hall at 16:30 to participate in Team Trivia. Our team of Bob Ihsen, Neal, Lynn, Diana, Laurie and I tied for first place in the first quiz and then won the runoff. They held a second round and this time three teams tied. Again we won the runoff. I didn’t contribute many of the answers, but I did know Sofia Loran’s husbands name (Carlo Ponti) and in the US states that start with “N” I contributed New Jersey, New York and New Mexico. Bob Ihsen, Neal and Diana were over all our best contributors.
Bob and Cathy hosted a get-together in their cabin to toast the wining team. At the 18:30 recap Jan showed the weather forecast and it indicated that we were heading into weather with little wind and hopefully, calm seas. He described the form we will have to fill out for the St Helena Immigration processing.
For dinner I sat with Bob & Cathy, Laurie, Paul Boelens and Magdalena Geuze from the Netherlands. The starter was Tuna salad and the main course was honey glazed duck breast. One of the guests had a birthday and they delivered a small cake to her table with all the wait staff singing happy birthday. In the process they forgot to serve dessert to our table and everyone was leaving and they came around to see if we wanted more tea or coffee and then realized the omission.
The movie was one I hadn’t seen titled “Now You See Me” with Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. So I went and found it to be very entertaining.
Friday, April 17 2015 At Sea
It was a strange night. The ship moved into calm seas and I woke up several times wondering what happened to the rocking and rolling. Jan told me at breakfast it was the calmest night of the trip. It was nice to shower and shave without having to hold on to a grab bar.
I had to retrieve my passport from the front desk and fill out an immigration form for landing at St Helena. We were due to arrive Sunday so we still have two full sea days to go.
The breakfast buffet featured scrambled eggs, baked beans and sausage. I sat with Neal, the Griffiths, Bob Brown and Ginette Vachon. The day before was Ginette’s birthday and when they delivered the cake and sang Happy Birthday most of the people in the dining room didn’t know her name.
I returned to my cabin to check email and update my journal. Jan announced that he was repeating the documentary on “What Darwin Never Knew”. I skipped it and walked out on deck. When I reentered the bar Jan was getting a cup of coffee and we chatted. He told me he was going to rendezvous with his family in Portugal after he leaves the ship in Cape Verde. He will have a short time before he goes out again on a charter to islands in the Arctic area that he hadn’t visited before.
I attempted to logon to Wi-Fi and discovered my megabytes were expired. This cruise has been frustrating for my use of Wi-Fi. Every time I was able to connect I would get disconnected before I was able to perform any action yet large amounts of megabytes would be used. It appears that Facebook was using up large chunks. Some of the newspaper applications were also using up large chunks and I could not turn off the push unless I was logged in and I kept getting disconnected before I could turn off the push.
At 10:30 I attended a presentation by Brent on Freak Waves. Brent had been on a ship that was hit by a freak wave and he showed pictures and told us about his experience and then showed a BBC documentary on “Freak Waves”. It was kind of scary stuff because they are unpredictable.
Lunch was tomato and egg drop soup, sweet and sour pork over steamed rice with butter cake with Nutella icing for dessert. I sat with Bob and Cathy and Bob B. The conversation was about the Freak Waves presentation which we had just attended.
At 13:30 we assembled on the helicopter pad for group photos. First they took a picture of all the passengers, then TCC members, TBT members, MTP members, 2012 alumni from South Georgia, and finally Advantage Travel passengers. The sun was bright and it was windy so the men and woman with long hair had it flying all over the place.
Following the group picture taking I attended the BBC documentary on “The Transit of Venus”. An event that rarely happens and how it helped in defining our universe. It raised some questions about the possibility of life on other planets.
At 16:30 Bob Parda gave a lecture on “Techniques and Tools of the Early Navigators”. It was well received by those who attended. Following Bob’s presentation I went to the bar to attend the daily recap. The forecast was to continue to have good weather and we should arrive in St Helena Sunday morning. Bob Brown gave us a short presentation on flying fish that some of the passengers had seen during the day.
I sat with Bob and Cathy, Laurie and the twins at dinner. They served a mini pizza followed by pan fried trout filet with a potato pancake and cream spinach. Dessert was chocolate pudding. I was sitting at the end of the table while the twins were at the other end and I didn’t catch a lot of the conversation.
The movie was “The Wolf of Wall Street” which I had seen so I skipped it and returned to my cabin. Judy had sent an email that I responded to. After checking my email I went up to the bar and copied the group pictures to a thumb drive. I stayed for a while talking to Dr. Lise van Turenhout and Elliot about the TCC, travel into Mogadishu and Saudi Arabia.
Saturday, April 18 2015 At Sea
It was a smooth night. I woke up exactly eight hours after I turned out the light the night before. It was before my 07:00 alarm. I lay there enjoying the gentle roll of the ship until the alarm sounded. It was a bright sunny day with some clouds but the sea had no white caps.
At breakfast I had pancakes and sat with Lynn, Bob I, Bob B and the Griffiths. Bob B had watched the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” the night before and told us very few people stayed to the end of the three hours. We talked about movies, visiting Iwo Jima and Wake Island, “Unbroken” and how Bob B got into the Security business.
I returned to my cabin and wrote emails to Judy and Wendy.
The effectiveness of my patch must have diminished because I started to have a head ache again so I visited the doctor and obtained some Paracetamol tablets which cured the headache.
I attended Victoria’s lecture on “A History of St Helena minus Napoleon”. Although St Helena is generally known to the world as the “prison camp” for Napoleon, Victoria that she should first tell us about the island both before and after the period of his imprisonment and then Bob Brown will lecture us on the period of his imprisonment later in the day. The island has had a turbulent history and I found it odd how different it was compared to similar islands like Bermuda and the British Caribbean islands. Victoria implied that a lot had to do with the talents and personalities of the Governors in charge of the islands. They didn’t have much luck with strong intelligent leaders assigned as Governors of the island.
