Goodbye Little Red Antarctic Ship
I was so sad to get an email from my husband yesterday linking to a story about The Explorer, the little red ship that allows tourists to trace Sir Ernest Shackelton's voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula. In the email, he wrote, "Was this us?" After clicking on the link, I saw the photo of the ship listing mercilessly into the icy water and knew it was indeed the ship we had taken on our honeymoon trip to Antarctica in January 2000. The ship where living in confined quarters for two weeks with my new husband sealed the deal for us - we got along swimmingly and knew our marriage would last.
The New York Times reported the story today. The ice had punched a fist-sized hole into the ship's hull causing the perfectly maintained engine room to flood. The controls froze and stopped working. All passengers were evacuated onto the rubber dingies and rescued by another ship that happened to be nearby.
I'm inexplicably sad about our little red ship. She was forty years old, but that lent her a certain charm. Most of the passengers were proud not to be career cruisers. To prove it, they were easily insulted if you asked them if they had been on a lot of cruises exclaiming,
"No, but this is the only way to see Antarctica, the 7th continent." The average age on the ship was about 65 and most had been to the other6 continents already. We dined with an Ambassador to Swaziland and many other people who'd had very unusual careers. My husband, a big traveler, was on his 7th continent, but I was out of my league having only been to a measly four.
It was truly an expedition ship - away to set foot on various parts of the Antarctic Peninsula. Leaving from the tip of South America, the rolling trip through 40 foot and higher waves across theDrake Passage was enough to scare many people away from considering the voyage. Most of us wore anti-nausea patches behind our ear during the crossing. Once the crossing began we sat down to dinner. After dinner, I noted that the crew had thoughtfully hung barf bags at 5 foot intervals along the hallway railings. The onlyluxury was the generously proportioned staff (50 staff for 100passengers) and an incredibly knowledgeable set of naturalists who gavelectures both on the ship and on ice in plein air.Continued on the next page