Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

On the Ship and Off to Antarctica


We left Buenos Aires at 6:30 on the 17th and flew to Ushuaia.  How lucky we are that LAN airlines employees were working today.  When we were at Iguazú Falls, some people told Andy that they were on strike a couple of days ago. Those people had to wait for hours and then take a 10 hour bus ride from wherever they were.   That sure would have messed up our trip if it had been today.

When we reached Ushuaia, Ann and I went out for a quick lunch. I thought I would be able to find a different pair of pants in town but all of the stores were closed on Sunday. So off we went for a brief visit to The Prison Museum.  It is called the Prison at the end of the World.”   Thank you, Bill Klug, for suggesting that we go there.  That was a much better idea than shopping.

We viewed the prison cells and saw memorabilia left in the cells.  There was information about life and hardships of the inmates before the prison was closed down in 1947.

  • The construction of the National Prison started in 1902.
  • The prison played an important role in the history of Ushuaia.
  • The site was east of the little town of Ushuaia, which consisted of a little more than 40 houses.
  • The building of the jail by the convicts went on until 1920.
  • In 1920 the jail had 5 pavilions with 79 exterior facing cells each.
  • The 380 cells were single cells but the jail housed more than 600 convicts at one time.
  • As time went by convicts guilty of serious crimes, many for lifetime or long sentences were sent there.
  • The system used was based on work for lifetime with a little salary.
  • They were given a primary school education.
  • Severe discipline policies were enforced.
  • The jail had 30 different work areas with some being outside the limits of the jail.
    • The workshops tended the jails needs and rendered services to the town of Ushuaia.
      • These were the first press, telephone, electricity, fire station, etc.
        • The prisoners built what we now know as the End of the World Train and worked in the fields of the cold province of Tierra del Fuego.
        • The train crosses the Pipo River, across the Canadon del Toro and on into the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The narrow-gauge railway is the original one used by the inmates of the penal settlements.

The building which houses the prison also has a maritime museum, but we didn’t have enough time to visit that.  We needed to board our ship, The MS FRAM, at 16:00 so that we could begin our voyage to Antarctica by 18:00.

We had a wonderful professional photographer (Morten Hilmer) on our ship.  His photographs are, of course, much better than mine.  I have chosen to use many of these in my blog.  Please note that any photos with captions that say, “Photographed by Morten Hilmer – Copyright © Morten Hilmer” are not to be used for any commercial purposes.

Wendy Krause (one of the people in my group from Portland) also gave me permission to use her copyrighted photographs, so the same applies to her photos.  They are captioned, “Photographed by Heidi Krause © all rights reserved”

Here is our ship.

This is photo of our ship, MS FRAM

“Photographed by Morten Hilmer –” Copyright © Morten Hilmer

This is a photo of Ushuaia taken from the ship.

This is the town of Ushuaia.

“Photographed by Morten Hilmer –” Copyright © Morten Hilmer

Shortly after finding our cabin and unpacking we were called to a mandatory safety drill on the deck.  We were divided into groups and one of the staff showed us how to put on all of the safety gear we would need to wear in an emergency.  Here he is all dressed.

The gear we would have to wear in an emergency.

After our safety drill we all gathered on the deck for a group photo.

This is the group of people on the MS FRAM to Antarctica.

“Photographed by Morten Hilmer –” Copyright © Morten Hilmer

There are about 224 people on this ship from many different countries.  When they make the announcements they repeat them in English, French and Deutsch every time.  It takes a bit of concentration to make sure we hear the one we need to hear.

The big square window in our cabin gave us a great view of the outside.  Ann and I both loved the rocking of  the ship when we were in our beds in our cabin.  It felt like we were swaying in a hammock and being rocked to sleep.

On the 18th as we were sailing, we went to four different lectures. The lectures were about penguins; whales, and a presentation about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition.  We had to watch the time for the English versions of the lectures because all of them were given in English, French and German.

