"" Writer's Wanderings: Revisiting Antarctica - Iceberg Ho!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Revisiting Antarctica - Iceberg Ho!

After crossing the Drake Passage, we entered the calmer waters of the Bransfield Strait and saw our first iceberg. It looked majestic in its whiteness against the deep blue of the ocean. And yes, when you see your first really big iceberg you do have thoughts of the Titanic. But we never came close to it.
A while later, we got our first glimpse of Deception Island. It is actually a volcano but the center, the caldera, is flooded with water. It is unique in that vessels can actually sail into the middle of an active volcano. The winds were kind enough to allow our ship to do just that and we explored the horseshoe shaped center of the island where one of our naturalists pointed out two stations that had been destroyed on the island by volcanic action in 1967 and 1969.

Mostly snow covered, the rock formations of the island looked surreal in the mist that enveloped them. I assumed the misty look was caused by some of the thermally heated areas of the water. There is not much on the island except for several species of lichen, a variety of sea birds and a small colony of penguins. 

Our first adventure aboard the zodiacs (inflatable boats) that would be our transportation for excursions ashore would come later in the day. Meanwhile, we would have our second safety instruction meeting. Our first of course was the usual life boat drill but safety aboard the zodiacs would take on a whole new perspective. This would be the most memorable drill of all my cruising days.

We sat in the theater and listened to the leader instruct us as to the procedure we would follow in donning life jackets for the zodiacs. Since we would all be in large red parkas that made it a little more clumsy to move, the crew would help us. The life jackets for zodiac use were inflatable. A crew member would hold one up for us. We were to put all loose items we were carrying in our right hand, pass our left through the armhole, then transfer to the other hand and pass the right arm through. The crew would insure the jacket was secured properly and we would be on our way. It was quite efficient once everyone learned their right from their left.
The extraordinary part came when we were told how the life jackets would operate should we have the misfortune to find ourselves in the water. As best I can recall it went something like this:
Your life jacket will automatically inflate once you hit the water. There is a light that is water activated and a whistle that you can blow on for attention. Should your jacket not inflate immediately, there are two pull tabs in front that when pulled, will inflate the jacket. Should that system fail, you can manually inflate the jacket by blowing through the tube on the shoulder. However. . .

Here our leader paused to be sure he had our attention. 

Should you fall into the water which is near freezing temperature and your life jacket fails to inflate by the time you try to pull the tabs and/or manually inflate it, hypothermia will have set in which means that the light on your jacket will only serve to be a guide for recovery of the body. 

A sly smile crept across his face. "Don't fall out of the boat."

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