Date: Thu, 26 Dec 1996 22:07:45
From: SCOTT ENLOW
(Scott is Videographer/Editor for the LFA 2 Video Team. He
worked as a General Assistant for ASA in McMurdo for one winter-over, as a Materials Specialist for a second winter-over, and is qualified in Search and Rescue (SAR). He's an enthusiastic still photographer, and volunteered time to assist LFA 1 in 1994-95. And now he's rapidly becoming an enthusiastic videographer and traveler!)
"On the road once again, currently somewhere over the Caribbean
Islands en route from Miami to Santiago, Chile. Deane Rink, my
field producer, Brian Igelman, the other cameraman for LIVE FROM ANTARCTICA,
and I left McMurdo Station, Antarctica on the 9th of this month. We spent
a couple of warm, sun-filled days in Christchurch, New Zealand before our
Christchurch-Aukland-Las Angeles leg of the journey. Brian left later to
spend the holidays with his family. He'll meet us back on the ice at Palmer
Station in a couple of weeks.
Aside from the two full days in New Zealand, Deane and I were also laid
over in Las Angeles where we took care of some last minute camera gear issues
in Burbank and picked up more mountaineering gear I had sent to NASA's JPL
(Jet Propulsion Lab) in Pasadena.
Looking Back on Two Years on the Ice
It's good to be traveling again and off the ice if but for a short while.
I think a person can spend too much time in Antarctica despite its prestine
beauty. In the 23 months that I spent on Ross Island, however, I saw and
experienced things few will receive: a member of the Search and Rescue Team
(SAR), a drummer in two separate rock bands -- "Bandayboo" and
"finny-us-Guage" in the winters of '95 and '96 respectively, trips
by helo to the Dry Valleys, Black Island, the ice edge, Cape Royds, and
the Polar Star, a US Coast Guard ice breaker. There were the days as a GA
(ed: General Assistant) in the austral summer of '94-'95 and work at the
Heavy Shop for the winter's of '95 and '96.
There were the parties with friends at the Corner Bar, the Erebus, the
Southern Exposure, Scott Base, the A-frame, the Playhouse, Hut 10 and a
lfetime of memories to accompany them,........FRIENDS!! And all of the other
activities; ice climbing in the ice falls near Silver City, Castle Rock,
Ob Hill and Crater Hill, traverses to Black Island flagging the route using
Sprytes and ski-doos, camping out in the dead of winter with a sleeping
bag wrapped in a snowmobile cover, lightly burried in a trench just to look
at the constellations and enjoy the -40 degree Farenheit temp of an Antarctic
winter's night. Or the night spent at the Turtle Rock pack ice transition
with the SAR team in Scott and mountain dome tents, getting high on life
as the bitter winds whipped the nylon viciously. Also the night spent with
Roren Stowell and Mark Lopus at the A-frame in '95, first nearly succumbing
to carbon monoxide poisoning before coming close to extreme hypothermia,
or the time "Z", a Navy corpsman on the SAR team, got hypothermia
on an Ob Hill exercise followed by "X" getting frostbitten toes
a couple of weeks later when we were doing a mock rescue on the iceberg
frozen in McMurdo Sound. There were also the trips to Hut Point, Cape Evans
and Cape Royds to photograph the early expedition huts of Robert Falcon
Scott and Earnest Shakleton and the wildlife sightings of Orca (killer)
and Minke whales, Adelie and Emporer Penguins, and Weddell seals. So much
I've lived in so little time that I could not convey all the time's and
place's nuances and emotions. Suffice to say, I am a fortunate son.
But the mind also grows dim with each passing month of long work days,
the same conversations over the same table in the galley, taking off and
putting on 10lbs of clothes to walk 100 yds., the same faces every day of
the year, months of light and months of darkness. The last two years have
been the answer to a dream from which now fulfilled, I'm eternally grateful.
On Dec. 4th, 1996 I walked around the world at the South Pole!
Made it into Punta Arenas, Chile day before yesterday, very windy with
a slight chill in the air. We had one stop on the flight leg Miami-Santiago-Punta
Arenas but I'm unsure of the town's name. I'll have to check it against
a map. We were put up the first night in a pretty swank place, $180 US a
night. Needless to say, Deane and I packed up and moved house yesterday
to a place called Condor de Plata. $25 US a night, very clean and across
the street from a very good Chinese restaurant. Plus a lot of polar expedition
teams have stayed there including Will Steger's Transantarctic Expedition
from which the book CROSSING ANTARCTICA was written.