After the lecture Jan announced that we were to return our boots to the Lecture Room. It was a sure indication that the trip was nearing the end.
They “served” lunch. I don’t know why because the ship was not rocking and rolling. The soup was Cream of zucchini and the main was Beef lasagna with tomato sauce. For dessert the served Mandarin cake. I sat with JoAnn, Laurie, Bob and Cathy. We talked a lot about Costco. Laurie’s Costco is reported to be the busiest in the chain. We also talked about Asian Markets and Howard Johnson and their clam and lobster rolls.
The 14:00 documentary was “Earth Under Water”. It discussed what would happen to the world if all the ice melted. One scientist predicted that building barriers to hold back the rising sea would be one of the major employers of people in the future. They predicted that there was not much that can be done to save Miami and it will be difficult to save New Orleans, but surprising to me they predicted that California could be saved by building a dam across the Golden Gate and the Mediterranean cities saved by a dam between Gibraltar and Africa.
After the documentary I was interviewed by Harry for a “The Best Traveled Magazine” published each month on the TBT web site.
We then had a very interesting lecture by Bob Brown on “Napoleon & St Helena”. He actually covered all of Napoleon’s life leading up to his imprisonment on the island in addition to his life on the island. It was a lot to cover in a little over an hour.
After the lecture I went to the bar and talked with Bob B and Bob Parda until Jan gave the recap which was more of a talk on the next day’s schedule and activities on St Helena.
Dinner was smoked salmon tartar, roasted lamb loin and mango mousse. I sat with Neal, Bob and Cathy, Mike and Laurie. Again I was on the end and didn’t get deeply involved in the conversation until there was a debate over who was on Bob, Cathy and Mike’s trivia team the first day. Mike and Bob thought it was Harry. Cathy didn’t think so. Some bets were made and to help solve the argument I got up and went around the corner to where Harry was sitting and asked him if he had participated in team trivia. His answer was no. When I returned and told the group Cathy was excited and whooped it up. The table next to us where Lynn, Bob I, Bob B, the Griffiths and Diana were sitting complained that we were making too much noise.
After dinner I attended the movie “All Is Lost” with Robert Redford. It is interesting in that he is the only actor in the movie and he doesn’t speak any lines.
Sunday, April 19 2015 St. Helena
I slept soundly until 04:30 and thought why am I awaking at this time? It seemed like just a few minutes passed and my alarm went off at 06:00. There was a beautiful red and orange sunrise by a bank of clouds covered the sun itself. I showered and shaved with little trouble even though we were still cruising toward St Helena Island. Since we were going ashore I dressed in my travel clothes which meant a Royal Robins shirt with hidden pockets and North Face pants that I could zip off the bottom half of the legs to turn into shorts if it was too warm ashore. I put my passport and money in a hidden pocket to go ashore but I could not find a copy of my insurance.
Breakfast was at 07:00. I had a bowl of cereal and ate with Bob I, Laurie, Lynn and the Griffiths. I asked if anyone had seen the movie “All Is Lost”. Laurie had so she skipped watching it the night before. Lynn asked me why when he deletes an email on his desktop it is still on his iPad so we had a little discussion about emails and smart phones. All the others at the table still had flip cell phones and don’t receive email on their phones. As we were sitting there I was showing Beverly my smart phone email folders when the thought hit me that I might have a copy of the insurance form in my email. Sure enough the insurance had been revised just before I left on the trip and I had not printed it out which is why I couldn’t find a copy put it was visible in my email.
I returned to my cabin and waited for the announcement to pick up our lunch. When they announced that we could pick up our lunch I went down and retrieved it. Back in my cabin I packed my water proof back pack with the lunch and an extra pair of socks in case my feet get wet boarding the zodiac to go ashore. I had time to kill so I gathered up all my cold weather gear and put it in one place.
Almost everyone went out on deck to see us finally reach the harbor and drop anchor. The M/V Plancius was already in the harbor and I had Frank Rainer take my picture next to a life ring with Ortelius and the Plancius in the background. I took a lot of pictures of the island and the buildings we could see from the ship. The sky was overcast and light rain showers intermittently passed by. It was not looking like a good day to sight see but after eighteen days at sea we were all anxiously waiting.
Eventually we were cleared to go ashore at 10:30. I don’t how it happened but I ended up in the first zodiac to leave the ship. The two ladies from the cabin next to mine on the ship (Kain Sinniger and Carin Smit) had made arrangements to go scuba diving at 10:00 and were very concerned that the dive boat would not wait for them. The harbor landing area was very busy because the M/V Plancius was also ferrying passengers to shore but HMS St Helena was also in port off-loading cargo containers. On our first attempt to off load passengers at a ladder we were waved off to allow us to dock at a place with concrete stairs. The two scuba divers were upset and then to compound their anxiety when the stairs were clear the second zodiac docked first. We then docked at 11:00 and climbed the stairs, dropped our life jackets and proceeded to board a 16 passenger bus for the island tour. Five of the Advantage Travel “family” boarded the same bus. I sat in the front row next to Flip. Bob I and Steve Newcomer sat in the front seat next to the driver. Bob and Cathy and Laurie were also on the bus along with Victoria, Frank Rainer, Harry and Thomas. The bus driver was named Jeffrey John Joshua, owner of Joshua Taxi service.
The main part of Jamestown is bordered on two sides by steep slopes. Our bus took us along the James Bay water front to the Town Gate where we turned southeast through a town square with the Court House and Library on the east side and the Museum and Church on the west side. We rode up Main Street to a fork in the road which we took Napoleon Street to the left and rode up a narrow road with a mountainous slope on our left (east side) and a low stone wall on our right. Occasionally the road widened so vehicles coming down the mountain could turn in to let the vehicles climbing pass.
About ten minutes into the tour we stopped to take pictures of the buildings below. One of the clusters of buildings had a large antenna. Jeffrey told us that it was the communications center and that cell phone coverage was under development on the island. Across the road to the left was a group of houses where Napoleon initially stayed when he arrived on the island. The island administration had no advanced warning that Napoleon was going to be exiled on the island and had to scramble to find a place for him to stay. Ten minutes later we stopped at Napoleon’s tomb.
