Moments ago I stood on the back deck of our ship, watching the sun fight valiantly to break through the cold gray sky. The heavy Antarctic seas, also a blue-gray color and now running 10 to 12 feet in height, boiled and churned against the rear deck, sending spray skyward.
I watched a lone albatross racing back and forth across the wave crests, its wing-tips almost imperceptibly above the violence of sea. Inside the ship, chairs, books, papers, whatever was not firmly secured, rattled back and forth, in some cases smashing on to the floor. Fortunately, we move with the swells, as they push and shove, cajoling us ever closer to "the ice". We should sight land, the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, within the next few hours.
Sometime late last night we passed 60 degrees south, the internationally recognized geophysical boundary of the Antarctic maritime province. The Antarctic waters of the Drake Passage seem an odd place to reflect on one's birth, but for one of our group, Andy, a UAB graduate student, this was a birthday that will likely stand out amidst his many others.
We all, in our own ways, congratulated Andy; a slap on the back, a small penguin gift, a joke about turning 25. And of course, at lunch in the galley our Chilean cook produced a large cake with "Happy Birthday Andrew" inscribed boldly in the frosting.
Later in the evening when most had long gone to bed I received an e-mail message, forwarded via the WOW UAB Web site mail, from Andy's dad wishing him a very happy birthday. He had been unable to get a birthday message through via regular e-mail and was hoping this one might make it to Andy in time. I am pleased to report it reached its destination.
Happy birthday Andrew.