The Southernmost carnival is over. The icy rain coming from the west made us seek refuge at home. Not a big catch today – we had one interview in Oficina Antarctica with Valeria who is doing her Licenciatura in Tourism.
Last week we met Lorane Kriwoken, a Univesity of Tasmania social scientist who just finished the season as a scientist in residence on one of the Quark Cruiseships.
Saturday – I had a fast hike up 1200m. for a lookout of the Darwin range in the west and the Drake Passage far in the South.
This evening we met two girls who were about to go on a cruise to Antarctica. Amazing how young the Antarctic-faring “expeditioners” are. Well, it is not only rich American pensioners going for a trip below the 60th south. In fact “cheap” Antarctic trips (cheap means 3000 euros for a ten day trip) are possible if you get one of the last-minute offers in Ushuaia. We met several young Europeans who have hitched all the way to Ushuaia sleeping in tents and eating rice with beans, just to have their ultimate Austral experience: icebergs, wildlife, isolation, “Drake shake” and scientists living in containers (some of them Portuguese....).
A rumour went that Tom Cruise came a few days ago on one of the cruiseships. And excited Peruvians came in the Antarctic Office asking if their president was in town.
The cruiseship “Celebrity Infinity” with its 2000 on-board residents just called in for a few hours of pinguin-related souvenir snatching before sailing to Paradise Bay. Ushuaia resembles a beehive when the ships come in and it is deserted when they are gone.
Internet has shown no signs of life for four days. Today it woke up in the morning and died by lunch. Otherwise we have a wonderful house with a kitchen, excellent heating (a bit exaggerated though), and a vista over the Ushuaia Bay. We take turns to cook and do the everyday chores. We go shopping in a supermarket which we christened Continente and the other one is called La Anonima.
One day it is snowing in the mountains, another day it is windy and sunny. And then suddenly we have a proper summer day.
Yesterday we met Daniel Martinioni, a geologist from Buenos Aires, who moved to CADIC in 1990s and spent 11 seasons in Antarctica in the field. Since 2008 he is an Assistant Expedition Leader and lecturer on the “Ushuaia”, which is the only Argentinian Antarctic cruiseship. But not the first: during the 1980s Argentina's national Antarctic hero Gustavo Giro Tapper and his wife Maria Edelia started a tour-business called “Antartur”. Chartering transport vessels of the Argentinian navy they organized trips to the Antarctic Peninsula to visit stations and organize snowcat and dog-sleigh excursions. The first ship was lost in the Malvinas war. The second sunk near Palmer station. We met Maria Edelia yesterday evening at her house over tea and biscuits and she told us about her husband's passion for Antarctica and their joint projects.
In the beginning of the Antarctic tourism tourists spent most of their time during the landings at the scientific bases while today landscape and wildlife are the main attractions. Yet many stations - Port Lockroy, Vernadsky, Brown, Esperanca and even Palmer – are regularly visited by the cruiseships and yachts. We are curious to talk to our “hard-science” colleagues about their experiences of touristic visits. You are stars:)
Now we are waiting for “our” expedtioners to return to Ushuaia and “see” in their eyes the reflections of Deception Island, Neko Harbor, Kodak Alley and Iceberg Cemetery.
Dennis Zuev and David Picard
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