The tomb was located down a long grass road to an observation point overlooking the tomb in a flat grass circle surrounded by slopes on three sides. In the middle of the circle was a stone slab with a black metal fence. The following describes the area:
Napoleon did a few trips round the Sane Valley, just west of Longwood; the landscape here pleased him and he enjoyed walking in it. The valley offered a spring of pure water, which was carried to the house in pails, and lush foliage with cannas, begonias and geranium flowering. The views down the valley to the sea were also beautiful, today just glimpsed through the plentiful trees. Some willows grew in the area, their leaves trembling in the breeze, and fleshy yams added to the abundance. The impact on Napoleon was such that a few days before he died, he confided to Bertrand “In the event that orders are given for my body to remain in the island bury me in the shade of the willows near the spring.”
His wishes were respected, and on 9th May 1821, at about midday, the fourfold coffin was carried by eight soldiers down the rural path. General Montholon asked that the following inscription be engraved on it in French.
Born at Ajaccio August 15, 1769
Died at St Helena May 5, 1821
The Governor declined, insisting that Bonaparte be added. So the French decided to leave the stone bare.
After the interment the tomb was guarded by sentries – simply a precaution to prevent the removal of the exile’s body – until the day when the “Belle Poule” expedition, sent by King Louis Philippe, restored the body to France.
Extract from the St. Helena Archives “… Everything being prepared for the important operation at ½ past 12 O’clock, in the morning of the 15th October, the 25th anniversary of the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte, at St. Helena, the first blow was struck, which was to open the Grave, where He had slept the sleep of Death, during nearly a quarter of a Century, in order that his Mortal Remains might be carried to France, to repose, as he had so emphatically desired, in his dying Testament, on the Banks of the Seine in the midst of the people he had so much loved.”
Thirty minutes later we started up again to ride fifteen minutes to Longwood House. There across the road from the gate to the house we parked in a large grass field. On the opposite side of the field was a long low building with the sign “Longwood Supermarket”.
I crossed the road and walked through beautiful gardens to the Longwood House front porch. There those that had camera bags had to store them on the porch before entering the house. No photographs were allowed inside. We entered the house into the “billiard room”. There was no billiard table because it was out for restoration. We were told Napoleon didn’t play billiards but liked to use the large flat surface to spread out his maps and papers as he wrote his autobiography. We had a tour of the house led by Irene a very short lady. She showed the bed Napoleon died in, his normal bed room, his bathtub which he reported to spend a lot of time just relaxing in the water while he read or wrote.
When we finished the tour many of us retrieved our sandwiches from our back packs and planned on eating at the picnic tables near the bus but the driver wanted to stay on schedule so we ate in the bus as he drove to the airport construction site. We could see the north end of the runway which started at the edge of a cliff. The Omni Directional Radio (VOR) station looked like it was complete near the north end of the runway. There was a hill blocking our view of the south end of the runway so it was impossible to see the full length of the runway and if there was a cliff at that end also. I had read somewhere that the runway is not designed for wide body aircraft more intended for B-737-800 single aisle size aircraft.
After a photo stop we then rode past the islands on a golf course. I was surprised to see that the sand traps were red dirt traps. I guess the island doesn’t have sandy beaches they could obtain sand for the golf course. There were a number of golfers playing as we rode by.
Our next stop was Plantation House the Governor’s quarters. There on the northeast edge of the grounds surrounding the house was a path which led to “Butcher’s Grave”. As we walked along the path on the left was a tennis court which was down a slope from the house. Two of the six Giant Tortoises were seen sunning themselves on the slope between the tennis court and the house. They each have a name and I wasn’t able to determine which of the six we were watching. The oldest is reported to be 183 years old and was originally from the Seychelles.
We walked along the path to a set of steps leading down to the Butcher’s Grave. I had spent too much time photographing the Giant Tortoises so I didn’t have time to go all the way to the Butcher’s Grave. We rode another ten minutes to the top of Jacob’s Ladder. I took a few pictures and then decided to walk down the 699 steps. It took me fifteen minutes. The Griffiths had started before I did and Beverly’s legs gave way and she had to sit down several times but she made it to the bottom where several people picked her up and sat her in a chair and then carried the chair to the museum. She recovered in a few minutes and was able to walk around the town.
I headed to Ann’s Place where there had Wi-Fi service. When I got there I found Renie and Lisa from the Plancius having a beer with Brent. Don Parrish was also there. I had Brent take my picture with Renie and then I purchased an hour of Wi-Fi time and proceeded to download emails on my smart phone. I had over 500 cartoons, 40 Facebook postings and over 200 emails. I scanned the emails and read the important ones. I tried to call Judy on Vonage but it didn’t ring through. Bob and Cathy arrived looking for Mike and I kept using my precious hour of Wi-Fi. When it ended I joined Bob and Cathy for a beer and then it was time to return to the ship.
Dimitri was our zodiac driver for the trip back to the ship and again he lost his cool and didn’t instruct us what he wanted us to do when we reached the ship. This time he was upset with Bob Parda who was sitting in the forward position and attempted to help stabilize the zodiac when it hit the gangway. Dimitri gunned the engine and turned sharply away from the gangway almost tipping several of us overboard. He approached again and told everyone to sit still and then he went up to the bow and stabilized the zodiac and helped the passengers exit the zodiac.
I returned to my cabin and took a shower. I was still soaking wet from the walk down Jacob’s Ladder. After my shower I went out on deck and took pictures of the immigration party boarding the ship and then exiting the ship. I returned to my cabin and heard the anchor chain several times and so I investigated and was told the chain had gotten twisted and we were not departing.
