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Published: January 30th 2018
I was asked if I had any monkey products…
…It took my mind took a few seconds to register… Monkey problems? Money problems? Monkey products? Excuse me, what, I’m sorry, what was that?…
“Oh yeah, there’s been an increase in illegal monkey products crossing international borders recently.” Said the border official at London, Gatwick.
“Well that sounds a little weird.” I replied.
“Products are coming in from all over the world nowadays, especially Asia.” The official responded.
“Wow! I did not know that.” With a baffled expression I’m sure?
I assured him that monkeys weren’t native to where I’d just been, and even trees were quite the rarity in the frozen north. I also checked to see if my belt was made of leather rather than gibbon. I didn’t mention that I’d eaten a banana with my breakfast, as that might’ve appeared suspicious…
I also avoided my inner primate urge to walk away with an ape-like gait, dragging my knuckles on the ground - lower jaw forward…
🐒🐵🍌… No more monkey business…🍌🐵🐒 Penguin Business
“There is no Antarctic ocean on the maps. The cold waves that beat against the Antarctic continent are from the southern portions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, and in their flow around the ice-rimmed land they mingle to form one vast gale-swept wilderness of water.” Russell Owen.
I am back in the frozen realm of
the south. The dazzling white continent that sits at the bottom of the world. I have a two month contract on board M/V Ocean Adventurer as an expedition guide. I am accompanied by an eclectic group of like-minded individuals, all of whom have a great fondness for the polar regions.
It’s great to be back down here…
Over the years I have grown to accept that penguins do not steal rocks, they do not live a life of thievery. In fact they are indifferent to our human ways and they are indifferent to humans. They are fascinating creatures. They seem impossible - they live where life would seem impossible. Their carefully balanced wobble, their deafening squawks and their relentless devotion to raising their chicks.
It’s great to be among the gentoos, adelies and chinstraps - to be among their bickering and squabbles, their stone nests and potent perfume.
I love the Antarctic. I like to provoke the obscure and evocative peculiarity of this improbable paradise…
As I toss and turn on the giant troughs of the great Southern Ocean - in the endless winds that howl and scream in their westward storm, I get to
see my albatrosses in their effortless glide.
Those giant wings of raw majesty have me mesmerized as they thrive in this salty brine of liquid hostility. I watch and I ride the waves as my face gets pounded by sea spray as I head to the icy emptiness of Antarctica…
I have also grown a lot fonder of the Antarctic forests… Lichens, mosses and algae that is… You can find me crawling over the guano covered rocks in search of Prasiola crispa -
it’s my new favourite alga! Except for snow algae that is…
“First you fall in love with Antarctica, and then it breaks your heart.” Kim Stanley Robinson
Formerly called Faraday, the Ukrainian Base, Akademik Vernadsky was purchased for one dollar from the British. Like anywhere in the Antarctic, there are regulations when it comes to buildings. If you have one and don’t want it anymore, you can either clean it up and take it away or sell it… It would cost millions to clean up - hence the cheap deal for the Ukrainians.
We were welcomed with smiles as we beached the Zodiacs at the small landing at the base, and Sasha, the base commander, was eagerly awaiting our arrival.
He took us on a fascinating tour of the facility and shared many personal stories about living at the remote base. But in true Ukrainian style the tour ended at the bar… The most southerly bar in the world apparently?
“Now we must drink.” Said Sasha as he reached for a bottle of moonshine…
Seriously! They make their own vodka here.
I couldn’t have any as I was driving Zodiacs, however, I did miss out on some of the best tasting vodka on the planet… Allegedly?
Sasha is also one of the scientists at Vernadsky. He studies the ozone layer with his Dobson Spectrophotometer, which is basically a device used to measure holes in the ozone layer. The hole in the ozone layer was discovered by the Ukrainians at this base. He has to check the device every 15 minutes when the sun is shining, at these high latitudes at this time of year, that’s a lot of checking. He actually has his bed set up next to his whole set-up so that he can always be by the machine… He loves his machine - he calls it ‘Veronica’.
He sleeps with
Veronica the Dobson Spectrophotometer.
More adventures will follow...
Dave - he can be found in the polar regions - most of the time…
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