Last Dispatch

While I was at North­ern Voice, Pam’s final email came in:

There won’t be many pho­tos from the Zodi­ac cruise through Ple­neau Island, also known as ‘The glac­i­er grave­yard’. Get­ting from ice­berg to ice­berg for obser­va­tion proved to be a wild ride. Wind, waves, and snow hin­dered pic­ture-tak­ing for all but those being paid to do it. The rest of us clung to the side robes with heads turned into sleeves. I sup­pose we learned that form of pro­tec­tion from the pen­guins.

When ice­bergs become ground­ed, it’s ero­sion that shakes them apart, even­tu­al­ly becom­ing ‘burg­er bits’. It might take an ice­berg 10 years to rot. They look snowy from a dis­tance but up close you see accu­mu­lat­ed rocks frozen in the sol­id ice. We cruised through icy chunks where a leop­ard seal hid out and taunt­ed Zodi­acs try­ing to land.

The next day oppo­site weath­er in qui­et, sun­ny Cuverville Island. We observed more gen­too pen­guins in a big smelly rook­ery. One of the guides not­ed that in the past 3 years, snow cov­er has retreat­ed from the shore expos­ing sharp rocks and pro­duc­ing new moss­es. We could hear the pen­guins squish as they stepped across the tour trail.

In the evening a British base com­man­der lec­tured on ‘A Year in Antarc­ti­ca’. He described how a par­tic­u­lar sci­en­tif­ic group phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly han­dled a 12-month rota­tion. In addi­tion to work­ing in pairs, they also had to deal with per­son­al annoy­ances such as soup slurp­ing. If a cowork­er got the bet­ter of you, they were asked to ‘repair a meter’ in the out­er­most hut. (It was equipped with essen­tial overnight gear.) When the base sup­ply ves­sel returned the fol­low­ing year, the com­man­der explained that, nat­u­ral­ly, out­go­ing crew went through with­draw­al and grief. Replace­ments were to allow them a few days for intro­spec­tion before they left.

Our stops over the last 5 days have includ­ed Decep­tion Island, Peter­mann Island, Half­moon Bay, Par­adise Bay, and Neku Har­bour. We crossed 66-degrees south lat­i­tude, a joy­ous moment for the cap­tain, with­in spit­ting dis­tance of the Antarc­tic Cir­cle, the fur­ther­est south this ves­sel and this cap­tain have ever been.

We’re now think­ing about home. Tonight at the Cap­tain’s farewell par­ty ‘Las Pen­guinas’ my pic­ture-tak­ing bud­dies and I will rem­i­nisce about this incred­i­ble jour­ney to the awe­some Antarc­tic.

Pam will be back on Tues­day, and I’m hop­ing that her pho­tos will be up short­ly after that.

Northern Voice 2008, Day 1 Continued


The high­light of the after­noon was for me, as it turned about, Pho­to­Camp. That’s the ses­sion on pho­tog­ra­phy led by Kris Krug, Pres­i­dent of Bryght. I’ve been to this ses­sion in past years, but this year Kris had a slight­ly dif­fer­ent for­mat (although he had done Pho­to­Camp this way at oth­er venues like Bar­Camp): A group of dif­fer­ent experts in a vari­ety of pho­to­graph­ic tech­niques and top­ics fol­lowed. Tim Bray talked about what ide­al small cam­era to get, even if you already have a larg­er Dig­i­tal SLR (and I was glad to see that he pro­mot­ed the site DPRe­view, a site that Steven had rec­om­mend­ed many times when I was shop­ping for a cam­era.) Local art pho­tog­ra­ph­er Rachael Ashe showed some stun­ning­ly psy­che­del­ic effects you can get by using long expo­sures in a dark room along with var­i­ous kinds of coloured lights; a kind of light paint­ing. You can see an exam­ple done today here. I’ve seen oth­er exam­ples of this online, but the ones she did had an almost icon­ic (in the reli­gious sense) qual­i­ty. Novak Rog­ic of Microsoft showed how you could make ele­gant and almost pic­turesque lit­tle plan­ets from stiched togeth­er panora­mas, Duane Storey (who I am hop­ing to pur­chase one of his stun­ning pho­to­mu­rals of the Van­cou­ver sky­line from) talked about how to set up a store to sell your pho­tos on SmugMug.com and Miran­da Liev­ers, a local por­trait and wed­ding pho­tog­ra­ph­er, gave a superb show of how to make the best pic­tures from avail­able light. It was that last pre­sen­ta­tion that par­tic­u­lar­ly impressed me, and I hope I’ll be able to use some of what I learned in future pho­tos.

