Saturday, February 7, 2009

Viva la Oona!

It was the morning after our arrival in port and nearly time for Oona to head to the airport and begin the series of flights that would bring her home to Brooklyn, NY. The two of us took a final stroll together through the streets of Punta Arenas, enjoying the strange mix of architectural materials and styles (including some very elegant uses of corrugated sheet metal), the abundance of unusually attractive and healthy-looking stray dogs, the now-familiar scrambled mess of overhead wiring, and other quirks and details of the city.
Even though we had been a team for the last 6 weeks, and I had lots of photos of Oona and she had plenty of me, we realized that no pictures existed of the two intrepid Artboat #66 Co-Captains together. When you consider that we had just shared an entire Antarctic adventure, this was quite ironic, and needed to be remedied before we flew off to opposite sides of North America. So, up on a hill overlooking Punta Arenas we asked a stranger to take our photo.

Oona Stern and I had been thrown together by the logistical considerations of the United States Antarctic Program. Before our arrival on station it had been decided that we would be both boating partners and roommates at Palmer, which meant that we would be spending almost all day, every day together. One Palmerite is said to have remarked: "I hope they get along, because they're really stuck with each other." It could have been a complete disaster, but instead I found that I couldn't have asked for a better adventure buddy, boating cohort, artistic accomplice, and friend. And she sure can kick my butt when it comes to throwing snowballs!

Together at Palmer we had learned to drive Zodiacs through the brash, tie up to an island, set a stern anchor, remove ice from the underside of the boat, and judge when the weather was turning. We had been honked at by penguins, squeaked at by terns, and dive-bombed by skuas; pursued by Leopard Seals, huffed at by Fur Seals, and snored at by Elephant Seals. We had descended into crevasses, circumnavigated icebergs, and gasped as ice calving from the glacier produced a wave we were certain would flip our boat (I am happy to say that it didn't. By the time the wave reached us out in deep water it just made the Zodiac bob up and down gently. Pheww!). Inside the station we had struggled to make it to the galley before hot breakfast ended, scrawled many a silly callsign on the blackboard, wondered how best to interpret all the weather charts and graphs, learned how to House Mouse and GASH, and Oona even mastered some of the finer points of Palmer's preferred card game: Australian 500. And through all this we had not just managed to get along, but been incredibly productive and rustled up a lot of fun along the way.

Thanks Captain! I hope we get to adventure together again soon...

Be sure to check out Oona's blog and keep an eye out for her work.

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