Antarctic Blog 2013


photograph © 2013 Lorena Lagos Pailla and Leticia Barrientos

Day 9: Collins Glacier and the most incongruous cell phone call in history (27.2.2013)

We took a late morning trip to Collins Glacier (-62 10 01, -58 51 11) to the northeast of Escudero Base where we're stationed on Fildes Bay. Note: there is another Collins Glacier in Antarctica that can be confused with this. Like Infantry Glacier near the O'Higgins Research Base (see Day 5) the Collins Glacier's top surface is hundreds of meters high. We estimated the height of the crumbling glacier face that you see below at 50 meters above the ocean.

Collins Expedition
Collins Expedition
Research crew in the zodiac just before the trip to Collins Glacier
The author in front of Collins Glacier, ash bands and all
Collins Expedition
Collins Expedition
Probably a juvenile gull but maybe a skua
Collins Glacier without ash bands showing
Panoramic view of Collins Glacier, King George Island, Antarctica. Photography by Lorena Lagos Pailla and Dr. Leticia Barrientos.

So what was the incongruous phone call of the title?

The photograph above was taken while we waited for the Escudero Base personnel to re-provision a small "refuge" research station that is used in the summer to house 3 or 4 researchers who study a significant Deschampsia field at the base of Collins Glacier. While we were there, the tide went out and it took us longer to re-float the zodiac than expected.

All this meant is that we were longer getting back on the water than planned.

Heading back from the base of Collins Glacier to Escudero Base in the zodiac, the windy picked up directly into our faces, and once again a 2 or 3° cold day turned nasty with a strong wind chill (-5 or -10°C) with the added speed of the zodiac sharpening the wind chill. The zodiac trip across the bay that had taken only about 20 minutes on the way out took 45 really cold minutes on the way back because the zodiac really pitched and weaved with the waves and so the zodiac pilot slowed down to avoid flipping the boat (see Day 13).

So with heads down to stay warm, jacket hoods up to block the wind, and gloved hands tucked in any way, to keep our hands warm, the zodiac's occupants were "all by themselves" on the trip home, isolated from each other while sitting next to and across from each other on the shoulders of the zodiac. Isolated except for our eyes--well our sunglasses--which we used as the window into each others thermal situation, that is, we watched each other and used a thumbs up to confirm that others across the boat were OK.

And so there we were traveling back to base with nothing but the whine of the zodiac's outboard motor and the wind for over half an hour....

When suddenly, one of the crew's cell phone went off with a loud (very loud right? given the scene I just set) rock-and-roll ring tone (The Doors? all my Chilean friends dig American music). And everyone in the boat heard it but it went through about three repeats before the owner responded because frankly how could your cell phone be ringing during a freezing cold zodiac trip across Fildes Bay in Antarctica in a 25 km/h wind? How could it?

He answered the call.

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