Leaving St. John’s in the dead of dark winter and arriving to Punta Arenas in late spring is quite a transition. The evening light fools all of us in staying up too late and the morning sunrise gets us up early the next day. As we complete our final preparations here, it’s hard to fathom the cold and white/blue world that awaits us (hopefully tomorrow) at the end of the blue ice runway at Union Glacier. We’ve been treated to two lovely weather days here that would count as summer back home.
Here a mounted officer patrols the beach at the front of the hotel. The body of water is the Strait of Magellan and it was a very important seaway historically but I understand that ships more often use the Panama Canal now.
The Strait of Magellan (also called the Straits of Magellan or the Magellanic Strait) comprises a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland South America and north of Tierra del Fuego. The waterway is the most important natural passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, but it is considered a difficult route to navigate because of the unpredictable winds and currents and the narrowness of the passage. The strait is approximately 570 kilometres (310 nmi; 350 mi) long and about 2 kilometres (1.1 nmi; 1.2 mi) wide at its narrowest point.
We had our briefing with the Antarctic Logistics company this morning and as usual, the briefing was meant to scare the heck out of you (as well as communicate how serious an undertaking you are about to embark on). From experience, I know these briefings always get me super nervous and put me in a questioning place about my abilities. Fortunately, knowing this would likely arise in my mind at some point, I wrote up a series of evidence on the plane to the contrary and I will regularly review the list as needed. I know once we are underway those doubts tend to seep away.
Marian also sent me with a package of notes of inspiration and today’s note said, “Strong like bull.” It’s something my dad said so often about strong flavours, strong drinks, and strong people. He often said to me, “You are strong like bull.” Sunday will be the second anniversary of my dad’s death and it will be good to carry his voice in my head when lifting our huge packs…”You are strong like bull. You are strong like bull. You are strong like bull.”
Speaking of big packs, ALE just came for our big duffels and we’re on alert to fly as of tomorrow morning. We might get a call at 6:30 am or 9:30 am with a one hour be ready to go. We just took our team picture for the RMI blog and folks are out running last minute errands. I’m heading out for a walk along the beach to get some exercise and get those butterflies to fly in formation. During our briefing this morning, they showed us a map of Antarctica with the U.S. overlaid-it gave a scale to how vast Antarctica is-I don’t think I’d grasped that.
If we get the call, we’ll head over to the airport, pass through security, quickly take our seats on the plane and then patiently wait the 4.5 hours of flying time (3200 or so kilometres) to Antarctica. It could be days of hurry up and wait, and in our briefing this morning, they emphasized patience, patience, patience for all things Antarctica: getting to the ice, climbing the peak, and then getting back from the ice. My lojong slogan for today is “Be grateful to everyone.” This reminds me to be thankful for discomfort, for things that push my buttons, for anything that throws me for it presents an invitation to practice. It’s one of my favourite slogans and I’m grateful to have it on such a day of preparations (after months of preparations)…can you believe it…I might actually be standing on Antarctica tomorrow…and if it goes the way ALE would like it, we might get all the way to Vinson basecamp tomorrow…here’s hoping.
Thanks for all your support and kind words. Once I leave Punta Arenas, I won’t be blogging daily but you can follow our progress here on my website or on the RMI Blog. I may be able to make a call in from Union Glacier if we end up staying there for any time. So…I’m off to hurry up and wait.