Around 6am, I am initially alone on the upper deck of the Ioffe as we navigate the Beagle Channel towards Ushuaia.
This has been an incredible journey that has a bitter sweet ending. Many thanks to all who made it possible.
The atmosphere is a festive one with Salsa dancing and group karaoke.
It is hard to believe this dream is coming to an end but it will be remembered as one of the best trips I have ever taken.
It is a beautiful afternoon as we continue our journey north to Ushuaia and encounter a pleasant surprise.
A huge school of playful Peale Dolphins have decided to be the first to welcome us back to friendly waters. Crisscrossing the bow of the Ioffe they are a delight to watch as they obviously enjoy being goodwill sea ambassadors.
Our return to Ushuaia will take us near the famous Cape Horn. As a part of our daily after dining chat, Damien one of the expedition leaders and a great historian gives a brief presentation on Cape Horn.
Did you know Cape Horn was named after a town in Holland?
There is a lot of radio chatter with Chilean customs official who I gather are trying to find away to charge the Ioffe a fee for passing near the area.
For years, this has been a disputed area between Chile and Argentina which at one time required intervention from the Pope to resolve.
Many ships have been lost here trying to navigate one of the most dangerous ocean passage.
These sails allowed the ship to carry out sonar research without having to worry about engine noise interference.
On the upper deck is also located the seldom used crow's nest along with a flag system that used various shaped black metal disks to communicate with other ships.
Except for little protection from the wind, the upper deck offers nice views from the Akademik Ioffe.
For the past week, I have spent a fair amount of time on the bridge but it is not until this trip that I get a more in depth understanding of it's operation.
Here new and old technology have been combined including a simple wooden steering block that reminds the crew of the ship's desired course. Even with all the technology, it is still the eyes and experience of the crew that provides for a smooth, safe and efficient operation.
Flags are an important part of a ship's communication system and can also be used on a personal level. For example, did you know there was a dating flag? Not the same as the “I surrender”, white flag or the well known “Red” flag. No, this flag is white with a blue plus sign.
It communicates “stop carrying out your intentions and wait for my signal”.
Oh, the headaches that could be avoided if we all had to use flags!
It is a calming and impressive effect as we enter “The Blue Room” where most of the ships electronic monitoring takes place. The calmness is broken when two technicians rapidly enter the room to diagnose a buzzing alarm.
Sensing that our presence my interfere this opportunity is taken to move to our next tour stop, the bridge.
Continuing our tour, we go one level below the main deck and the noise begins to increase. We are in an area where a cluster of machinery is at work helping to navigate the Ioffe along the open seas.
A seldom used desalinization plant, thrust boosters and rudder system are all located here. There are even spare propellers that can be installed while the ship is at sea.
Two levels lower and we are in the unbelievably clean engine room. Here, twin engines that consumes thousands of fuel a day operate in sync to move the 6500 ton Ioffe through the water.
Today our access to the Ioffe is broaden as we learn a little about it's history and everyday operation. Our tour begins at the point around which the ship was built.
However, at one time it operated as a research lab with a sophisticated sonar system.
The ship was even equipped with metal sails to avoid engine noise while sonar research was in progress.
Standing in the room we can hear the surging ocean waves through a six foot hole that extends to the open seas a few decks below us.
For me, the highlight of our “S” night evening is a sumo wrestling demonstration by a group of elderly gentlemen who are more that happy to share a part of their culture with us.
With a good mix of passengers from all around the global this presentation is just one of the many experiences that has made this expedition a ton of fun.
Junkanoo is to Bahamians what Carnival is to Brazilians or Mardi Gras is to Nor 'leans. It's a time for fun and celebration.
Just a few days ago on July 10th, The Bahamas celebrated 38 years as a nation and the celebration is three day long weekend affair.
This morning from 2am-9am I join in the festivities as “Junkanoo In July” takes place downtown on Bay Street. For me, Junkanoo is always a nice reminder of my heritage and the fact that at heart wherever I go I will always be an island boy.
The fun now becomes a group effort as The Sexy Slouchers, Sexy Sealers and Sh** compete for the Satisfaction of the Akademik Ioffe “S Games” Champions.
Super Monkey lays out the rules of the game, words or phrases that begin with the letter “S” or has something to do with Antarctica that has to be drawn or acted out.
Shagging by a Super Rooster turns out to be a lot easier than drawing “Start The Zodiac” is for a Sexy Sloucher and who would have thought a Chinstrap would cause so much fun tension.
What do these have to do with The Blue Continent?
Well, bring them all together with a Scrubber, a Sandwich, a Super Rooster, a Ship Head and you are talking about Some Shameless fun.
Tonight, we have been given the challenge to come up with costumes centered around the letter “S” and except for maybe Sewage, I think the residents on Sesame Street would be proud of the creativity of this Salient Set of Sailors.
After about an hour on the bridge and holding my own in the rough seas, I am promoted from Paparazzi to Sea Wolf.
To celebrate, I am offered hot tea along with pastries, breakfast for Sea Wolf.
Not sure what all my new position involves but I am given some brief lessons in Russian. I am now almost fluent with a vocabulary of three words. Dobre utra.
Having now spent an enjoyable time with a crew member along with all my other great experiences on this expedition, I am certain that of all the Ioffe passengers, I have gotten the best deal!
As the night passes the excitement of crossing the Drake Passage continues as we begin to encounter crashing waves more frequently.
One wave is so huge that the spray from it's explosion on the deck reaches the windshield of the bridge which is at least 30-40 feet above sea level. Ice has also begin to form on the deck and it reminds both of us of how cold it is outside.
Brrrrrrrrr, very cold.