It was a cold & windy day.
I was onboard the Argentine-registered Islas Orcadas, heading North across the Drake passage, between the South Orkney Islands & the Falklands.
and we Knew we were going to Die.
We’d spent the previous 3 days drifting engineless, winds blowing us toward an enormous looming iceberg, but we failed to die then. My life had passed before my eyes, principally highlighting every dessert I’d ever turned down, having consumed my stash of Argentina’s best chocolate over the previous 3 months at sea.
But today we were in 60+-foot seas, green water flowing over the deck when we hit the trough of a wave, the ship listing 60 degrees to starboard on the wave crests (she was built to heel to 90 degrees, but that would require an extreme act of faith).
John Konecki (a true coyote if there ever was one, God rest his soul) & I climbed the ice-mast, a hollow tube, to the small ice-pack-navigation station at its top, 60 feet above deck, and were cantilevered out over the sea as the ship listed over each windy crest. Great view of the wildly-blown sea birds! But we Knew we were gonna die, so WTF?
& I decided I wanted to go to medical school. Right then & there, cantilevered out over the raging South Atlantic. Perhaps it hadn’t occurred to me seriously before then, as it was so in line with my mother’s expectations? So I’d followed my heart, & was studying marine biology, on a trawler in the antarctic – a venture which had taken me from Wisconsin & Michigan to California to Maine.
But cantilevered out over the Drake Passage, it suddenly came together, seemingly a perfect merging of my left brain intellectual striving for scientific knowledge, and my right brain, Zen-educated leadings to salve the suffering of all sentient beings. A recipe for Right Livelihood.
So, Best Beloved, you might have figured that we survived, I made it back Buenos Aries, and eventually home to Maine, in one piece, or there might not be this story to tell. Lots of intervening adventures, returning to Buenos Aries the day prior to the 1976 coup, but those are not for here. & Those of you who know me know I Did go to medical school (the University of Vermont), & did go on to practice medicine. Lots of Good times & lots of stories between my last installment & this one, & more again following the Drake Passage passage. But to relate those here would be bowing to a linear interpretation of time. And Time, I’ve learned, is neither linear, nor does it go around in circles.