Bob and Cathy hosted a get together at 18:00 in their cabin. Bob B and Don also attended. Bob read us a draft of a letter he planned to submit to the TCC Board relaxing the rules on physically touching a destination to get credit when situation like we experienced at Bouvet Island a circumnavigation of the island should count. The letter was discussed with no conclusion.
Jan’s recap interrupted the discussion and we all proceeded to the bar to hear about the status of the ship. Jan explained that “technical problem” was preventing the ship’s engine to start and they were working on a fix.
Dinner was a buffet with chicken breast with a mustard coating and/or salmon filet with hollandaise sauce. I sat with the Griffiths, Lynn, Laurie and Bob B. Bob B ordered a bottle of Champagne which he generously shared with Laurie and I. The conversation ranged from what is wrong with the ship to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Nuclear missiles, to unions. After dinner I went up to the deck outside the bar to determine if anyone had thoughts on what is wrong. They didn’t and when Jan announced the start oif the movie which is “Still Alice” which I had seen twice he told us there was no news on the ships movement to report.
At 23:30 the ship started up again and Jan announced on the intercom that the “technical issue” had been solved and we were on our way to Ascension Island.
Monday, April 20 2015 At Sea
I woke to my 07:00 alarm and had a tough time getting out of bed. The muscles in my legs were cramping up from the walk down the 699 steps of Jacobs Ladder on Sunday. The sea was very smooth and the ship is very stable, not much different than when we were anchored in St Helena’s harbor. I had to look out the window to confirm that we were in fact moving. On Jan’s wakeup announcement he told us there was a tail wind and we were cruising at almost 12kts. The temperature was 75˚F. It was an easy shower and shave with so little motion of the ship.
The breakfast eggs were poached with a dribble of Hollandaise sauce on top. I sat at the front table with Lynn, Bob I and Bob B. Bob B was discussing with the Lynn and Bob I his companies use of VW Jetta with diesel engines which get about 40mpg. Bob I asked Bob B why it costs his historical society $100 for their alarm company to change a battery in the building. Bob B went into a discussion on the cost of labor. The Laurie joined us at the other end of the table from Bob B and Lynn. The latter two continued to discuss labor costs while Laurie and Bob I talked about a tour in Praia that Neal had arranged through Klaus. Laurie and Bob I told me that I looked tired which I was.
I returned to my cabin and processed email and wrote in my journal. Jan announced a meeting at 09:30 in the bar to explain the “technical issue” that prevented the ship departing St Helena on schedule. The explanation was the ship’s propeller pitch was stuck in the maximum pitch position and the mechanism to control the pitch had to be repaired.
At 10:30 Victoria presented: “A History of Ascension Island Part 1 – The Early Years”. Unlike other Atlantic islands Ascension was void of vegetation and easy access to fresh water when discovered. For a long time it did not have very many inhabitants. The British classified it as a ship so ship’s law prevailed and any children born on the island were considered to be born in London, England. Victoria went on to tell us about the island’s discovery and the staining of British Troops during imprisonment of Napoleon to guard against any attempts to rescue him.
The ship was able to restock salad items on St. Helena so I had a delicious lunch starting with French onion soup and a large salad with marinated roasted chicken and ending with a bunch of grapes and cheese.
Following lunch at 14:00 we were shown two black-and-white film clips from the 1950s and early 1960s about Tristan da Cunha – one showing the volcanic eruption and evacuation of the islanders, the other put together by the ‘Society for the Propagation of the Gospel’, who regularly sent missionaries to Tristan.
At 16:30 we had another Team Trivia session and that time our team did not win. We lost a question regarding the ranks in the English royalty.
Dinner was a BBQ on deck at 18:30 so Jan had his recap at 18:00. He reported that the ship was traveling at 12kts and his gross estimate was we would reach Ascension Island during the morning of the 22nd. Following his briefing Kain Sinniger showed some slides that she and the ship’s chief took scuba dining at St Helena. We then adjourned to climb up to the seventh deck where a free bar and tables were setup for dinner. They cooked the dinner in 55 gallon drum BBQ grills on deck 6 and served it buffet style on deck 7. I sat with the Griffiths, Neal and Bob I. Bob B joined our table across from me and we talked about the upcoming flight from Ascension to Brize Norton RAFB.
Following dinner I went to the Lecture Room to watch the movie “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. It was a two and one half hour show so I didn’t stay and returned to my cabin and started packing my cold weather gear in my small suit case.
Tuesday, April 21 2015 At Sea
I was still feeling aches and cramps from my walk down Jacob’s Ladder, when I woke up before 07:00. I processed email and then took a shower and shaved. There was only a slight roll of the ship so it was easy to keep my balance without having to hold on to the grab bar. Waiting for breakfast to start I continued to pack my cold weather gear in my small suit case.
At breakfast I sat with Bob B, Bob I, Lynn and Carole Ann. The buffet was French toast and crisp bacon. The conversation was about the Team Trivia since Carole Ann was on the winning team.
We only had a short time before the first Lecture Room activity which was a presentation by Kain Sinniger on Diving around the World. She showed slides from dives in 129 countries. Following her presentation Frank Grosse-Oetringhaus on the Peter 1st Island visit by helicopters that took place from the Ortelius just before the leg we were cruising on. They used Chilean helicopters to fly passengers from the Ortelius to the island.
When I returned to my cabin I found the bill for Wi-Fi, ship email account and drinks on the cruise. I spent less than $10 per day which surprised me because I spent a lot with very little return on the stupid Wi-Fi.
The buffet lunch had Corn Chowder for the soup, Beef Ragout with rice and green salad (no tomatoes) plus the Cheese board for dessert. I sat with Neal, Mike, Bob P (Cathy was not feeling well) and Dan and Marilyn Walker. Dan discussed the experiences he has had driving his Rolls Royce across Russia. We talked about Lucas auto electrics and I showed pictures of my MG.
