2008/12/10

Antarctica, Last Episode: Not Exactly Your Pioneering Explorers' Expedition


Standing at the deck railing, watching this unusual spectacle of passengers dressed in full ballroom attire, being transferred from another ship to our vessel, you couldn’t help thinking how far removed we were from Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen expeditions. We may have been in Antarctica, but were pampered. (Young Presidents Organization = “Young Pampered Omnivores.)
Where is the caviar and champagne?” became the mantra of the new arrivals as they boarded our ship.
In the meantime Diana Krall was playing piano and singing her jazz tunes and seemed tireless. Remember where we were, in the Antarctic.
Food and beverage galore. As for the passengers, partying they did. Colds and flu forgotten. On the stroke of midnight, champagne in hand, the “Happy New Year’s!”, “Happy Millennium”, and “Auld Lang Syne”s rang out. Everyone exchanged good wishes, made resolutions and danced until the early hours.
The ship was of course all decorated for the season, with lights and Christmas trees, with crew and passengers sporting a Santa toque.
Some party-ed as if the new Millennium was turning the world into another ‘spin’.
Next episode – not only had the Zodiac drivers ferried the passengers to the ‘mothership’, now, the morning-after, this all had to be repeated, but in reverse order. Still the ball gowns, high heels and formal black-tie attire in place, albeit the wearers were in a different shape.
But, hold on. There was something else. Some of the passengers from our vessel, “Ocean Explorer I” (OEI) now changed over to one of the two smaller ships, which had a different itinerary. Now, the luggage also had to be transferred, via Zodiac. This was New Year’s Day.
Not to be outdone, those who had changed from their ship to the ‘mothership’ stayed on, and their luggage had to be brought over, again, by Zodiac.
You can imagine everyone giving directions at once to the Zodiac drivers, “Mine is the aluminum one”, “Ours if the one with the orange band around it”,Ours is the set of three Luis Vuitton”. And so it went.
Natasha and I just stood there, once again, wondering ‘Is this really happening?’ Yes, it was. Well, some luggage got lost, or put in the wrong cabin, but nobody’s perfect.
New Year’s Day, some passengers decided to visit the Hot Springs ashore, and once again the Zodiac crew were called upon to fulfill these wishes. And so, January 1, 2000, Millennium Year Day 1, several Homo Sapiens found themselves nice and warm, splashing in the Hot Springs of Deception Island’s caldera. All this was the brainchild of someone in Toronto.
After re-crossing the Drake Passage, again a tumultuous passage, during which we saw transluscent icebergs of all shapes, sizes, and colours from white to cobalt pastel tints, some with penguins as passengers.
The OEI docked at Ushuaia. We remained on the ship for another 3 months, but the YPO passengers were heading home. “Good-bye”, “Au revoir”, “Auf weidersehn”, “Tot ziens”, “Hasta luega”, “Arrivederci”. Hugs and tears as if they’d been together a year instead of a week.
Disembarkation followed, then the re-embarkation of our “old gang” who’d been celebrating the Millennium in Santiago, Chile (see earlier post).

Oh yes, we returned once more to Antarctica, continuing OEI’s around-the-world itinerary, with the regular passengers. Again we crossed the Drake Passage, but did not return to Deception Island. Once again we witnessed the awesome beauty of many icebergs, and of course penguins galore.
Well, we thought we’d share this ‘not your everyday’ New Year celebration, while at the same time we have now a record of it, before the passage of time blurs the recall. Signing off for now, Henri