Goan to Antarctica....

Goan scientist Helga do Rosario Gomes is en route to the icy continent, and is keeping her blog of the journey...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Fish mail

Photo, left: Orcas dancing in the wake of the Palmer.

A common dinner topic when we can hear ourselves speak is to compare this trip with last year’s trip. This makes the rookies very unhappy and they tend to roll their eyes like I used to when my father would narrate his WWII stories. They go, “Is it going to be the orca whale story or the fish mail story?”

The former is a real sore topic because this year although we have seen an abundance of marine life, the orcas eluded us. Last year they put on a big show for us. As our ship cut into the thick ice, a huge school of orcas popped their heads out of the cracked ice.

At one time seven of them popped right near our ship and spouted arcs of water. This was a much better show than the one by young women in the Olympic synchronous swimming events especially because the orca’s noses were not plugged!

But the fish mail is a better story. I thought I should share it on this last day of science.

Last year as we were heading towards the pole we saw a small fishing vessel sailing in our wake. It was from New Zealand, and the captain was hoping to push deeper south by sailing in the swath we cut into the thick ice.

In doing so the fishermen were saving on gas and forging deeper south to richer fishing grounds than are usually within their reach. Being a small fishing boat it had no ice breaking capacity.

Well at some point, they decided they had enough fish and would give us some. A little rubber dingy brought us nine huge Patagonia tooth fish or Chilean sea bass which in the US is frightfully expensive.

While the transaction was going on, some of our young women commented that the young fishermen were sizing them with their binoculars, a futile exercise I thought as everyone is clad in the same attire.

But these were no ordinary boys! The next morning as the cook cut the fish he found a plastic bag with a letter in the belly of the fish. The letter, from one of the young fishermen pleaded with any respectable young lady to correspond with him via email!

He had been at sea for very long and missed the young women from the remote islands of New Zealand where he came from. A young liberal arts student volunteered to reply but she tended to be a bit facetious and made remarks like “Did you see me on the deck? I was in a red jacket!”

Everyone has a red jacket!

We asked her to be nicer and she was! Everyday the fish mail was stuck on the notice board and it made for interesting reading. This went on for a while with other young men begging for their own fish pals.

But then the young man cut his finger very badly while filleting some fish and and that ended the fish mail.


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