After lunch I went up to the bar to copy Sara’s questionnaire to a thumb drive. While on the computer I added Bob Bonifas to the email list and then tried to help Harold copy the group pictures to his SD card. Before we could complete the copy the front desk announced that 5th deck cabins should settle their bill. I went down and completed the transaction and returned to the bar and helped Harold. Bob Parda arrived to copy the files to his SD card. It took a little finagling but we finally were able to complete both transfers.
At 15:30 they held another Team Trivia competition. We came in last. I disagreed with the answer they gave for the US Vice President’s residence. I think it is the Naval Observatory. They said it was Blair House.
Christian gave a lecture at 16:30 on: Sea birds to Extinction – the South American View. Christian has been on the Argentina conservation committee and his presentation was to first show us the problem of birds getting caught and killed in fishing nets or long line fishing. He showed statistics of the decline in bird population in the Antarctica region. Then he described several methods that fishing boats are being encouraged to use to reduce the danger to birds.
After Christian’s lecture I went up to the bar to get ready for the 18:00 Farewell gathering and toast to the Captain and staff. Jan briefed us on the next day’s activities and handed out a schedule. He also gave each passenger a certificate stating we had circumnavigated Bouvet Island. They added a ‘s’ to my middle name so Jan said he will print a new certificate.
I stopped in my cabin before dinner and found Judy had emailed me so I answered her message and proceeded to dinner. There was one seat open at the table with the Griffiths, Lynn, Bob I and Bob B. The served an outstanding dinner for our last dinner on the ship. It started with Sashimi followed by a Tuna loin filet on a bed of mashed potatoes and broccoli and finished with Baked Alaska. We discussed if we should count visiting Bouvet since we have a certificate stating that we had circumnavigated the island. Bob B said yes to TCC but no to MTP. Lynn said he wasn’t going to count it and I said I would because I don’t see MTP and TBT as clubs and competition to see can visit the most places. I see them as a list of places to visit and just because I didn’t touch a wet rock on a narrow beach I feel I visited Bouvet and I have a certificate to prove it.
After dinner I went up to the bar and copied the trip log to a thumb drive and then proceeded to the Lecture Room to see Frank Rainer’s slide show on the trip.
Wednesday, April 22 2015 Ascension Island – Day 1
I woke up excited that I just spent the last night on the ship. I still had some packing to do. The biggest issue with using a CPAP is I have to pack it in my suit case first. So until I wake up I can’t pack. The night before I did pack a lot of items and laid them out on the spare bed so once I showered and shaved and packed my toilet kit I could start on the main bag with the toilet kit and CPAP first. Shirts and pants in a packet next, then the under wear/t-shirt packet next. The rest of the odds and ends were then stuffed along the sides and end of the bag.
For breakfast I had a fried egg and sat with Lynn, Mike, Bob I, Bob B and Carole Ann. The talk was about travel experiences to Afghanistan and Iraq. When I finished eating I returned to my room and finished packing. Then the long wait to go to shore started.
The first announcement was to pick-up a box lunch to eat on shore. Next we had to complete an Arrival form and turn it in to the front desk. The sea was a little rough and we could see high waves breaking on the shore. After a little trouble connecting to the gangway the Immigration Officials came on board and we were asked to turn in our passports. Eventually we were given back our passports and form. The sea was still rough and the Immigration longboat could not connect to the gangway and after several attempts it backed away and the Immigration Officials boarded a zodiac and the zodiac took them to their long boat.
Jan and the staff boarded zodiacs to scout the landing situation. A good sign was soon they started to lower cargo bags full of our luggage into zodiac s and ferry our luggage to shore. I still had my laptop carry on and had out the straps so it was a heavy back pack. With my box lunch which was actually in a bag and not a box I had a small backpack in my front. When we lined up to leave the ship I ended up in one of the last zodiacs with Brent as the driver. I was happy to see it was Brent because I consider him the best driver. Before we went down the gangway they warned us that it might be a wet boarding and a wet landing. Some of the people took their socks off. I was so laden down I decided to go with the flow. Brent was masterful in connecting with the gangway and I was able to board with only getting a shoe lace wet. At the dock he was masterful again and drove the zodiac up the wall and held it there so I had a dry landing. I then had to retrieve my luggage and wheel it to the Customs office.
I thought I needed a form that I couldn’t locate. I search all through my paperwork and couldn’t find it so I was the last one to clear customs. When I got to the x-ray machine I couldn’t find my Arrival form. Eventually I found it and was clear to go. Outside the Customs building I waited with the group from my zodiac for the bus to the hotel. I had been embarrassed having two bags plus the heavy carryon but I found that the others had even more luggage. The scuba divers had a lot of bags and Flip had several large bags I think associated with his work. Any way it was difficult to load them all in the bus and my biggest bag and I sat in the front seat. When we got to the hotel Lynn had already checked in so I didn’t have to get in line to register and just lugged my bags up the stairs to our room. We were assigned a suite with two rooms. One room with an air conditioner and two beds and the other room without an air conditioner but had a desk where I set up my laptop.
The ship had arranged an island tour that started at 13:15 so after dumping my luggage in the room I waited in the lobby for the tour bus with Lynn. Bob and Cathy joined us and a Range Rover arrived and the driver jumped out and apologized for the vehicles. His name was Andy and with him was Stephon. Andy was the leader of the tour and we rode in his vehicle. He told us that a bus they usually use was down for repairs so his conservation staff members were driving Range Rovers with four or five people and smaller vehicles in a sort of convoy for the tour.
We returned to the Customs building and there were the rest of the vehicles waiting for him to lead the way. The tour drove through the town, through the US Air Force Base, past the Wideawake Airfield runway which had a Royal Air Force Air Refueling plane on the ramp, through the Royal Air Force Base which they call the Main Base out to the Wideawake Fairs where we stopped. On foot we walked down toward Shelly Beach where the Sooty Tern (wide-awake) colony of more than 1 million breeding pairs resides. It was quite a sight. On our left was a rocky ridge of volcanic rock with no birds but on our right was a vast field of smaller rocks with white bird poo and thousands of birds just sitting while thousands more flew overhead. It looked like seagulls swarming a garbage dump near the sea in the US. I took a number of pictures and returned to the Range Rover.
