Photos: The Scale of Antarctica

It’s hard to judge the size of things in Antarctica. There is absolutely nothing man made with which to compare the ice covered mountains. No buildings or masts or pylons. Worse than that, there’s not even any trees or bushes or grass. There’s just rock and ice and snow and the sea. Nothing else. Mountains just loom over you, and you’re not sure if they are huge and close, or even huger and far away.

Until you see another ship between you and a glacier. The dome of ice in the background probably rises about 2000 meters.

Big mountain, small ship.

Zoom in a bit for a better view:

I took these two photos in the Gerlache Strait, the channel between the Antarctic Peninsular and Anver’s Island.


Photos: birds in flight

It’s not about the gear, it’s about knowing your subjects and how to take photos. But in the case of birds in flight, gear helps. Two things I like about my new zoom lens: super-fast autofocus and dual mode image stabilization.

From the Falklands, an Upland Goose:
Upland Goose

Also in the Falklands, a Turkey Vulture.
Turkey Vulture

The Turkey Vulture again.
Turkey Vulture

This is not a dove. This is Snowy Petrel, a beautiful white sea bird which happens to have the southernmost breeding distribution in the world.
Snowy Petrel

These birds are not flying.
Chinstrap Penguins




A bad flight (and a new laptop on the way?)

The story of part one of my flight home:

I waited by the cruise for my taxi, which didn’t seem to be booked by anyone, and once it was finally sorted I set off with about 45 minutes to go before my flight. Thankfully the airport in Ushuaia is pretty close to the town, because everything is pretty close to the town. It’s not very big. I arrived at the airport 35 minutes before my flight, and nobody seemed to understand the hurry I was in, or seemed concerned that I might not catch my plane. It turned out the flight had been delayed for an hour and twenty minutes, so I had time to kill.

I spent this extra time chatting to Ryan and Lola (two other entertainers from the cruise) about how I’d like to buy a new, bigger, more powerful laptop, and then sometime this year get some an ebook reader or tablet device so I don’t have to always carry my laptop.

Oh, and my hand luggage, because it was an internal flight up to Buenos Aires, was too heavy for the 5kg limit. So I took out my laptop and just checked it, no problem. My laptop has this neoprene case, which protects it quite nicely, so I wasn’t worried about putting it in the overhead locker above my seat. Why am I even mentioning this?

All was well until an hour or so into the flight. I was asleep, of course, but the seatbelt sign was turned on, because the pilot thought there might be some turbulence. He was right. First it woke me up. Then the turbulence started getting quite heavy, and progressively got more and more severe until it was far worse than anything I’ve ever experienced.

Normally turbulence makes the plane go up and down, but this time the plane was twisting in the air, shaking everyone about heavily. People were screaming and everything. It was intense.

Then there was an extra big jolt. I was sitting in the very back row of the plane, and one of the cabin crew was standing beside me in the aisle. The steward flew up (or, to look at it from a wider perspective, he stayed still and the plane dropped down), he struck really hard, flat against the ceiling, stayed there for a split second, then collapsed onto his face on the floor of the aisle.

Everyone else had their seat belts on, so we were just thrown about violently but safely, although crap was flying all over the place. I clenched my hand so tightly that I gouged a chunk of skin out my thumb. I had jackets and iPods in my lap that didn’t belong to me, and the guy sitting beside me lost hold of his book completely. Everyone was freaking out, including me. I didn’t scream, but I might have yelped quite a bit.

The steward got up and found somewhere to strap in, and he’d obviously hurt the back of his head quite badly. The turbulence continued for a while, but there wasn’t a repeat of such enforced aerobatics.

This was, by far, the most scared I’ve ever been on a plane, and I fly a lot. My hands were shaking and sweating, and the plane was making so many noises that I’ve never heard before. And I fly a lot, with over 50 flights last year. It is the only time I’ve ever believed we might not make it to the ground safely.

After a few minutes the turbulence died down, mostly. Strangely enough, people started getting up to use the toilet right away, even though the seatbelt sign remained switched on until the end of the flight. I think only the six of us on the very last row saw the steward hit the ceiling above our heads. Those on the next few rows forward might have think he just fell on his face. Nobody else seemed to think it was FUCKING STUPID to get up and walk around so soon after such bad turbulence.

We did, of course, land safely. The many Japanese passengers gave the pilot a round of applause when the rear wheels hit the runway, but I thought I’d wait until we stopped. Which took a looong time. I guess the pilot wanted to slow down gently, as the plane had had enough stress for one flight.

To bring it back to the laptop, I just opened it and found the plastic body is cracked, and the trackpad button is making a strange noise. As long as the trackpad stays fully functional it’ll be good for a while yet, but it means I’ll be buying a new macbook pro (with an aluminum body) as soon as the next update to that line is announced.