From the 35mm slide archives: Antarctic Research Station of Chile

25 04 2012

I just found this image in my scanned slide archives. A Chilean Research Station was one of several zodiac boat stops on my Antarctica trip on the M.S. Disko back in February 1998. I was the only person in my zodiac who knew any Spanish (and mine is atrocious, but expectations were apparently not set so high at the time), so my boat-mates asked me to attempt to communicate back and forth. I did a decent job—I understood every three words this officer said (his name escapes me all these years later). When they unanimously crowned me to be the official translator, I just knew my father would have guffawed had he been there to witness that coronation. He is fluent in Spanish (he was a U.S. Customs officer on various Texas borders for more than two decades) and was always a bit ashamed that none of his three daughters ever excelled in the language.

I, on the other hand, do know how to ask the following things in Spanish: How much is this? Where is the bathroom? Where is the kitchen? What is your name? What kind of work do you do? What is your dog’s (pero)/cat’s (gato) name? I also know the names of many objects and can sometimes string enough words together to form an almost complete sentence. I can tell when someone is talking about me (good or bad). I also know my numbers (uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho….), colors (azul, naranja, rojo, blanca, amarillo…) and way too many curse words (censored here). I know the words for family (familia), sister (hermana), brother (hermano), father (padre), mother (madre), aunt (tia) and uncle (tio). Point at a household object and most likely I can remember the Spanish word for it. I know the words for cold (frio—very handy when you’re in the South Pole!), hot (caliente—so not needed in the South Pole), eat (comer), work (trabajo), beach (playa), skinny (flaco), fat (gordo), pretty (bonita), ugly (feo), stop (alto), and so on and so on. Although useless on their own, I could conjugate some verbs in Spanish really well—stringing them together in a complete sentence was whole ‘nother thing. I can sometimes successfully roll my r’s. Not much of this knowledge was helpful when trying to communicate with a Chilean research scientist half a world away, but somehow I managed and we all had a good laugh at my efforts. I did manage the Spanish words for hello, how are you, my name is Cindy, what is your name, mucho penguins, seals, whales, lots of ice, very cold, water, where is the bathroom, thank you and goodbye. What more did I need, really?

When I look at this photo, I see how happy I was to be so far out of my comfort zone and my comparatively ordinary life. Traveling on my own (with 79 other new friends and crew), happy that the journey involved 30+ foot waves (The Drake Shake) rather than what sounded rather dull (The Drake Lake), camera in hand, bundled up to the nines for the Antarctic “summer” (I didn’t look too cold here, though, and I wasn’t bundled up that much as I recall)…Sigh…I think I need to start wandering the world again (once I find the funds with which to do so). Where on earth did that girl go? I so want to be her again.

Farewell, Antarctica Dad

23 06 2010

On the freighter MS Disko, en route to Antarctica in late February 1998, I met my Antarctica Dad—aka Richard (Dick) Franklin, who hailed from Dayton, Ohio. I met him at breakfast the first morning after we boarded the ship from Ushuaia, the capital of the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego and the southernmost city in the world.

He declared, “You look and sound exactly like my middle daughter, Julie—so from here on out, I’m calling you ‘daughter.'” And he did just that via e-mails, Christmas snail mail letters, an occasional phone call, and on a visit as he was passing through the D.C. area with his wife in October, 2006. Although I have yet to meet Julie, my twin-separated-at-birth, I learned that she is an artistic soul as well, nestled in the middle of two sisters—just as I am. I shot the photo (above) of Dick and Judy when they visited us on October 22, 2006. They were standing under our Jack-in-the-Beanstalk-tall false sunflowers that had grown so tall that they began to form a natural archway to the front porch! We became fast friends, Antarctica Dad and I, a bond that lasted until his death.

There were so many things that I didn’t know about him but so many things we had in common as well—a love of gardening, nature, photography and travel. He was gregarious, witty, a great listener and my long-distance cheerleader. He e-mailed me jokes, political musings and inspirational photos. He kept me posted on his ongoing tree identification project. Each year I got the annual Christmas letter that highlighted all the things he and Judy were doing in retirement, including galavanting across the U.S. and abroad. He always signed his e-mails to me with Antarctica Dad, Adad, or just Dad. And when I shared his stories to friends and family I always prefaced them with, “My Antarctica Dad told me this…”

I looked over the e-mails from him that I’ve saved throughout the years. In this one below, dated Tuesday, February 10 he congratulated me on getting the opportunity to photograph Dr. Vinton Cerf, the “father of the Internet,” for the cover of the Hearing Loss Magazine.


Congratulations!!!!!!! You’ll do a fantastic job and catch the guy behind the beard and the mind that put the world in one big bag via the internet. They couldn’t have picked a better photographer. I can’t wait to see your pictures. Luv ya, Adad

Antarctica Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year. He kept his friends, including me, in the loop after the diagnosis and while he was exploring treatment options. I received his first e-mail about his health issues on January 21. He had surgery on February 26 to remove the upper left lobe of his left lung. My last e-mail from him was dated March 28, and was full of positive news about getting ready to undergo chemo and relief that the cancer had not spread to his brain, as this kind of cancer often does. He ended every e-mail with, thanks for the prayers, but keep the prayer lamp lit. Love to all. His first chemo was April 1 and when I didn’t hear from him via e-mail for a few weeks, I assumed everything was moving along on course. On April 21, Judy e-mailed everyone to let us know that Dick was being cared for in hospice after unexpected complications from his chemotherapy regimen had set in. He passed away the next morning at 12:02 a.m. He was 82.