After Pho­to­camp, I went to the ses­sion on Word­Press (part­ly as a pre­lude to tomor­row’s keynote by Matt Mul­len­weg, the found­ing devel­op­er of Word­Press, one of the most suc­cess­ful blog­ging soft­ware pack­ages today, and the soft­ware I use to pub­lish all of my blogs.) While that was main­ly a break­out ses­sion where we all had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to avail our­selves of local experts, it was fol­lowed by a ter­rif­ic pre­sen­ta­tion called ‘More than Cat Blogs’, which was how Word­Press can be used to build web sites that are either not blogs at all, or don’t look any­thing like blogs. (unfor­tu­nate­ly I did­n’t get the pre­sen­ters name and he has­n’t post­ed any links to his ses­sion or him­self on the North­ern Voice Wiki).

After all of these pre­sen­ta­tions, I went with sev­er­al oth­ers to the near­by Mahoney’s bar, where Vox­ant News­room, a dig­i­tal news video host­ing ser­vice, was offer­ing free drinks and t‑shirts in return for fill­ing out a short sur­vey regard­ing blogs and oth­er demo­graph­ic infor­ma­tion. It was nice to be able to get drinks (and even­tu­al­ly din­ner) so close the the con­fer­ence, and I was home at a decent hour, ready for a full sec­ond day of North­ern Voice tomor­row. It starts ear­ly (at 8:30 AM), so hope­ful­ly I’ll be up and ready.

Northern Voice 2008

I always have a hard time con­cen­trat­ing on try­ing to blog in the mid­dle of an event, even if in this case, it’s an event about blog­ging.

All right, let’s fill in the when and where: It’s lunchtime, and I’m sit­ting in the atri­um of the Forestry Sci­ences Build­ing on the UBC Cam­pus. I like this space. It has 3 lev­els of bal­conies and bridges, as well as a glass roof, where this year, the sun is stream­ing down. Being the Forestry Sci­ences build­ing, there is wood every­where, from sup­port­ing beams and a sys­tem of struc­tur­al sup­ports to desks and pan­el­ing that cov­ers most of the walls. Despite the fact that it’s clear­ly a mod­ern build­ing (and a lit­tle bit util­i­tar­i­an), it has some nat­ur­al warmth, which is also enhanced by the crowds of peo­ple all tak­ing pic­tures, chat­ting, and writ­ing on their lap­tops (in oth­er words, act­ing like stu­dents).

The morn­ing’s ses­sions that I attend­ed were most­ly about blog­ging in cor­po­rate envi­ron­ments: how to cul­ti­vate Wikis inside of com­pa­nies, nav­i­gat­ing the IT Depart­ment, deal­ing with a tech­no­log­i­cal deci­sion, and find­ing some­one who can be an effec­tive ‘Wiki Gard­ner’ (Now there’s an inter­est­ing title for a busi­ness card!)

I’ve seen many old friends, and am try­ing to keep from spread­ing what­ev­er may be left of the my cold (which has been around me so long that I almost feel as if we are on a first name basis). The tech­nol­o­gy I’ve spied is not all that sur­pris­ing: most­ly Macs, both Mac­Books and Mac­book Pros (plus a sprin­kling of a few Vaios and Dells). I’ve seen at least 4 iPhones.

Which brings me to my good news: After a peri­od where I thought I had ‘bricked’ it (i.e. turned it into an expen­sive paper­weight), I got my iPhone work­ing. It is Jail­bro­ken, Unlocked, and see­ing the Rogers net­work (Rogers, inci­den­tal­ly, announced their mas­sive earn­ings today, which does­n’t sur­prise me in the least giv­en that our phone bills are the high­est bills of any­thing we pay in Van­cou­ver, sur­pass­ing elec­tric­i­ty, cable TV, Inter­net and gaso­line ) Every­thing is work­ing fine except for the ‘where am I’ fea­ture, which I haven’t been able to get at all. For­tu­nate­ly for me, I know where I am with­out hav­ing to con­sult the phone.

This after­noon will be some more ‘techie’ ses­sions (I think). I’ll write about those and put in the few snap­shots that I’ve tak­en, this evening.

The View from 65.36.21S, 64.46.65W

The news from your’s tru­ly is that today I final­ly was able to go back to work, after about 5 days of on-and-off fever and chills. It sure feels good to be almost nor­mal (cough­ing and weak­ness is fine by me com­pared to that oth­er stuff). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, dur­ing my retreat into a fetal posi­tion under the blan­kets, I missed about 5 days of sun­shine, or so they tell me. Nev­er saw any of it. So much for any Vit­a­min D that does­n’t come out of a bot­tle…

Any­way, at least Pam was­n’t here to have to hear me whin­ing about how crap­py I felt. The news from her is quite a bit more inter­est­ing and far more uplift­ing:

We’re all back inside after a morn­ing of see­ing and smelling Gen­too and Adelie pen­guin colonies on Peter­mann Island. We had to tread very care­ful­ly as the lit­tle guys blend in with the rocks. For­tu­nate­ly guides were placed next to chicks sleep­ing on the path. As we knelt to take their pic­tures, some curi­ous chicks approached to nib­ble on cam­era straps. At some point you don’t take pic­tures but just have to take a breath and stand in awe in the qui­et, majes­tic, sur­round­ings.

