Sunday, February 04, 2007

Icebreaker!

Last Sunday, I sacrificed my one day to sleep in for the chance at getting on the United States Coast Guard's largest ship, the icebreaker named The Polar Sea. I guess the station management finally worked out the logistics for "morale cruises." After signing up for the lottery, (upon which moral boosts depended on) I was listed a few days later as an alternate. I made my way down to the pier at 7:30 am (the same time I normally meet for work!) and was happy enough to get called on board. Luckily for me, it seemed too many people had had too good a time the night before and were not willing to suffer the morale decline of waking up early on a Sunday. My own morale charts indicated that overall, I would have a positive net gain if I did get on board. I took the chance and rolled the dice and myself out of bed.



Once onbard, and given our safety briefing, we proceeded to leave the dock. This entailed many back and forths to clear the turning basin of ice. Watching the ice from on deck was amazing. It was like a huge moving piece of art work. Ice swirling, breaking, shifting...it was beautiful. Then we left the turning basin and headed towards the open sea through the twelve mile long channel cut in the ice. We did not make it out to the open sea unfortunately, but my roomate Greg and I were extremely happy to be back on a sea-going vessel of any kind. Combined with seal, Minke whale and penguin sightings, we were both very happy boys.


Half way through the cruise I asked one of the crew if they had any coast guard academy cadets on board. I had taught two Outward Bound courses with the Academy and was lucky enough to find an Academy grad who was an officer on board! Two years ago we had sailed on a little wooden pulling boat on the coast of Maine, and now here I was on her boat in the waters of Antarctica. It was much fun to catch up and get news of all the other cadets we had been with.


All too soon, we had to turn around and head back to town. Back to another week of hard work thankful that four hundred of us (in two cruises) now had excellent memories wildlife and ice to keep our morales up. More to come later.

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