Some Penguin facts:

  • We expect to see Gentoo, Chinstrap, and Adelie Penguins.
    • They are the smaller penguin who lay 2 eggs with an incubation period of 4 months.
  • All penguins are aquatic and none of them can fly.
  • Their bones are solid which helps with diving.
  • They have two types of feathers.  The inside feathers are fluffy so they help to retain heat and the outside feathers help to keep water out.
  • They have glands above their eyes that secrete salt.  The glands also produce oils that solidify over their feathers.
  •   The wings can be used as a weapon.   Manuel passed around a wing to show us how hard they are.
  • Although they are short-sighted their eyes can compress and be used as binoculars.
  • Their body temperature is high and they have many ways to cool themselves (spread out their mouth, feet and wings, pant, metabolize water from their fat, etc).
  • They can reverse the flow of their blood so their feet don’t freeze.
  • When they move on land they kind of  cross-country ski,  jump up or down over the rocks, and slide on their bellies.
  • They all seem to follow the same path down to the water which creates what they call a “Penguin Highway” in the snow.
  • They have grasping nails which help them as climbers and their tales function as a 3rd leg to assist them.
  • When they are in the water they are aerodynamic.
  • They mostly stay shallow but can dive to deep depths like torpedoes.
  • They fill their bodies up with krill when they find it.
  • They communicate with sounds.
    • For attraction they spread their wings out, hold their heads up high and bow to each other.
  • They bring each other pebbles for their nests.
  • They usually maintain the same pair bond. A bear belly indicates that they are healthy.
  • Their breeding season is from October through March and they sit on their nests for 60 days.
  • You can usually tell a male from a female because the females have a scratch on the back of their tales from mating.
  • It takes the chicks 6 – 7 years to reach maturity and then their life span can be 35 years.
  • Some of their predators are Showy Sheahtbills, Skuas and Giant Petrels on land (They steal their eggs and babies). Orcas  and Leopard Seals are predators in the sea.
  • They also have a problem with tics and fungus.
  • You have to stay out-of-the-way if they are pooping (they poop and urinate at the same time) because it can be projected for up to 60 feet.

Whale facts – just a few:

  • Tooth whales (which include dolphins and Orcas) hunt in packs like wolves.
  • They sleep vertically (either head up or head down) for about 12 minutes at a time.
  • They are echo locators.
  • The fin whale can be as long as a Blue Whale but more streamlined.
  • They get up to 27 meters long and can weigh 80 tons.
  • Their mouths are a different color on each side (white on right and black on the left).
  • They can swim up to 35 mph.
  • Humpback Whales use a “bubble net” to catch their meals.The male whales breach to attract females.
  • Nobody knows why they make the sound that they make, but it can travel up to 25 miles.

We also went to a briefing about the extra excursions that will be offered.  Ann and I signed up for a Polar Cruise, kayaking, and snow shoeing.  Now we just have to wait to see if we  are chosen when they pull the names in the lottery drawing.

We are scheduled to reach Elephant Island at about 18:00 tomorrow.  They say the sea today was moderate but it is hard to walk a straight line. I do much better if I walk very quickly so I wait for people to be out-of-the-way and then just “Go for it.”   The good news is that my patch is working great so far.

The food on the ship is wonderful.

Author: Nancy Panitch

Traveling has been a passion of Nancy Panitch's life and she loves seeing how people in other cultures live. Her travels have taken her to many places within the United States, Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. Being around people inspires her and she has much gratitude for the kindred Souls that are joining together with her in body, mind, and heart. She moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon in 1982. It was one of the best decisions of her life. While in Portland she stays very, VERY busy. She volunteers (Inter-Religious Action Network, Human Rights Council, & ushering for various theaters); attends a Unitarian Universalist church; goes hiking with groups (Cascade Prime Timers & Trails Club of Oregon) and also with individual friends. Book groups, movie group, and bridge groups occupy her time as well. Her quiet activities include yoga, knitting, Sudoku, and reading. She enjoys all of these activities, but making time to see her wonderful 4 grandchildren takes priority over it all. She is happy to share this blog and hopes to encourage others to travel.

3 thoughts on “On the Ship and Off to Antarctica

  1. delighted the patch is working. Have a great time. Jilly


  2. Been loving following your adventure. So beautiful. Hope you get your excursions!


  3. I look forward to your posts Nancy.


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