Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

February 19, 2014


Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 3:12 pm

Disappointing Drake; Exhilarating Experience

For over forty years, I’ve heard from sailing friends of the notorious “Roaring Forties” and “Furious Fifties.” Unrelenting winds and massive waves in the latitudes of those numbers, off Cape Horn, let alone the Shrieking Sixties of Antarctic waters further south. But the return voyage to Ushuaia just gives us rolling, episodic disequilibrium, and 2 or 3 green-faced guests.


With the whales, penguins, and icebergs far beyond our wake, they entertain us with lectures, underwater movies, and quasi-scientific demonstrations:

  • the Andes arise in Venezuela, run like a spine down South America, dive into the southern ocean at Ushuaia, then erupt again to become the Antarctic Peninsula. There, snow and ice weld the mountains of rock into the northern-most piece of Antarctica – the piece we partially explored.
  • about 500,000 years ago, Antarctica was the location of the magnetic North pole. The electromagnetic polarity of the Earth switched subsequently to what we have today.
  • If, from the interior of the continent, you head to a coast in any direction, you are always heading North.
  • Continental Drift, which broke Antarctica free from other land masses millennia ago, and continues to forge dynamic change, is making the Atlantic Ocean larger, and the Pacific smaller.
  • Lisa, the SCUBA queen, shows us the ocean bottom of Cierva Cove where multiple icebergs float and, frequently, become grounded. There are far fewer invertebrate animals on this floor – an area she calls “the Scour Zone,” where ‘bergs have scraped the animals away.
  • Eric, the “Ice Man” pulled a floating remnant of a berg from Paradise Harbor two days ago to show us that, upon removal from the water, air would soon cloud the crystal transparency of the ice. It did – within 15 minutes. The same phenomenon, he says, occurs as the pressure of tons of ice above a glacier are released with calving.


  • This same Eric shows us a Japanese movie made about him and his hobby of exploring ice caves in glaciers. He has photographed many of these caverns carved by melt water, and they are eerie and beautiful.
  • And finally, Eric again, naturally inquisitive and energetic, pumps me for info on the “Diving Reflex,” then sets up a demonstration. One of his fellow Naturalists immerses his face in ice water while a volunteer from the audience reads the Naturalist’s pulse rate. Luckily for Eric, the reaction is textbook, the guy’s pulse rate falling constantly as long as he holds his breath and keeps his face submerged.

We all erupt in applause, not just for the wet-faced Naturalist, not just for Eric’s success, but for the entirety of the experience, enjoyable and educational right down to the relatively tame behavior of Drake’s Passage.

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