Today’s snow got every­one in the mood for explor­ing, but after the crew planned a fes­tive BBQ on the pool-deck, we had oth­er ideas. Enter­tain­ment was pro­vid­ed by a band and pas­sen­gers will­ing to dance in the slush (includ­ing me), and then an impromp­tu snow­ball fight broke out and every­one, includ­ing the cap­tain, were on deck as some point.

Out­side tem­per­a­ture is about 39°F/4°C. The red Explor­er jack­ets are quite warm, as are the insu­lat­ed rub­ber boots. It’s a good thing they are water­proof, as we have to step in “decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion” buck­ets before and after leav­ing the ship and zodi­ac rafts.

Just moments after every­one came in from lunch fes­tiv­i­ties, and as the crew was break­ing down, the ship sud­den­ly rocked, hard. Chairs tipped over and there was a loud crash from the kitchen fol­lowed by anoth­er crash on the return wave. The cap­tain has turned off the sta­bi­liz­ers as they also slow the ship and hav­ing them off is bet­ter for nav­i­gat­ing around ice. He’s announced that as of an hour ago, we’ve come far­ther south in this ship than ever before because of the good weath­er and rel­a­tive­ly ice-free con­di­tions. We’re actu­al­ly now less than 6 hours sail from the Antarc­tic cir­cle. Although we’re not plan­ning to cross, it’s excit­ing to have come so close to that point on the Earth.

Yes­ter­day evening (after 2 land­ings and a zodi­ac cruise past ice shelves 40 metres high) we start­ed head­ing through the Lemaire chan­nel. The Chan­nel is in every guide book of Antarc­ti­ca. A Nation­al Geo­graph­ic ship was in the area and we watched it dis­ap­pear thru a tiny speck of an open­ing off in the dis­tance. At around 22:00 the cap­tain invit­ed every­one up to the bridge as we slipped through the pas­sage. With shear moun­tains on either side, and glac­i­ers, which could have spilled off at any moment perched atop them, we glid­ed into the open­ing and away from the sun­set. The cap­tain got a round of applause; it was an unfor­get­table moment. Many peo­ple have been moved to tears, (me includ­ed), by the astound­ing beau­ty of the scene.

Pam goes on to say that her next mes­sage will come on the sail back toward Tier­ra del Fuego.

Here’s the kind of pic­ture those guide books of Antarc­ti­ca have of the Lemaire Chan­nel:

The Lemaire Channel (Flickr Photo)

Another Dispatch from the South

Topographic Map of Deception IslandAnoth­er email from Pam arrived about mid-day today:

Today, Mon­day, we went to Decep­tion Island. The day start­ed off sun­ny, around 37°F. Then it start­ed to sleet but we nev­er­the­less got to take a dip in the ther­mal water of Whaler’s Bay. I hand­ed my cam­era to a stranger and shout­ed “Please take me”, and she did, so I have some smil­ing pho­tos of me briefly dip­ping into the pool. I did­n’t need my bathing suit as I only went up to my ankles.

I’ve been doing activ­i­ties with the woman from Chica­go (men­tioned ear­li­er), a woman from Annapo­lis who lives on a boat, and anoth­er woman from Texas who’s on the trip to cel­e­brate her 40th. We had a birth­day bash last night com­plete with a Mari­achi band. It was fun but we all knew we’d have to face the dip this morn­ing. I can’t believe I did it but we ‘girls’ made a pact! It’ll be some­thing to talk about tonight.

Today I saw my first ice­berg. It’s so hard to describe; it takes your breath away. Also saw loads of chin­strap pen­guins and fledg­lings. We real­ly want­ed to run up and hug them, they are soooo adorable. Also saw fur seals, and yes­ter­day, an alba­tross with an 11-foot wingspan. I hon­est­ly can’t describe how awe­some it’s been.

This is the first suc­cess­ful attempt to send mail from my room and and I’m excit­ed to send this off. Right now, my room faces an Argen­tin­ian mil­i­tary ship. They gave us a bit of a prob­lem com­ing ashore where we want­ed to, but even­tu­al­ly relent­ed. Our Cap­tain is a good nego­tia­tor.

Well, I have 35 min left on the clock so I’ll try to send anoth­er dis­patch in a day or 2. There’s so much more to describe so next time I’ll have every­thing in a note pad and then send it off.

The ship’s log has­n’t quite caught up with Pam’s account, but I sus­pect it will, soon.