Heading south, the ocean gods showed mercy. The notorious Drake Passage knew relative calm. Most all aboard our stubby, ice-breaking research ship fared well.
Payback is a, well, it rhymes with itch.
In the small hours of Sunday morning, as the ship moved deeper north into the Drake, the wind blew 50 knots and the swells pitched above 15 feet.
My bed is tucked in the hold of the ship. It's a place of many noises. The throbbing diesel engines. The alarms that go off regularly in the engine room to alert the crew to tweak this or turn that. The ventilation in our makeshift cabin that drones on like the outside winds.
But my crib is also protected from the most extreme sways of the ship. Even so, I have to prop up the side of my mattress with a lifejacket so I won't roll out from the top bunk. Even with that jury-rig, I have to hold on to the walls to keep from spilling to the floor.
Others have it much worse. In their upper deck bunks they feel the sways of the ship in exaggeration and, like me, feel the boat's bass vibration when a wave strikes the bow just wrong.
One woman has twisted her ankle on the swaying floors and now must navigate the ship's steep stairways on one good leg. Worse yet, the talented chef from Palmer Station has hitched a ride for emergency dental work. An exposed nerve must wait for five days of rocky passage before someone in Chile can drill into her mouth. Plus she's been seasick.
And the boat is shrinking, figuratively. The rough seas mean the outside decks are closed. Plus most of the people riding along have been living in these close quarters for a month now. The best jokes have been told. The romance of the ice has faded far to our stern. Thoughts are now shifting to connecting flights and the sundry details of holiday travel.