The tour then went back past the runway and up a hair pin road that had turns so sharp that the four wheel drive Range Rover had to stop and back up to make the turn. The road was leading us up Green Mountain, the high peak on the island, that Darwin recommended be planted with trees to capture the moisture in the clouds that shroud the mountain. His recommendation was enacted by a series of gardeners on assignment from England. The result is a rain forest on the top of the mountain with banana trees, Norfolk Pines, eucalyptus and other trees and bushes. We parked next to a concrete building that the serves as a Conservation Center. It contains a small historical museum and was originally built to house British Marines that were tasked with gathering water for the garrison below, and Georgetown.
Parking was a problem and some of the smaller cars had to park along the road so some of the passengers had to walk up to the Conservation Center. Andy then gave a briefing on the Conservation activities and we broke up into small groups. I went with a group into one of three Green Houses on the grounds. They experiment by growing different plants in the local soil and see which species takes to the soil and climate and if they do they are then transplanted around the island.
We spent an hour at the center and then boarded our vehicles for the trip down the winding road to the bottom of the mountain. Andy had told us that the island Administrator lived on the mountain with his young wife and 5 children and on the way down she passed us going up the hill with five children in the car including a baby. She smiled and happily waved to Andy as she drove by. It is just a three year assignment and her husband hasn’t completed the first year. I guess there could be worst postings.
We rode through Two Boats Village and passed the only school on the island. They have 92 students across all grades. Andy’s wife was one of the teachers. Near the One Boat Golf Club we came upon a rock by the side of the road covered with paint. The story goes that when you leave the island you paint the stone and if you return you die.
The golf course is reported to be the worst in the world with rolled oil sand for greens which isn’t unique but I guess it is not up to Armco in Saudi Araba’s standards. The fairways are rough. Our next stop was Cross Hill when there are four cannons with a view of Georgetown and the harbor. Two of the cannon were actually fired during WW II at a Nazi submarine. It turned out it was a ruse by the Nazi’s to make the British think there were a “wolf pack” of submarines cruising in the area when in fact there was just the one. The result was the British kept more ships in the area than was needed.
The area was called Fort Bedford and was constructed between 1903 and 1906. It was the most modern of three naval forts on the island, and originally housed two six-inch guns. All of the forts were deactivated after WWI, and their guns removed. With the start of WWII, Fort Bedford was re-armed, by fitting two 5.5-inch guns from HMS Hood. The Fort remained active until 1953, when HMS Sparrow called to service the guns, and to remove any live ammunition.
From Cross Hill we rode down to through Georgetown to the Ascension Island Museum. Our tour ended at 17:00. We bid farewell to Andy and spent some time touring the museum. From the museum I walked back to town and stopped at a bar where Mike and Neal were drinking beer. I joined them for one and returned to the hotel.
I had the hotel buffet dinner at 19:00. After dinner I joined a group that walked down to the turtle breeding beach to see if we could see some turtles laying eggs. Our guide found a nest of newly hatched turtles. Flash photos and flashlights were prohibited. The guide had a red light and I could see the baby turtles but it was difficult to take pictures of them. At one point a baby turtle crawled on my shoe and I was able to take a picture of it. There was a rather large crowd so I finally gave up and returned to the hotel and purchased a one day Wi-Fi card. Back in my room I found the Wi-Fi to be slow but I left my lap top on when I went to bed to be able to down load my email from being away for 30 days.
Thursday, April 23 2015 Ascension Island – Day 2
I woke without an alarm and showered and shaved before attending the hotel buffet breakfast. Some of the people from the boat had gotten up before dawn and were able to see the turtles leaving their nests and returning to the sea. Steve had been able to take some good pictures.
Lynn and I had rented a car to tour the island, so after breakfast we left the hotel to tour the island. He had me drive since I had more experience with a right hand drive stick shift but Lynn had to keep reminding me to drive on the left side of the road after stopping. There were very few cars on the road but there were stop signs and intersections. But at one point we were stopped by a donkey that was standing in the middle of the rode and would not move until we gingerly drove past it.
We first drove out to Comfortless Bay where there was a swimming beach. A zodiac from the MV Plancius tied up on the beach and a group was swimming in the bay. We were amazed at the number of antennas we saw. Our next stopping point was English Bay where a number of scuba boats were moored off the beach. We also saw a number of wind generating towers.
The road back from the bays lead us past the One Boat Golf Club and up the hill to Two Boats Village were we stopped to have lunch at the Two Boats Club. It was noon and we had to order our lunch from the bar and it would be delivered to us. We ordered a beer and wondered around the club area which included a swimming pool, a lighted basketball/tennis court with high screen sides, a Skittles Ally, a large area.
While we were waiting for our food we met a couple from Boston that had arrived on the Plancius and were staying in VOQ quarters on the USAF Auxiliary Air Field. They had found that retired military could stay, “space available” on the base and fly “space available” on a USAF plane to Patrick AFB, FL. He was a retired Naval officer and told us that the Air Force Auxiliary Air Field has only three active duty personnel, and up to 300 contractors. He was invited to the commander’s morning briefing.
Before we were served our ordered meal Bob, Cathy and Mike arrived and then a tour group from the Plancius arrived. A buffet was set up for them and they took priority in the kitchen and we had a long wait before we received our food.
After our lunch we returned to our tour of the island stopping at the Air Force Auxiliary Air Field Base Exchange. There was some debate over allowing us to purchase items using our US Military ID cards but they finally agreed to let us purchase some goodies. We then returned to the hotel
For dinner we drove back to the Volcano Club next to the Air Force Auxiliary Air Field. We had several beers with Bob, Cathy and Mike and then had a pizza in the snack bar.
After dinner we returned to the hotel. I attempted to log on the Internet and found that it was down throughout the hotel area. The surge of users had crashed the Telecom server. I spent some time writing my journal and went to bed early.
