An hour short of Dallas, I’ve already been on, or rather over the road for 21 hours. Another eight before I’m done for the day, but the strange, albeit understandable, sensation is that I haven’t actually been anywhere.
Have I really traveled halfway around the world and back? Then why did I never stand on the 05 deck at night and look for the Southern Cross? Why did I never even make it up to the 05 deck, or the bridge, or – just about my favorite place on the ship – the quiet eyrie atop the ice tower?
For starters, Punta Arenas is at a latitude equivalent to Ketchikan, Alaska, and in the seasonal equivalent of late January. Most of the time, it’s dark, overcast, and blowing rain sideways out of a snotty sky. Not a great time for star gazings.
And then there was the work itself. We’d figured two and a half weeks would be more than enough to get done what I needed. That didn’t take into account the surprise quarantine in Santiago. Which, as I’ve written, was pleasant enough, but not conducive to getting my hands on the actual shipboard hardware I needed to hammer on to figure why this installation (with all its arcane ship-specific hardware and security requirements) was different from all others. MOXA ports, anyone? Directory-specific execution restrictions? The everpresent sledgehammer of SELinux?
So I was staring into twin glowing screens of software for pretty much all my waking hours. Breaks for meals, occasional trips back to the galley to grab one of the fresh brownies, cinnamon rolls or donuts that Ariel whipped up for us to break up the routine (best freaking donuts I’ve ever had anywhere, by the way). An hour in the gym each evening to work off the fresh brownies, cinnamon rolls and donuts. Shower, sleep, wake up and repeat. I had a lot of code on my mind, and as it turned out, not nearly enough time to get it done. So the realization that, Hey, I’m in Chile, at the southern tip of Patagonia, in the Strait of Magellan, rarely crossed my mind. I wasn’t really there. I was below deck, in codeland.
The other weird thing about this flight, now, as the lights of civilization start gathering on the horizon ahead, is that I keep thinking to check around the plane to see how the others are doing. But they’re 21 hours to the south, getting started on their day without me. For the past three weeks, we’ve always been within not much more than a ship’s length of each other (Adina frequently a little farther, on the Gould, anchored stern-to-bow with the Palmer). Almost every step through the airports, on the planes. Quarantining sandwiched one floor above the other, then more vans, more airports, more vans. More nasal swabs (I think I’ve tallied five for the trip now, and have learned to appreciate the gentler technique of the more attentive cranium scratchers.)
Eating together every morning, noon and night. But I was always the short timer, and they’re back there, on the ships until mid-September. I expect it’ll be a few days before I stop glancing over to my right whenever I’ve got a question I think Andy can answer.
The “return to land” is always a bit of a turbulent transition, getting out of code land and back into my farm groove. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, here’s a smattering of some pics I did remember to take when I wasn’t glued to the twin glowing rectangles of despair.