First Ascent Ski Guide Kent McBride checks in from a recent ski-guide trip in Antarctica. -EB Editor
Story and video by Kent McBride
“Everyone needs to be back to the ship at 5:30 p.m. so we can sailing home,” the crew informed us at the morning guides meeting. We had sailed and skied our way north to the chain of islands that lie on the outside of the Drake Passage. The weather forecast was so-so but after a day of sailing, it changed for the worse.
At around midnight, the waves increased and the ship started to rock and roll. By morning we were in the thick of it as a refrigerator ripped out of the wall, a water jug that is suppose to withstand the rocking from the sea went crashing to the floor and the entire continental breakfast station tipped over. We were asked to stay in our rooms and secure all items. People stuck on patches, others threw back some Dramamine and some just threw it up. We’d maxed out the Beaufort Wind Scale. (Click on the thumbnail to read the levels of wind scale at sea.)
I enjoyed the rough crossing because it forced me to just sit back and reflect on the entire trip to Antarctica. No computer, books or socializing, just staring out at the waves. Lots of funny things to reflect on. like the evening we drilled a V-thread (this is when you drill two different holes into the ice until the tips intersect, so a line can be threaded through them making an anchor to rappel from) into a block of glacier ice and then gulped through two and a half bottles of vodka at the other end. (In case you didn’t know, the “V” stands for Vodka.)
And then there was the early morning when one of the guides disguised his voice as the Ship Announcer and informed everyone that there was a polar bear mother with her cub on an iceberg within view. Some people did actually believe him and ran up to the top deck to see the sight.
Taking the polar plunge was exciting for everyone who jumped into the frozen salt water and especially for the spectators when a voluptuous skinny dipper leaped from the second level deck. Bless her heart.
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