Friday, April 24 2015 Fly to Brize Norton RAFB, Oxfordshire, UK
I set my alarm to wake me before sunrise and by 06:15 I was out at the Turtle Nesting Beach taking pictures of the turtles crawling slowly to the sea. Initially in the dark I didn’t get sharp pictures but by 06:30 there was enough light to take some good pictures as they disappeared in the waves on their way back to their breeding grounds off the coast of Brazil.
By 08:00 I had returned to the hotel to eat breakfast. I had cereal and toast and then returned to my room to shower, shave and pack. At 09:30 Lynn and I hopped in our rental car to continue to explore the island. Our first stop was to get gas. There is only one gas station on the island and it was out of town on the road to Two Boats Village. Continuing on to the Village we turned north east on a road called Watsons Way. It was an avenue of “Casuarinas” planted by Tom Watson in the period 1979 to 1983. There were 250 trees planted at approximately 100 foot intervals. The road ended at North East Point.
At one point on the way back we stopped to take pictures of a red crab crossing the road and at another point we saw a small heard of goats grazing along the road. We passed Two Boats Village again and took the road to Devils Ashpit. It was a windy road out to the old NASA Tracking Station. The main building is still there and is used by the Boy Scouts. The Tracking Station was built in 1965. By 1978 the typical staff was almost 80 with a mix of US personnel and St Helenians that lived on the Air Force Auxiliary Air Field. Many unconfirmed local rumors state that Neil Armstrong’s first words upon landing on the moon’s surface were relayed to Mission Control after being received by this station. The spot had a great view of the Southeast side of the island. I guess the last use of the site was indicated by a decal on the door stating: NASA GSFC, Simulation and Compatibility Test Brach, Testing SIMS CTV. In the center of the decal was a picture of the space shuttle and a satellite.
After walking around the site we drove back to the Royal Air Force Base and toured Wideawake Airfield. There was a RAF C-17 parked on the ramp. From the RAFB we drove to the Air Force Auxiliary Air Base where I stopped to read the description of the building of the airfield. The plans for a US Military airfield started right at the start of the US involvement in World War II. In March 1942 construction started on the airfield and supporting facilities. The 6000 foot long runway was finished ahead of schedule and dedicated on July 10, 1942. The first aircraft to land on the field occurred on June 11th when a British aircraft from the carrier HMS Archer intending to drop a message to the C&W office opted to land on the new runway instead shortly after suffering the indignity of being shot at by friendly forces. Over 20,000 aircraft passed through between South America and Africa. In May 1947 the US the island but returned in 1957 to become part of the USAF Eastern Test Range.
We planned on eating lunch at the Volcano Snack Bar but discovered it didn’t open until 16:30 so we returned to Two Boats Village Club for lunch where we were joined by the couple from Boston again.
This time our food arrived shortly after our order was submitted. We had a leisurely lunch and then returned to hotel to check out and turn our car in by 17:00. At 18:00 the hotel bus drove us to the airfield. We were the first group to arrive and were told the staff to check us in had not arrived. When they did arrive they processed military passengers first and then the tourists.
We were checked in by 18:30 but the plane didn’t arrive until 20:00. When it did all the passengers (the plane was coming from the Falkland Islands) had to get off while the plane was refueled. They were eventually allowed to board about 21:30 and then we were called to board. When we were called women, children and those with disabilities were called first. Elliot produced a cane and joined the group to board first. We all joked about he took advantage of the situation and Mike remarked to him as he walked by that he didn’t appear to have any trouble on the cruse climbing stairs and getting in and out zodiacs.
When I boarded I discovered I was assigned an aisle seat on the right side of the middle four seats in the second row of the tourist section. The plane was an Airbus 330-243 charter operated by AirTanker. Next to me was Elliot! I put on my Bose headset and neck pillow. We took off ten minutes early at 22:25. Elliot didn’t say anything to me for the longest time and after they served the meal he asked me what time we had taken off. Then the woman in the seat in front of me asked to be relocated. That first row had a wide aisle in front of it and she couldn’t store her bag at her feet. Elliot then asked to take her seat so I had an empty seat next to me for most of the flight.
In the evening of April 24, depart at 22:00 from Ascension Island and fly with the scheduled RAF (Royal Air Force) flight to Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, UK arriving April 25 around 8:00 AM. We will update the flight status once we arrive on the island (RAF Ascension Passenger Information tel 247-3319). Please consult your individual itineraries for your flight connections home. You may need an overnight in London. Bob & Cathy leave with this group.
Saturday, April 25 2015
We landed at Brize Norton RAFB Oxfordshire, UK at 07:45. I think I slept about five hours. Getting our luggage and processing into the country was quick and there was a desk where we signed up and received a free ticket for a bus to Heathrow. Lynn, Mike, Bob and Cathy were on the bus. I sat in back of Bob across the aisle from Frank Grosse-Oetringhaus. I had had very little contact with him on the cruise. I knew he had been on the segment before we departed Ushuaia. We then got into a lengthy discussion about his travels. He does not subscribe to any of the clubs defining there places to visit as just places to cross a border and not necessarily see the sights and taste the foods in places around the world. He is taking off on Patricia Schultz’s book: “1000 Places To See Before You Die”, Frank and his Thai partner Teodoro Murallon are writing a book: “10,000 Places To See in Ten Years”. They are traveling the world full time to document the 10,000 places.
Bob and I had quite a lively discussion with him. I challenged his list of places by asking him what he considered the places to visit in Ohio and when he dismissed the Football Hall of Fame as not relevant for a world traveler, and the National Museum of the USAF as not one of the great aircraft museums in the world and didn’t consider the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame he lost all credibility with me. His one Ohio attraction to visit in his book will be the state fair. We moved on to New York and he stated he does include the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Museum at Bethel Woods but not the Woodstock Museum. I was left with the opinion that his list is a representation of his tastes and are no more pertinent than using the TCC, MTP or TBT lists of places to visit coupled with the Lonely Planet Guides as to what to do during a visit. If he enjoys traveling the world and has the money to visit 10,000 places then so be it. I am perfectly satisfied using the TCC, MTP and TBT lists as places to visit and the Lonely Planet and local guides to direct me to the best things to do and places to visit when I am there. I don’t plan to purchase his book if it is ever published.