His obituary, published in the Dayton Daily News, reads:

FRANKLIN, Richard A. age 82, of Huber Heights passed away early Thursday morning, April 22, 2010 at Hospice of Dayton. He was preceded in death by his parents, 1 brother, and 1 daughter. He is survived by his wife, Judy, of 43 years, 3 daughters, Janet Franklin of Kettering, Jeriann Staddon of Miamisburg, and Julie Franklin of Oakland, CA, 1 sister, Norma Tennies of East Randolph, NY. He leaves behind 4 grandsons, 1 great grand daughter, and 2 great grandsons, as well as several nieces and nephews, and a host of friends and acquaintances. He graduated from Bradford High School in Bradford, PA. He served his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II and then graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. He retired Chief, Telemetry Division in 1986 at the Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He was elected into Sigma Xi, Research Society of America, and received over 70 awards and commendations, and ended his career by being awarded the Department of Air Force Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. He joined the York Rite Masonic bodies of Tokyo, Tokyo Chapter No. 1, Tokyo Council No. 1 and Tokyo Commandery No. 1. He was a member of the Antioch Shrine of Dayton, the Southern Forge and Anvil Association, the Western Ohio Woodworking Club, and the National Rifle Association. Dick actively served as a Boy Scout leader for over 30 years, rose to District Commissioner, and received the District Award of Merit. He volunteered for Metro Parks at Carriage Hill Farm for over 40 years. Dick was an avid photographer, world traveler, and Certified Open Water SCUBA Diver. His wish to be donated to Wright State School of Medicine was honored. Memorial services will be May 1st at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church, 5040 Rye Dr, Huber Heights, with Pastor Dobbins officiating. Visitation is scheduled for two hours preceding the service at 3:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, a memorial donation in Dick’s name may be made to Shiners Children’s Hospital, 1900 Richmond Rd, Lexington, KY 40502.

I was so honored to be his “Antarctica daughter” for the past 14 years. He is dearly missed. Farewell, Adad—much love follows you!


SIDEBAR: It really is a small, small world: Judy’s nephew, Jeffrey Hopper, was the 12th victim of the infamous D.C. snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. The 37-year-old was shot while leaving a Ponderosa Steakhouse in Ashland, Virginia with his wife Stephanie. They had stopped for dinner en route to their home in Florida after visiting family in Pennsylvania. He is one of the few survivors of the “D.C. Sniper” attacks in D.C. area in October 2002. I remember that paralyzing time so well. With the randomness of victims and venues, and the fact that one fatal attack happened in an area where I frequently shopped, I seriously considered uprooting and leaving the northern Virginia area. I was in Denver photographing a client’s conference in late October that year when Muhammad and Malvo were finally apprehended. It was such a relief to come back home, knowing they had been caught.

The two had intentionally filled the gas tank before reaching the D.C. area so they would not have to stop and become a “potential target.” “When I was shot, I felt as if I had an unusual type of stomach ache,” Mr. Hopper said. “It was a dull, queasy feeling, not a sharp pain.” He lost about 70 percent of his stomach, part of his pancreas and spleen and his liver, kidney, lung and rib were damaged. He has since recovered from his extensive injuries. However, he and his wife joke about how they no longer go to buffets because, “Jeff does not have the stomach for them.” As Mrs. Hopper waited in the hospital for her husband to recover, a local church sent her a care basket with fruit, a toothbrush, toothpaste and other “simple comforts. “She now makes “trauma bags” with similar items for the local trauma center so that others may be comforted during tough times. —excerpted from “The Sniper Attacks, 7 Years Later: A Remembrance / Washington


Giant Antarctic Petrel

4 01 2010

The giant petrel is the largest flying bird in Antarctica. Like the skua, it is a predator. These increasingly rare birds lay eggs in October and the eggs hatch in January. There is actually a rather large baby chick directly behind this bird in the background. I got one other shot of the mother and baby from another angle, but had to be careful not to stay too long or get too close. I used my 80-200 lens for this shot, so I was quite a distance away (and face down on the ground to get the eye level shot!). There were two adults and two chicks with them at Hannah Point, where this photo was taken. According to Guillaume Dargaud on his Antarctic Birds site, “the giant petrel is the largest of the 95 species of petrel and also the longest living one. A bird tagged in 1952 is still alive.” I also learned that the giant petrel is commonly known as a “stinker” because of its habit of vomiting on any one or thing that approaches them and appears to impose a threat. (Thank goodness for long lenses!)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Leopard seal in Antarctica

4 01 2010

I photographed numerous leopard seals in our back-and-forth jaunts in the inflatable boats from the MS Disko to land. They look sweet and cuddly, but leopard seals are the second largest species of seals and by far the most aggressive (something I didn’t know at the time). The whiteish throat with black spots gives the seal its name.

