Unbelievable how much 152 people are supposed to eat within 31 days. Well beyond a dozen of us needed an intense couple of hours to carry all those boxes with things from frozen fish to big melons up the gangway and down the stairs into the various freezers and holds. Which seems to be as efficient as loading a coal freighter with buckets. But good to keep us fit! And good to see that all the fish boxes have got the MSC stamp which is supposed to guarantee sustainable fishing. Good thing.
We would have been faster if Argentine customs had not taken hours to stamp the papers for the last few boxes of vegetables. And at the same time, fuel bunkering was going on. Smoking on and near the ship is obviously strictly forbidden then. Funny to watch Argentine official relaxing with a cigarette while leaning against the fuel pump. I guess the diesel knows it’s officials who are smoking so it doesn’t incinerate.
There isn’t much left before we really start, so I refrain from my usual last walk to one of Ushuaia’s many lovely cafés and rather get organized in the cabin that I will share with Dmitri („Dima“), a fellow team member, Russian marine biologist who lives in Seattle and Japan. Think about that. But within the context of this staff team, it even isn’t too unusual, there are many great characters and extremely experienced people, a good gang. People like Don MacFadzien, our fearless expedition leader, who does probably not even know anymore how many times he has been to the Ross Sea. Or Jim Mayer, who used to work for the British Antarctic Survey, blowing things up in Antarctica. Then he decided that was too much noise and joined the tourist industry. Well known names in these latitudes.
We spend the afternoon with the usual hectic of the first day, welcoming 93 passengers, putting them and their luggage into their cabins, going through the mandatory lifeboat drill – may we never do it again! – and having a toast with our Chilean Captain Ernesto Barría, another well-known character on this ship in the Arctic and Antarctic. At the same time, the Beagle Channel is gliding past us in slight drizzle. We drop anchor for a while at Puerto Williams to get the 3 Chilean helicopters on board (yes, 3, last time we had only 2, but we are also more people now). Good to see friends amongst the helicopter crews, very experienced people also on this side of the operation.