Deane and I took a long walk around town yesterday and got to see how
people really live here. The middle class is very poor by US standards,
a lot of tin shacks used for housing and mostly dirt roads but they have
electricity and indoor plumbing and the attitude of the town doesnt' reflect
desperation. Everyone seems genuinely friendly. I just wish I knew a little
more Spanish but I haven't messed up too badly in the ordering food department
We moved all of our gear onto the Polar Duke today, an Antarctic Research
vessel and though we don't sail until tomorrow, we will be staying on board
tonight. The Duke will then sail through the Strait of Magellan and into
the Drake Passage. Deane and I are in cabin #404 on the starboard section
of the ship. Pretty cramped quarters but it will work for the next couple
of weeks. Tonight was also our first meal on the ship, unsure what kind
of meat was served, it didn't look like anything I've ever had before much
less taste like it! I think it might have been duck but it would have been
pointless to ask the cooks since they are all Chilean, in fact the whole
crew on I think it might have been duck but it would have been pointless
to ask the cooks since they are all Chilean and my Spanish wasn't good enough.
In fact the whole crew on this boat are Chilean, Norwegian and American.
During every meal there will be three languages spoken. I rather enjoy cultural
exposure, expanding my understanding of humanity, and I can't think of a
closer living situation than the one I presently find myself in. I'm very
excited about the upcoming weeks. Can't complain, it's a good life I've
been given, I almost feel guilty about it when I think of the seemingly
stale lives a lot of people lead.
I've got a work station in one of the labs on board and I've had to strap
my camera, monitor and amps to the wall using bungy cords. The seas are
getting rougher and the equipment will be thrown from the counter if not
secured. We've just come out of the Strait of Magellan, passing through
the tip of Argentina and we've now entered the Drake Passage, an area reknowned
for some of the roughest waters in the world. The Duke has been tossed about
more and more as today passed and it will only get worse in the next few
days. I can't say that I've become seasick quite yet. Deane however has
been getting sick and was "feeding the fish" aft less than an
hour ago. He was working in the computer room and didn't have time to get
to the bathroom. I think I'd rather just puke in the computer room rather
than run the risk of being swept off the deck, the swells would take a man
Although I'm sure that the Duke is a sea-worthy vessel, my limited experience at sea and the creaking and groaning she makes in the swells makes me a bit nervous, especially when my cabin porthole becomes awash with salt water white with foam. I'll try not to worry too much, at least it hasn't been under water, at any given time, long enough to look as if I'm gazing into an aquarium. I fear that would be a sure sign of trouble to come.
Night Thoughts: 3:00 am supplemental entry:
On a failed attempt at sleep, it's become abundantly clear that we've
entered the Drake Passage. The swells have become so pronounced that I feel
not only apprenticed as a hardened seaman but a candidate for F-14 flight
school as well. With each peak I seem to loose a third of my body weight
only to gain it two fold within three or four seconds as I'm forcefully
drawn back to my bunk in yet another valley of this never ending wave cycle,
like my bed sheets and I are continually switching polarity in a very bizarre
magnetic flux. This would be somewhat amusing, even lightly entertaining
if only for a short while but the "carny" has left his station
and I'm stuck on the kiddie coaster's fervent loop with a 1/2 lb. quacomole
burger in my stomach that is beginning to disagree. The only consolation
I have is that Deane is bunked below me, a much preferred scenerio under
the given circumstances.
A New Day...
What a wonderfully strange day it has been. I had the soundest sleep
I have had since leaving McMurdo last night, the calmness of the sea led
to sweet, serene sleep. I rose mid morning and took the Betacam and my 35mm
up on deck to record gigantic icebergs floating under a mostly leaden sky.
From time to time the filtration of sunlight would lessen sending either
coastal mountains or individual bergs in the distance ablaze in illuminating
grandeur while the rest, sometimes twenty or thirty, would ominously roll
in the swells of a dark and foreboding sea. The bergs were absolutely magnificent,
some with arches cut through them by tides, others more resembling sea stacks
and still others appeared as great white castles guarding a forebidding
land......simply mind boggleing. They all varied in size, from a VW Bug,
to a house, to a modest building, to the size of a football stadium. We
also sailed through a fair amount of brash ice which brought to mind thousands
of boulders strewn across a barren plain, all assorted shapes and sizes.