When we arrived at Heathrow I left the group to take a bus to the Marriott Hotel while Bob, Cathy, Lynn and Mike took a different bus to the Renaissance and the Griffith’s took a bus to the Ibis. After over 30 days it was hard to say good bye.
Because of my three month stay in Marriott hotels during my job earlier in the year at Fort Huachuca I had reached Gold status at Marriott and was using points for my stay. They had a room waiting for me and gave me access to the VIP Lounge with its free snacks and drinks.
I checked into the room, showered and shaved and headed for the city to visit old haunts from consulting days on projects in London. The first stop was next door at the Sheraton Skyline which I stayed in at the start of the British Airways project in the 1980s. It was basically the same with the pool in the center of the building and the bar in the middle of the pool. The shop that sold detailed aircraft models was gone but it still catered to air crews. I left the hotel and boarded a free bus to Hatton Cross passing by the British Airways buildings I used to work in. At Hatton Cross I purchased a one day pass and rode the Piccadilly Underground to Earl’s Court and switched to the Victoria Line and got off at Sloan Square where I walked past the apartment I stayed at during the British Airways project and the local pubs. Back on the train I rode to Westminster where I got off and crossed the bridge and purchased a ticket for the London Eye. A ticket also included a preshow and then a twenty minute wait in line to board a 25 person capsule to take a forty minute ride. I enjoyed the view of the Waterloo Bridge, Strand and Stamford Street where I worked on a project for SHL in the 1990s.
After the ride I walked over to the Waterloo Bridge and crossed to the Strand where I had a Fish and Chips lunch at The Wellington pub where I used to eat when I stayed at the Strand Palace Hotel.
Following lunch I walked through Covent Garden stopping to watch various performers and passed by pubs that were there back in the 1990s ending up at Leicester Square where I boarded a Piccadilly Line train to Heathrow. At Heathrow I waited for a bus back to my hotel when I ran into Bob and Cathy. They also had gone into London but had gone all the way to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. This time we took the same bus and I got off with them at the stop across the road from their hotel and I walked on to my hotel passing by familiar sights from the days I used to jog in the neighborhood. How I miss jogging which I was told not to do after I had my right knee replaced.
Back at the hotel I had a snack and drink at the VIP lounge and went to bed early.
Sunday, April 26 2015
I got a solid night’s sleep on a top flite mattress in a bed that wasn’t rocking or rolling for the first time in over a month. I set no alarm and woke just in time to dress and catch the buffet breakfast before it closed. Back in the room I showered and shaved. Checked my email and watched some of the top finishers in the London Marathon on TV. I took note of the road closures and then headed out to the city.
I took the free bus to Hatton Cross again, bought another day pass and boarded the Piccadilly Line and disembarked at Hyde Corner Park. The crowds had disbursed from the Hyde Park and The Green Park area but the barricades were still in place. I could see down Constitution Hill through The Green Park past Buckingham Palace the last turn on the race course to the finish on The Mall and there were still runners on the course. Again I longed for the days when I could run and would have loved to run the London course. Oh, well one gets old and has to move on to other endeavors like world travel.
I was still reliving my past time in London and walked up Park Lane to Grosvenor past the US Embassy where I took pictures of Ronald Reagan and General Eisenhower statues on the corners of the building and FDR in the park. From there I walked on to Oxford Street and stopped at Selfridges. Judy is a big fan of the TV show and wanted me to get her a store guide. Since Mother’s Day was a week away I looked for souvenirs from the store to give her as a present. At first the only thing I could find was a shopping bag with the store name on it but finally I found a section that sold coffee cups, books and aprons. I purchased two cups, the book the TV show was based on, and an apron.
It was after 14:00 when I left in search of a pub that I could get a Ploughman’s Lunch. I checked the menus at every pub in the Mayfair area with no avail. I found myself back at Hyde Park Corner and decided to continue my walk down memory lane through Hyde Park past Sloane Street to Harrods. After a walk through Harrods it was then almost 16:00 so I hopped on the Piccadilly line at the Knightsbridge Station and returned to Heathrow and on to my hotel. I dropped Judy’s presents in my room and ventured out again to The Pheasant Inn, one of my old eating pubs in the area from my stays at the Sheraton Skyline. It still had Ploughman’s Lunch on the menu. I ordered one with ham and cheddar cheese. It was served with a lettuce, tomato, cucumber , boiled egg and sprouts salad, Branston Pickle, a pickled onion, beetroot and crusty bread, and of course a pint of ale. The pub was crowded and I had to share a table with another couple. They were having a traditional British Sunday Roast Beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding. It looked delicious but a dinner I could obtain easily in Woodland Hills, not so with the authentic Ploughman’s Lunch. It was a fitting end to a long journey.
I returned to the hotel and retired early.
Monday, April 27 2015
I woke early, when down to the breakfast buffet and then returned to the room to shower, shave and pack. After checking out I took the bus to Heathrow and checked in for my 10:35 flight to LAX. The gate was a long walk from the security area but there was a Star Alliance Club close by. I was able to process my email while I waited to board the flight. The plane was a United B-777 and I was seated in 22D, an inside aisle with no one else in seats on my row. I settled in and had a relaxing flight back to LAX, landing at 13:15 local.
The trip had been a long adventure. Sometimes disappointing but overall a very memorable experience getting to meet and know so many world travelers, over 20 that had visited every country in the world. I learned that they have come from many countries, with different backgrounds and motivations. Almost all were a distinct pleasure to eat, drink and share experiences with. I feel very humbled and lucky to be included in the group of elite travelers.