According to Wikipedia: The leopard seal has an unusually loose jaw that can open more than 160 degrees, allowing it to bite larger prey. It can live up to twenty-six years, possibly more. Orcas and large sharks are the only natural predators of leopard seals. The leopard seal is the Antarctic’s equivalent of the polar bear and is the top predator on the continent. Visit Wikipedia‘s link on the leopard seal here. (In the section on “attacks on humans,” I read that “leopard seals have previously shown a particular predilection for attacking the black, torpedo-shaped pontoons of rigid inflatable boats….” Hmmm…sounds like what I was in while photographing this guy!)

If you possess a morbid curiosity about how leopard seals devour penguins (one of their diet staples), take a look at the incredible still photos (many underwater….brrrr!) of leopard seals in Antarctica by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen in a video he narrates here. Nicklen’s latest book, Polar Obsession, is available on Amazon here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Gentoo penguin at Port Lockroy, Antarctica

15 12 2009

Adult Gentoo penguin, photographed near the Port Lockroy Station A at Port Lockroy, a harbor on the Antarctica Peninsula of the British Antarctic Territory. Just a few years before my trip, Port Lockroy was renovated. Operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, it is now a museum and post office. Gentoo penguins were plentiful on almost every stop we made on this trip.

From Wikipedia: A major experiment on the island is to test the effect of tourism on penguins. Half the island is open to tourists, while the other half is reserved for penguins. So far, interestingly, the results show that tourism has a slight positive effect on penguins, possibly due to the presence of people being a deterrent to skuas—Antarctic birds that prey on penguin chicks and eggs.

Speaking of skuas—I did get some photos of those birds, but fervently hoped I wouldn’t witness one dragging off a lone chick. I’m happy to report no Gentoo chicks were skua-napped on my watch (not that I could have done anything about it—but still…) 35mm slide scanned by

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Whale bones at Whalers Bay, Deception Island

15 12 2009

Another slide scan from my Antarctica trip—converted to b&w (there isn’t much color in the original—overcast silvery-gray skies, murky water, black and white Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins, and white whale bones). Perfect for a black and white conversion, I’d say!

Deception Island is an intermittently active volcano and the central crater of the island is a caldera. Whaler’s Bay is just inside the mouth of the harbor on the east side of Deception Island. It is the site of an old whaling station with a rendering plant, and a British Antarctic Survey base with an airplane hangar—both long since closed down. The base closed down in 1969, just after the last eruptions. During the Great Depression of the 1920s, whale oil prices dropped and the factory ships were abandoned. All that remains are rusty buildings and whale skeletons. The place was all at once rich in photographic opportunities but haunting and sad at the same time—all those big, beautiful intelligent creatures…gone.

During this stop, some of the more brave (or foolhardy?) passengers donned bathing suits and took a quick dip in an area where the geothermal heat had warmed the water. Once in, they looked pretty happy—it was the entrance and exit that had them moving pretty quickly! And no, I didn’t join them—I had a camera to protect, you know. 35mm slide scanned by

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

First view of Antarctica

13 12 2009

Along with the Captain and a couple of crew members, I was the only passenger on the MS Disko up just before dawn to see the ship approaching Antarctica! I was far too excited to sleep (and I’m not usually an early bird). I slept just a few hours (fully dressed) and then headed to the cabin so I could witness the first light over Antarctica. Pretty exciting and I can still remember how that felt! This is the very first shot I got. I took this trip in January/February of 1998, as I recall. I’ll have more slide scans to post from that amazing trip. 35mm slide scanned by

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Hannah Point Chinstrap penguins

9 05 2008

From my 35mm archives, Antarctica trip — Hannah Point, on the south shore of Livingston Island, was one of our Zodiac landings in Antarctica. The area is named after the Hannah of Liverpool, a ship that wrecked here in 1820 while traveling through the South Shetland Islands. The area is the site of a massive Chinstrap penguin rookery (with Gentoo penguins thrown into the mix). The fuzzy grayish-brown birds are juvenile penguins. The chicks lying on the rocks are molting, which is apparently an exhausting process. Chinstraps get their name from the thin black strips across the bottom of their throats. They may be the most abundant of penguins, with population estimates of over 7 million breeding pairs! I saw a pair of macaroni penguins (they have red beaks and hairy orange eyebrows), a nesting pair of Southern giant petrels, blue-eyes shags, skuas, and a large colony of Southern elephant seals.

Learn more about Chinstrap penguins here:

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Antarctica…from my 35mm slide archives

9 05 2008

The little specs on the snow are gentoo penguins. In summer, the ice fields are dotted with vibrant red, orange, green and yellow growths (lichen, moss, fungi, and algae). Although most of my trip in Antarctica was blessed with sunny days, this day was misty, overcast, and very moody. The ship was the M.S. Disko, and the trip was with Marine Expeditions, a Canadian-based travel company. Memory escapes me…I believe it was 1998. I’ll have to find the travel package in my storage room to confirm. I’ll post more photos from this trip shortly.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.