For those of you who do not know me in motion, I suffer severely from motion sickness. It is so serious that if I do not take medication I almost die. On my honeymoon in Kenya twenty one years ago I ran out of medication for the flight from Nairobi through the Rift valley at 2 p.m.. I was so sick I missed out on some serious game watching for a day or two!
So getting on the Vavilov was a big thing for me. Sure, I was filled with trepidation about going to the bottom of the world. But my biggest gut-wrenching fear was that I would be too sick to photograph. So I started Epanutin before the trip. This is an anti-epileptic agent that was used by the astronauts in the last great era of exploration. Then I had boxes of Stugeron, a standard over the counter motion sickness remedy. I started this while we were waiting at the Albatross Hotel. Little did I know this would all be futile in a few days time?
There was a short queue to board the gangplank from the single harbor pier. This was the same gangplank we would use to embark and disembark the Zodiacs at sea. It felt like we were all going on a school trip, even though 98% of us were long finished with school. I daresay, some of us felt like school children in the face of the experienced and weathered but super-friendly expedition team.
On board the ship Steven and I quickly unpacked in our cabin with two bunks. I chose the one that seemed to have my
feet pointing forward. Some days into the trip my feet would point every direction except that! My cabin was on the 5th floor. The lounge and bridge were on the 6th. There were more cabins on the 4th and 3rd, with the dining room, reception and mudroom on the 3rd. The Russian crew slept behind closed doors on the 2nd floor and on the 1st floor was the presentation room. One or two floors below that in the bowels of the ship was a multi-media room. I only plucked up courage to visit this just before our return leg through the Drake Passage, in case we did not make it. There were four big screen computers including Macs for people to load and share pictures.
Soon Boris Wise, the expedition leader, at a cocktail in the lounge, welcomed us. With all the medication I had
stopped drinking alcohol. Life was about to change. Just as well, as the next event was lifeboat drill. I was stunned to find there were only two lifeboats for the ship that could each hold one hundred people. I crawled in and out, and then looked at the big cruise ship on the other side of the pier and wondered if I had made the correct decision. I had never been on a cruise ship and would not in future, even though my wife, Ines, wants to do just that.
The first dinner was abuzz with excited conversation, meeting new friends and hearing tales of adventure. We spent the rest of the evening photographing birds off the stern and then retired to bed. I slept well in the Beagle Channel, which is super calm. Then the ship stopped to offload the pilot and we entered the open ocean with some rocking. We were heading to the Falklands.