Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

February 14, 2014

DAY FIVE AT SEA

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 1:44 am

Kayaks vs Icebergs.

The ship anchors in a bay, and we take an inflatable kayak out. Sarah sits in the stern, controlling the rudder with her feet and taking photos. I take the bow and the paddle.

Steep black rock pinnacles separated by blindingly white glaciers with 100 foot high walls surround us. In keeping with the color scheme here, the ocean water looks black. A mirror. Ice floats randomly over the surface. No two chunks are shaped similarly. The sea water has sculpted them into parallel grooves, pock-marked faces, tall spires, ovals, and delicate crystal filamentous transparencies finer than Waterford.

We paddle among them, the small ice pieces clinking against each other, the entirety of these thousands of near-the-end-of-their-lives ice chunks tinkling like wind chimes. We paddle around the medium sized pieces – those the size of semi trucks. The ones that draw us to them, but from which we keep a distance, are the spectacular ones: chunks the size of apartment buildings with caves eroded into them, with deep turquoise hues, glowing translucent, beckoning with their magnificent beauty.

 5 Kayak

There is a grumble, and a sharp crack. My eyes shoot toward the glaciers, looking for a new calf falling. None. Then I see it – a berg is rolling over. Flipping. Its groan echoes over the water, a large wave launches from its splash. Now a part of the 80 % of the berg which had been underwater is dripping above the surface (a new shape) while what had been the berg we’d seen, is now submerged.

Which is why we keep our distance from these beautiful monsters. Even if it didn’t hit us, the wave could swamp us. I look down at the water – black. Like ink alongside the kayak, aquamarine translucent at the edge of the bergs. Would NOT want to go into the drink. They’d try to get to us quickly, but – – – it’s minus one degree, Celsius.

Later, on the ship, the Underwater researcher shows us the movie she and her partner made on a dive the day before. It dramatically reinforces the life cycle here. The bottom is dense with Life: sea stars, urchins, tunicates, cucumbers, and thousands of small, drifting plankton completing the soup. She had to wear a dry suit, of course. Wetsuits, such as Sarah and I used in Monterey when the water was 50 degrees F. would be grossly inadequate.

Ship’s intercom: “those taking the Polar Plunge, put on your suit and report to the Mud Room.”

Hallway conversation:      “are you doing the Polar Plunge?”

                                          “I don’t know. You?”

                                           “Haven’t decided yet.”

The Mud Room has the open doors accessing the ocean three feet below. For getting in and out of Zodiaks. And kayaks. For SCUBA folks. There’s a step and a ramp – but it’s not a pier. All the Peer here is Pressure.

Internal thought:    Minus one degree.

Line up. Take off your robe. Up the step.

In goes Sarah. Out comes Sarah with the wide eyes and open mouth of shock.

Down onto the pontoon boat. Oh, look. Guys are going to film this. They’re in the water.

In dry suits.  Not one inch of skin showing.

Minus one degree.

 

Don’t think, just go.

Splash!

Black.

Surface.

Breathing muscles paralyzed.

Now we’re penguins.

5 Polar Plunge

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