March 17, 2020

Post by Landon Belanger

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, good morning, it is another beautiful day, I won’t bother informing you of our location today because you already know, as we are still anchored inside the Ushuaia harbor… The light is peaking over the mountains this morning, dancing across the valleys, if you have a minute to poke your head outside before breakfast, I advise you to do that. We have another day of programming lined up for you all. It is 9 am, breakfast is being served for another 30 minutes, so make sure to get up there and grab your coffee”.

The now familiar voice of Laurie crackled into silence as a we all rolled over in bed, the morning routine is now fairly familiar. We awake to Laurie’s calming voice, we go to breakfast, we tell the omelet chef what we’d like included in today’s omelet, we sit down at the Quest University reserved tables in the forward, starboard end of the Polaris Restaurant, Hans or Marlin or Johnny bring over coffee, and we start light conversation as we slowly wake up.

This particular morning, I am stretching my neck back and forth from right to left, forward to back, beating myself up for not ‘locking up my neck’ (as my sister Tessa has taught me) when I was head banging to Bohemian Rhapsody last night at Karaoke night. Luke placed my name in the singing pool last night without my knowledge. Making up for my embarrassment and unwillingness to sing, the entire class came up to support me and sing along with me. This is unsurprising as this particular group has become an incredible safety net for me time and again this trip. Having broken my leg the week before leaving for this crazy adventure, it didn’t take long before everyone started helping me out with little things – at landings Laura would put my PFD in the bin to save me a walk, Anna would be waiting with one of the Quark branded Biosecurity safe walking poles to help get me over the rough terrain, Liam would help me summit the glaciers so I didn’t slip down, just to name a few.

At breakfast, Colin told us we were planning on meeting at 10:30 in the Universe, the makeshift, windowless, center of ship, office-convert-classroom Quark lends us. We each brought in the ‘food maps’ we made depicting the trophic layers within the Antarctic ecosystem. In short, everything ‘big’ that is exciting to see (seals, whales, penguins) all rely on krill as their main food source. Krill in turn are the most successful species on the planet. At any given time, the estimated standing stock is between 125 million – 725 million tons. Feeding on diatoms, phytoplankton that grow on the bottom of sea ice, krill provide food directly or indirectly for all life in the Southern Ocean.

An Antarctic Krill, found during our last excursion in Antarctica

The early afternoon saw a few hours of work on the aft deck, in the sunshine, overlooking the Ushuaian mountains that Laurie had mentioned in her morning announcement. Another potential traveling induced stress was introduced when the US embassy Tweeted (what a world we live in) that domestic flights within Argentina will be cancelled between the 20th and 25th. This of course means that our recently rescheduled flights on the 22nd and 23rd may not be possible. After a quick moment of panic, we all remembered that while there is a global pandemic taking place off the boat, we’re still being served 3 course meals and hot-totties out in the sunshine surrounded by Patagonian mountains.

Our blissful ‘pandemic’ lifestyle was completed this afternoon when the staff set up a party for us on the aft decks of the ship. They threw us one hell of a St. Patricks Day Party. Several parts of dinner were served green and Guinness and fruit punch were supplied. Maddie and Onyx rightly acknowledged that drinking the fruit punch will help fend off scurvy, and thus, swerve the scurve was invented – a novel, kickass, dance move, that only those present at (likely) the best St. Patrick’s Day Party of 2020 know about. Many of us danced until the first hours of the morning, before finally returning to our cabins to find them ‘turned down’ with our favorite little chocolates awaiting us on our pillows.