Flying home

The title of this post, of course, comes from a famous song by Benny Goodman’s band, reportedly derived from a tune that Lionel Hampton (who was in the group) nervously whistled to himself before boarding a flight.

I have a few more posts on Antarctica, though somehow it’s much harder to put these up when I’m in Chicago rather than on the spot. Nevertheless, I thought I’d start bringing the posts to an end by showing some pictures of my departure from the Roald Amundsen and my return via Santiago and Miami. (I haven’t yet posted about the ship’s interior, but will. And I have a fair few videos left to post.)

Here’s the last breakfast (disembarkation started at about 8 a.m., but I didn’t leave the ship till 2 pm, as I was spending the night in a hotel in Punta Arenas). This is a pretty typical buffet breakfast aboard, and I’ve shown the items in the order you encounter them in the buffet line. There’s also a coffee machine that makes everything from espressos to cappuccinos:

You can get the equivalent of a full English breakfast aboard (note the baked beans), though they lack fried mushrooms and tomatoes. They’ll also prepare an omelet—or any kind of eggs—to order on the grill in the rear:

There’s a toaster and jam next to the bread:

Cheeses and cold meats for the European palate:

Vegetables, for those weirdos who want a salad for breakfast:

Fresh fruit (I had this every day, especially the fresh pineapple):

The yogurt bar:

Oatmeal with the trimmings (I’d have this every other day when I felt guilty about having eggs the day before):

And the croissant, roll, and sweetroll bar. (As you can see, it’s hard to be abstemious!):

On the way into the Chilean port of Punta Arenas, where I got off, we passed an oil platform:

I had to wait about 45 minutes after getting off the ship before my ride showed up.  I used the time to inspect the reloading of food and refilling of diesel fuel.  They have an elaborate mechanical system for taking on provisions. The entire ship is turned around in about 12 hours, though was delayed another day this time by the robbery of passengers’ luggage.

Refueling is surprisingly low key: through a single hose from a tanker truck. I asked the fuel guy how much diesel they took aboard for one trip. He told me twelve tanker trucks full! The fuel hose to the ship is in the foreground.

That’s about one tanker for every 35 passengers! (No lectures about carbon footprints, please. . .):

Where the gas goes in:

Punta Arenas (population about 127,000) is the main Chilean port for vessels heading to Antarctica and elsewhere (the Argentinian equivalent is Ushaia). One fact from Wikipedia (and I haven’t verified it):

Since 1986, Punta Arenas has been the first significantly populated city in the world to be affected directly by the thinning ozone layer. Its residents are considered to be exposed to potentially damaging levels of ultraviolet radiation.

The city sign. You can see the Roald Amundsen docked between the first and second words:

The Amundsen docked in Punta Arenas:

It’s a lovely city with old buildings, though many have been besmirched with spray-painted graffiti associated with the political unrest in Chile.  Below is the Palacio Sara Braun, a mansion that belonged to Sara Braun (1862-1955), a Latvian-born businesswoman who settled in Chile and took over her father’s wide-ranging business interests. She also co-founded the Sociedad Explotadora de Tierra del Fuego (Society for the Exploitation of Tierra del Fuego), which was really a enterprise designed to monopolize sheep farming. The family was clearly well off: as Travel with Pen and Palate notes,

Dona Sara lavished the Palace with custom made European furniture, wallpaper, art objects, faux painted as well as intricately inlayed woodwork and stunning parquet floors. She enjoyed the mansion for nearly 25 years. It was given to the nation by her heirs and was declared a national monument in 1974.

Next door is the Palacio José Menédez, described above as the “Chilean military’s Officer Club, a beautiful Italianate mansion.” It was built in 1892. 

The central park, right across the street, is called Plaza Munoz Gamero, and has grassy plots, benches, stalls selling woolen goods to tourists, and a big statue of Magellan:

I didn’t notice the penguin hats at the time!

Signs of unrest are everywhere: not just in the graffiti on most buildings, but in the strong police presence. Here’s a water-cannon truck right next to the plaza, which has obviously been splashed with paint by protestors:

I had a wander round and found two empanadas for a light dinner. The next morning I boarded a plane for the 3.5-hour flight to the capital of Santiago, where I cooled my heels for five hours before the 11:20 p.m. overnight flight to Miami.

On the flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago, I asked for a seat by the window on the right side of the plane, as I knew we’d be heading north along the Andes. I took some pictures of the mountains and glaciers as we flew toward Santiago. Some of these I must have seen on the ship. The glaciers are particularly striking from the air:

The descent into Santiago:

When I got home, I discovered that two stamps had been put in my passport. (The passport, like that of all passengers, remains in the purser’s custody while you’re on the voyage.) Apparently they’d gotten them all stamped without us knowing.

From Cape Horn, showing the Albatross Monument to lost sailors:

And from the Falklands, with a cool penguin:

As you might have detected, I’m suffering from post-Antarctic sadness. I nearly always experience a period of low spirits when I return home from a trip, but this one is particularly prolonged. I think it’s because when you’re on a ship in Antarctica, constantly surrounded by stupendous scenery, and getting off nearly every day to walk on the snow and commune with the penguins, you’re inhabiting a kind of magical bubble, insulated from everything but ice and marine birds. But then it ends with a bump when you’re dumped on the dock and left to deal with the quotidian realities of airports, finding your own food rather than having it arrayed before you, and having to catch up with emails and appointments. And so Antarctica seems—as Michigan did to Paul Simon—as a dream to me now.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 10:12 am | Permalink


  2. rickflick
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I especially like the aerial shots of the glacier. Amazing trip!