We even saw leopard seals sunning themselves on some of the larger "pancake"
We have now entered Rothera Base's area along the Antarctic Peninsula
and will be steaming throughout the night between the mainland and a scattering
of islands, most if not all containing majestic peaks cut by glaciated rivers
that run from their pinnacles only to terminate with brash faces of ice
undercut by the tides.
The cruise to Rothera indescribable! Rothera, the main base for the British
Antarctic Survey, is positioned on a rocky and glaciated cape surrounded
by open water on the North and South sides (in summer only) and rock and
ice to the East and West. Jagged mountainous pinnacles rise thousands of
feet out of the bay skirted by glaciers that flow to water's edge, calving
massive blocks and spires of ice. The bay is scattered with a plethora of
icebergs beginning their voyage into the open ocean only to be dwindled
into nothingness by the effects of wind, warmth and tide. It was Christmas
Eve and though busy, a small group of Brits found the time to give us a
tour of the base which consists of a few buildings and an airstrip that
services planes ferrying personnel and gear to deep field camps and the
Faukland Islands off the East coast of Argentina.
After the Polar Duke had deposited materials and a few Yankee
workers for a collaborative UK/USA meteorological station, we set out to
sea after enjoying the stability of land legs for a mere three hours.
Later that afternoon, a Zodiac was lowered into the water and I clumsily
clambered aboard with camera in hand to shoot a 360 degree pan of the Duke
and a few takes of her passing. With an hour of usable Zodiac time we motored
to a particularly unique berg roughly the size of a basketball court squared.
It had a main arch hewn by the tides that ran through the middle and was
split by a pillar on one side, creating three separate tunnels that converged
in the middle on the berg. Each appeared large enough to maneuver a large
van through and with a calm sea, no wind and a sunny day, I took full advantage
of the videographic possibilities before climbing back aboard the ship
with a significant amount of quality footage.
As it was a holiday, our Chilean galley staff prepared a small feast
in celebration of Christ's birth and we all, crew and passengers, conversed
well into the night with our bellies full and sipping on Chilean wine. As
I sat contemplating my fortune of the day, I thought that no other day could
compare, no other scenery could be more compelling, and no other company
could quite match those few thought that no other day could compare, no
other scenery could be more compelling, and no other company could quite
match those few individuals, that like me, were given this gift on such
a special day. However, I was soon to be proved forthcoming in thought on
such a grand scale!
Christmas on "Santa Claus Island"
The following morning and several nautical miles to the North we were
bequeathed yet another Christmas present on an island, fittingly enough,
dubbed Santa Claus Island. We were ferried once again by zodiac into a channel
that separates this island from Hugo Island, which unlike Santa Clause Island's
rocky perimeter and snow-packed interior, appeared mostly glaciated. As
a group of scientists busied themselves with maintenance on a weather data
gathering tower, I, and the camera eye, became members of the indigenous penguin population. Over the five or six hours that followed I rolled nearly
an hour and a half of tape documenting both Gentoo and Chinstrap penguin
habitat as well as shooting nearly fifty still exposures on 35mm film. I
captured both species nesting, napping, preening, fighting, posturing, swimming,
jumping into the water, out of the water and well, just whatever else it
is that penguins do! After exhausting two rolls of film and three Beta SP
tapes, I found a relaxing place on a rocky shoreline precipice and dozed
off, listening to the sounds of the surf and the songs bellowed by such
a great number of penguins, into the hundreds by my estimation. We were
again blessed with a windless, sunny day for which I felt no need for a
hat. As a result, I awoke from my short nap with a forehead that rivaled
the Duke's red hull and one more Antarctic lesson learned!
Toward late afternoon, we once again boarded the Duke for a Christmas
Day feast that proved more extravagant than the night before, a feat not
easily matched. Before us was laid out an overly indulgent array of food:
crab, turkey, roast pig, potatoes, salad, an impressive assortment of other
mixed vegetables and bread. The dessert line was just as impressive with
a multitude of dishes to choose from and it was all garnished with ice pulled
from the ocean and flower baskets perched with birds, all carved out of
fruits and choose from and it was all garnished with ice pulled from the
ocean and flower baskets perched with birds, all carved out of fruits and
vegetables by the experienced hand of our chef.
At day's end I realized that it was a day like no other, a time and place frozen in glacial clarity, an experience etched into the memories of we few who were there to receive it, this gift so often taken for granted by the world we live in, this gift of LIFE!"