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  • Pru Warren

Antarctic Venus on a Half Shell


Friday, November 12—7:06 AM


I’m used to interrupted sleep. I’m down for three or four hours, up again for two or three, and fall asleep just about when it’s time to think about getting up, refreshed and ready to greet the blerg.


Since I’d spent from on to about two-thirty last night attempting fruitlessly to re-mesmerize myself back into a state of restful somnambulance (hoo, boy—the lengths to which I’ll go to avoid over-using the word “sleep” here), I was sorry to waken the next time to dawn’s light peeking in through my cabin window. I still felt like a depleted battery. I hadn’t rested enough, and here was the day. Shit. Well, what time is it?


3:23 in the morning. And the sun was coming up.


I took a photo so I could be sure I didn’t dream the whole thing and lay back to allow the gentle rocking of the ship to lull me.


No good. Lulling not successful. Mind doing an Indiana Jones thing where I step widely from mental stone to mental stone, following no logical path for fear the bolts will shoot out of the walls. So I got up to see if ice bergs were floating nearby.


Two tiny lights shone through the window. Nope; you’re not fooling me—I’ve fallen for that one before. Those are the reflections of the telephone and alarm clock on the desk behind me. There is NOTHING out there but slow sunrise, rolling waves of oceanic energy, and wavelets, tossed to froth by the ship’s passing.


I lay down again. We are being borne toward a distant shore, I thought sleepily, upon the crest of ocean foam. Which makes us Aphrodite and the Explorer is our clamshell. I chortled happily and then my battery was recharged and it was 6AM.


Hardy and well-dressed travelers are on the bow, sharp-eyed and binocular-laden. Christina came into the Chart Room while I was brewing my tea and said they’d seen the fins and spouts of fin and humpback whales. (On any other jorney, I’d want to know HOW THE HELL SHE KNEW THAT, but of course she’s out there with whale whisperers and deep-sea biologists, so I take her word as gospel. I’m sitting in the library, feet comfortably propped up on the ledge in front of me and the entire Southern Ocean spread before me like a rolling carpet, and I watch idly. Just as all birds are stormy petrels, all whales are humpbacks.


And without the eagle-eyed alongside, there’s absolutely no way to know if a distant plume is a whitecap lifted by the wind or the mighty exhalation of the creatures of the deep—so there is no one to tell m e I have NOT seen large, frolicking pods of whales.


This really is my kind of nature. Mm. Good tea.


10:53 addendum


Just had our “bio-decontamination briefing” and the mandatory scrub of all outerwear to make sure we’re not importing Patagonian hitchhikers into Antarctica. I’m done and back in my cabin and thinking seriously about a nap to make up for all that browbeating last night! We should be doing our first landing in Antarctica this afternoon--hopefully an island in (did Lucho call them the Upper Shetlands?) called Half Moon.

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