    • boudiccadylis
      Posted December 7, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Me too

  3. GBJames
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I had always naively assumed that it took less fuel to push a person across the surface of water than to keep them in the air while flying over an ocean, but my wife pointed me to my friend Mr. Google, who set me straight. Boy was I wrong.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 7, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      If your equation is per head then yes flying is more fuel efficient, but as Randall points out, if you’re going by per tonne of goods [inc. passengers] then sea is the most energy efficient by a large margin:

      Sea/Road/Air are in the ratio 1/10/17 of fuel cost per tonne.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 7, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        Good information. And since we are on the subject, I notice the propane forklift there on the dock. Maybe twice as efficient as gasoline lifts. Cleaner operation and the engine lasts much longer. However they are still considered outdoor lifts and should not be used inside buildings.

    • Posted December 7, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      The calculation of one tanker of oil for 35 passengers may be misleading if the ship does multiple trips on a “tank of gas”. Unlike airplanes, which generally don’t want to lift more fuel than is needed for each trip, ships don’t have to worry so much about moving fuel around. This is only an educated guess on my part so if anyone knows more, I am all ears.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 7, 2019 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        I could not speak to that as I have no idea what fuel usage is on a ship or on an airliner. I once flew little airplanes that used less than 6 gals per hour. But I worked on jets that were filled from those same tanker trucks and took about 1200 gals each time after they flew for 2 hours. Fuel efficiency was never part of the deal with those things.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Great photos and the eating was excellent. I would just take a guess, 12 trucks of fuel might be around 76,000 gallons. We know the fuel is about 7.1 lbs. per gal. Maybe around 6340 gal. per truck. The Tank Trailer can probably hold more but then, might be over weight.

    The huge diesel engine on a container ship is much more efficient than hauling the good in airliners. That is why we have container ships.

  5. Scott Miller
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Thank you for a wonderful journal of your adventure! Was fascinating every day!

  6. Ed Hessler
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    These posts have been much appreciated. Re-entry is such an experience. You are there and it seems suddenly you are here–seems like a quantum transition.

    I’ve been shy about asking this question but I’m curious (and it finally got the best of me) in your lectures on Darwin/Beagle whether you made some comparisons to ship spaces or even staterooms to his space on the Beagle. What a small speck the Beagle has always seemed to me.

    Thanks again and for all posts, Antarctic and non-Antarctic.

    • Posted December 7, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I certainly did make that comparison. I gave the length and width of the Beagle, and paced off the distance beforehand to show that the Beagle was about as wide as half of the small lecture room. It was TINY! I believe that Darwin said the “want of space” on the ship was one of its worst aspects.

  7. Mark R.
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    With so many passengers from around the world, I can see why the food is so varied, and that’s a very good thing. From above, you can clearly see that glaciers are ice rivers.
    Thanks for the lovely photos.

  8. Reggie Cormack
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Excellent. I think we’ll all miss your Antarctic travel reports. I look forward to your videos.

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Years ago I started judging the quality of vacations by home much time went by before I felt like I’d never been away. I think the best one I had was two days; most wind up last until noon on the Monday after. (A friend once claimed two weeks after visiting Venice.) I would say, Jerry, that your sadness is just an expression of what a good trip you had.

  10. Steve Pollard
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    All the photos have been wonderful, even the lo-res ones; and your accounts of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen (and eaten) are very evocative. Many thanks (and in anticipation of the photo posts that are no doubt to come).

  11. ladyatheist
    Posted December 7, 2019 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful travelogue of the entire trip. I haven’t always commented but I’ve enjoyed these posts. I hope you can spin out the joy for a few more days by sharing your videos & other pictures. The glacial pictures from the air – wow!

    I imagine that Honey and her beau feel the same way when they first arrive at their destination after a long migration. I wonder if they have someone to feed them noms in their winter digs.

    Bienvenido a los Estados Unidos!

  12. Posted December 7, 2019 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    This has been one of my favourite travelogues made by you, Jerry. It was simply awe=inspiring.

    • Posted December 7, 2019 at 9:59 pm | Permalink


      It’s great that your passport did get those special stamps!

      • Mark R.
        Posted December 7, 2019 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

        I like collecting passport stamps. I got my first passport when I was 17 before embarking on a German foreign exchange student program in Freiburg. It was a high-school based program and as such we Americans traveled as a group all over central Europe. I got a lot of memorable stamps from all the countries we visited. When I got home, the passport somehow got mixed up with my clothing and was washed and dried. The passport was pretty much destroyed. I’ve always felt a strange loss, losing all those European passport stamps.

        When I renewed, I included my destroyed passport as instructed. Funny thing, every passport I’ve renewed since has a caveat: this passport replaces a mutilated passport. Isn’t that strange how that detail is kept on record, and it still follows me after 30+ years?

        • Posted December 10, 2019 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

          I completely understand your sense of loss over the laundry accident! That would have been a great memento of your youthful adventures. Ah, to be young again!

  13. Posted December 9, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    That cold-cuts bar reminds me of the one in the hotel I stayed in while in Aarhus. Hm, Scandinavian coincidence? The baked beans there even came in several different flavours and sorts (vegetarian, pork, and I believe local and English style in both cases or something like that).

  14. Pim Wiersinga
    Posted December 12, 2019 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps your impending travel-sadness explains, at least in part, the exhilerating & upbeat nature of your reportage of Punta Arenas and the flight along the Andes to Santiago. A joy to read, thank you!

  15. Andrea Kenner
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Did they offer you any Spam to go with the baked beans?

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