Questions and Responses #6
Posted November 25, 1999
What is it like to row in the rowboats in those rough seas? Is it scary?
Response from Stuart Hoagland:
The boats are well-shaped for the sea. The seas are not scary, but there are large chunks of ice that could smash the boat. Also, when close to rocks, it can be scary if a wave threatens to throw the boat on a rock. The main problem with rough seas is the difficulty rowing. because the water is high and low as the waves pass. It is hard to row smoothly.
I enjoy your dispatches immensely and am so glad to have found this Web site, especially as I'll be sailing to the Antarctic Peninsula in December with an Elderhostel group. I'm not a good sailor and am bringing along a good supply of patches, dramamine, and ginger pills; sounds like they'll be essential since we'll embark from Ushuaia. Do you have any other suggestions for minimizing seasickness? How difficult is it to get in/out of the zodiac? I'm also wondering if all the layers of clothing described in your dispatch will be necessary in December.
Thanks for the regular dispatches; they're very exciting. I'm glad that Shackleton is finally receiving well-deserved attention. His courage, fortitude, and concern for his men are far more heroic than other polar explorers, even though he didn't complete his original plans. I can hardly wait to see the film!
Response from Kelly Tyler:
What a thrilling trip for you!
Some people never experience seasickness, while others can have a really rough time. I'm fortunate that I only seem to feel disoriented and uncomfortable, but never throw up. You should definitely talk through the options in terms of medication with your doctor. Each option seems to have some mild side effects, which you'll want to evaluate. In addition, our polar experts on this trip suggested ginger in any form—crystallized ginger, fresh ginger root, or ginger pills. I took ginger pills every day, but it's hard to say whether my prescription medication or the ginger helped most.
Motion sickness seems to result from a disconnect between the motion sensed in the proprioception in the ear and what the eye is seeing. So, instead of staying in your cabin where you can't see where all the movement is coming from, sometimes it helps to spend some time on deck in the fresh air, seeing the swell. Also, if you're really feeling poorly, lying down helps almost immediately. Plan some activities, like listening to music, that you can do lying down and that don't require close attention, like reading, which can make you feel worse.
Guides on your trip will have you hand your day pack over to them, then teach you the "sailor's grip" to help you into the boat. Just try to travel light each day, so you don't have things to hold in your hand or things hanging around your neck.
You won't need all of that clothing, especially since December is summer in the Antarctic. Think about winter in the northern U.S. The key is layers that you can pile on or take off when you warm up. Fleece is great for that, because it's lighterweight than wool. Your essential outer layer ought to be waterproof, windproof fabric, like Gore Tex. Get some good Wellington boots too. And sometimes you'll get splashed with spray on the zodiac, so make sure you bring waterproof outer gloves, and spare inner gloves. And don't forget strong sunscreen and high UV sunglasses—there's an ozone hole down here. Have fun!
How does it feel to be working on the Endurance film and be in the same places as Shackleton and his men were?
Response from Captain Bob Wallace:
That's a very good question. It has been a great experience for me to be in the actual places. I have been a follower of the Endurance story for years and have been to many of these locations before as Captain of a research vessel in these waters. This time though, dressed as Shackleton himself and in a replica of the James Caird, which I also built, it has put this whole story into an even more real perspective for all of us. There have been times when in the course of our recreations for the filming I have found myself standing in the same spot our predecessors actually stood; we are actually in their footsteps. I try to get everyone on board to think for a moment about the actual men from 1914-16 and realize that we are seeing these places in the same way that they did. It is very rewarding and sometimes eerie.
Since moving to New Zealand a year ago I've developed a fascination with things Antarctic and hope to make my own explorations some time—in more comfort, I trust, than the early visitors. Saw the Australian film South with some of Hurley's footage recently and wondered if you will be incorporating any of it in your production.
I'm highly impressed with the quality of the presentation on the Web site, which truly helps to bring Shackleton's journey alive. Best of luck.
(name withheld by request)
Response from Kelly Tyler:
Yes, we're absolutely incorporating Hurley's still and moving picture images in our projects. He was a remarkable artist, and we're very fortunate to have his exquisite photographic record of the expedition. See Caroline Alexander's book, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (Knopf, 1998) for the first, most extensive published compilation of Hurley's Endurance photos. And check out the dispatch entitled for more on Hurley.
What is it like recording sound in Antarctica?
Response from Andy Wiskes, Sound Recordist:
There is always a great appreciation of sounds you've never heard before—sounds that are unique and unexpected. The trick in recording these sounds is to be able to isolate them from the background noise we live with every day. In terms of recording in the Antarctic (providing one gets away from the sounds of the zodiacs' and the ship's motors), you find yourself in exceptionally quiet environments. Background noises that we unconsciously filter out with our hearing are no longer there to mask the quiet and subtle aspects of a sound. The result is that the sounds one hears and tries to record down here can be very subtle. Hence, the ability to hear and resolve the quiet aspects of a sound are greatly enhanced. So whether I'm recording water dripping off a tabular iceberg or wind in tussock grass, the fact that it is so quiet gives a new, sharper perspective to these sounds, and a new appreciation of the spectral and dynamic range in which sounds can occur. Sounds that would go unnoticed in noisier environments can be enjoyed down here, if one takes the time and has the patience to sit and wait and do nothing but listen. So, to answer your question, it's always interesting trying to discover unique sounds you haven't heard before. The trick then becomes recording these sounds in such a way that other people can also hear and appreciate them the way I do.
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