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.

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.

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.