April 21, 2012
How many of you have ever seen the movie Contact? There is a scene in which the main character, played by Jodie Foster, arrives somewhere so beautiful that she loses the power to speak and describe it. That was pretty much what we experienced today.
Twenty-something years ago, when I was writing up my PhD, I watched a mini-series of TV shows on the BBC in the UK called "Flight of the Condor"; it described the natural history of this region in a journey that started at the southernmost end of the Andes, and seemed to me to be some of the most beautiful images I had ever seen – and I didn't even have a color TV! Today, I got to realize a long-held ambition to sail through this region and see it for myself, first hand. I took over 300 photographs and, cumulatively, was out on deck whenever I got the chance from as soon as it got light around 8am through to just after sunset, nearly 12 hours later. I did get some other work done in the past 24 hours, and we did also have a series of meetings, starting with a safety briefing last night where we learned how to don our survival suits. Then there were four sets of meetings today: a science introduction by Donna, me and Andrew (who was chief scientist on our 2010 expedition); a fire- and life-boat drill (in the most heart-breakingly beautiful setting that I will ever do a fire-drill); a watch-keepers' instruction briefing (on how to work all the different computer systems to monitor what we'll be doing when we start work) and then a Principal Investigators' meeting to talk through the various options we want to have up our sleeve for the first 24 hours when we arrive in our work area. These options are dependent on whether we arrive early, on schedule or late, whether the weather is good enough to start work on schedule (which looks likely) and whether it will stay good throughout that first 24 hours or not (because launching an AUV is easy, but getting it back safely is important too).
But I must admit, whenever I wasn't working today, I was pretty much goofing off on deck taking in the view, trying desperately – and failing – to capture the magnificence of the scenery, and only taking a break for warming my hands round a cup of coffee while I emptied out the memory card and got ready to head out on deck again. I'm not going to write more here, but, instead, tell the story of the day through my top ten favorite pictures of the day. Here's hoping I'll be forgiven for sending that many photos ashore!