I know, I know – I’m not the only person who has a complicated relationship with the sea. If I were, where would we get all those shanties? All those men and women who, livelihoods aside, go down to the sea in ships, and generation after generation, write and sing of it?
I’m done for now. Oh, I’ll not tell you how done, lest you count the days until I’m a liar again, but for now, done. After all, I’m a mountain boy, raised in Colorado. I’m at home at altitude, enveloped in a fragrant swath of evergreens or perched on a precarious, clattering slope of scree. The sea? I don’t understand her one bit. Forgive me for the pronoun, but it’s hard not to fall into the age-old custom of calling the sea “her.” Men have been calling the sea “her” as long as they have been calling women inscrutable, dangerous, and irresistible (Two cents here: I think we’re all inscrutable and dangerous. “Irresistible” is a finer sieve.)
Done as I am, I know it won’t be long before I feel the tug again. It reminds me of a story I used to tell about something…oh, “someone” showed me as a kid. Back when chewing gum came in paper foil wrappers, you could fold that wrapper into a sort of goal-post shape that had the same spread as the prongs on an electrical socket. If you stuck the tips of the goal post into the aforementioned socket, the combination of amperage, electrical resistance and paper would cause the thing to “FOOM” in a loud flash, a miniature lightning bolt that, back in the days before ground-fault interrupters, might or might not blow a fuse downstairs. And would definitely blow a fuse with your…er, someone’s mom, getting you grounded (pun intended) until your singed eyebrows grew back. It was, of course, a terrible idea that made you question what you could have possibly been thinking and swear you’d never be so stupid again. Until, of course, all that remained was the memory of that incredible little flash and bang, and the momentary feeling that you were glimpsing forces beyond what mortals were meant for.
You see where I’m going with this?
I’m trying to channel that feeling into the people I’ve gotten to share this experience with. Truly incredible people, the likes I’ve not met elsewhere in my arguably expansive life. I tell people that the folks I work with on the ship, on the ice, are the closest thing I can imagine to hanging out with Marvel superheroes. This was a whole new team for me: Andrew and Gavin holding down the back deck, Hector and I keeping the electronics running, Isaac dealing with the squishy stuff, and Kris riding herd, trying to keep everything pointed in the right direction. We were supposed to also have a couple of old hands on board, but they got sideswiped at the last minute, leaving us rookies to figure things out (I’d never sailed the Gould, Hector had pretty much never been on a boat). And the stories that came out of it all – well, I’ve told some of them, but there are others I’ll probably never have a chance to put into writing. Plus a handful that really shouldn’t ever be put into writing.
Any details of those end of cruise parties that end up, inevitably, at the top of the birds nest trees in front of La Marmita are generally in that “shouldn’t ever be put into writing” category.
Of course we’ll tell them the next time we see each other, or other ice folk, much the way we swapped tales of “No shit there we were” over Pisco and chupe at La Taberna last night, before we all scattered to the winds this morning. Stories that only ice folks would understand. Maybe having the stories is enough for now. Years ago I wrote up a story called Tales From the Ice – folks kicking around Pole at the end of a season, swapping tales of what they’d seen, and where they were headed now. When asked if she’ll ever come back, Katy, one of the mostly-fictional storytellers* says it depends on a lot of things. Money, timing, other opportunities. But sliding in the definitive last word on anything, as the real-life Katy always did, she admits, “Mostly I guess it depends how long it takes before I run out of stories.”
Oh, one more thing: Hector, who seems to have an almost Phyllis Reuther-class nose for the improbable led me on an excursion to the Museo de Historia Natural Río Seco. From the road, it looks like an unmarked, abandoned roadside fish-processing warehouse. Inside, it’s an eye-opening collaboration between biologists and artists that…well, I’m sort of at a loss for words on. Here are some of the pictures.
Wonderful eloquent and engaging young docents. Entrance free, donations welcome.
*(I heard from Hector, who wintered at Pole last year, that “Katy” is back.)
So true, I have often said, us story-tellers crave adventure mainly for the new stories they give us.
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Right as rain, sister!
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Sounds like a great end to a great adventure. Much comradery and collecting of stories. Glad you enjoyed the journey, maybe even the puking parts! Great pix of vast chilly expanses.
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I actually managed to keep all my comestibles stowed this time! Not without effort, but I didn’t play penguin even once.
That museum looks amazing.
This was a great read! Thanks Pablo. And wow, what amazing finds inside that museum! I really enjoy keeping up on your adventures. Thanks for keeping me in the loop. Also, as the weather is getting better, I hope I get another chance to fly with you.
Your stories are always interestingly animated and brighten the day.
Enjoy your next adventure(s).
Thanks for the gift of Mellvilian words. I read them with a Transderm-Scop patch.
What a find! Added to the travel guide Wikivoyage, page for Punta Arenas, at https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Punta_Arenas#See .
Oh excellent – thank you!