Archive | November 2012

Antarctica Journals!

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My husband, Jim, handed me a travelogue he kept of our Antarctica trip in 2008. I had forgotten that we both had written trip journals and it is interesting to see a lot of the details I had forgotten. The following include excerpts of these travel journals that weren’t included in my prior post.

Day 1-2: Jim’s notes state that we cross the 400 mile Drake Passage with Beaufort force 3 winds. The Beaufort Scale winds range from force 1-12, and relate wind speed to observable effects on land and sea. Force 3 winds are gentle breezes that create wavelets that begin to break, causing whitecaps, i.e., easy-peasy seas.

We pass the Antarctic Convergence in the afternoon. This is a continuously circling body of water where cold Antarctic waters converge with warmer subantarctic waters, causing the colder water to sink, leading to upwelling where marine life is intensely prevalent, including pelagic birds such as several types of Albatross, and Skuas.* The Antarctic convergence is the largest biological barrier on earth. Crossing the convergence marks entry into the Southern Ocean which has it’s own currents. We are entering the world’s largest wilderness, with the highest concentrations of wildlife on the planet. It is also the coldest, highest, windiest, iciest and least visited of all the continents i.e. PARADISE!

Map of Antarctica Convergence:
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Day 3- Reach Elephant Island part of the South Shetland Isands, that is named after resident elephant seals. Along with the seals there are several species of penguins. Air & water temperature mid-day, 1 degree. Floating icebergs becoming impressive. Our naturalist explains that most of the bergs we are seeing now come from The Wedell Sea, via The Antarctic Sound. When we leave this area, we will be sailing on seas that will be covered in sea ice all winter.
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Day 4- Cross the Antarctic Sound enroute to the Esperanza Research Station run by Argentina. Winds are force 8, which is gale force, wind knots 34-40, waves 18-25 feet. Cannot attempt Esperanza due to conditions. By mid-afternoon, weather improves dramatically, captain sets course towards to Admiralty Bay on King George Island. We reach the Chilean and Polish Research Stations and visit with the Polish Scientists, who after many attempts board our ship for dinner. By now penguins are everywhere in the millions, Gentoo, Macaroni, Chinstrap and Adele. Later we will see Kings. The weather is excellent and the scenery magnificent. Sun sets at 1 am rises at 4 am.
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Day 5- Captain sets course south through The Branfields Strait. Continue southerly course. Navigate through the incredible Gerlach Strait. Force 3 winds, air temp 1 degree mid-day. Ice surrounds us everywhere. The ship, navigated by the ice pilot, seems to sail through ice not water. It is daunting. Growlers slam against the hull. We hold our breath when the ship approaches the larger ones, they bang along the hull making constant noise.

Day 6- We head to the Neymayer Channel with incredible scenery, glaciers calving into the ocean, craggy cliffs, ice precipes and peaks, boundless untouched snow and ice, sea mammals, birds and penguins everywhere. They are friendly and approach. We see Wedell, Crabeater and Leopard Seals, Orca, Humpback and Minke whales.

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Day 7- Course to Deception Island, a collapsed volcanic caldera. Deception Bay is stunning and the island is full of very smelly, very friendly penguins. The waters are warmed by volcanic process which also makes the island the most ice-free that we saw. You can take a dip if you choose. The water is a mixture of very hot and cold currents, moving in little riverlets around you. Weather this day was gray, foggy, and overcast.

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Day 8- Course north back through The Drake Passage. As we cross the convergence, the temperature rises to 7 degrees, the warmest in a week! Again we have smooth seas and the albatross are our friends. Enroute to the stunning Beagle Channel and Strait of Magellan.

Towards the end, we get our roughest weather yet, force 9 winds, 41-47 knots, waves 23-32 feet. Strong gale. Wow! It was spectacular and unforgiving. And then we are in the blissful Beagle Channel, through the straight of Magellan to Chile.

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We are going back in 2013, to Patagonia & The Beagle Channel. Less than 30,000 people are visiting Antarctica annually now.

* Note: we saw a similar fascinating upwelling phenomena crossing out of the Sargasso Sea which is essentially a large gyro, an ocean bounded and defined by currents. We sailed through the Canary Current where the upwelling attracted scores of Blue Whales, Pilot Whales, Orcas and other marine life, everywhere in incredible quantity! The Sargasso Sea itself seems desert like. Crossing it for eight days, we saw no animals, birds, or ships. Will write about this trip, that we did this year, in another post.

Once Upon A Time In The Amazon!


(Click on photos to enlarge.) We have done some interesting trips since our retirement. Definitely self-driving through Africa was one, as was our incredible trip to Uruguay, The Malvinas Islands, Patagonia, Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, and Antarctica. Another amazing trip was our river trip up the Amazon. If you want to do this trip prepare yourself  for bugs, bugs, bugs, some discomfort due to heat and humidity, and an unforgettable experience!

DEVILS ISLAND

Our Amazon experience started with a visit to Devils Island. The island is part of the Iles du Salut Island group in the Atlantic, located 9 miles off the coast of French Guiana in South America. This island was a infamous penal colony run buy France for over 100 years discharging its last prisoner in 1953. It was in fact one of six prisons run by France in South America during this time frame.

Famous inmates included Alfred Dreyfus who was innocent but imprisoned for treason, and Papillion.

The island still contains the cell block structures, the “insane” asylum, the hospital, and the solitary confinement cells, where prisoners like Papillion were held for years.  All can be toured except the asylum, which we toured anyway. (Hey, I wanted to see it!)

This place is truly one of the most forbidding places I have ever been. The temperature and humidity seemed equally in the 100’s. The insects, despite industrial strength DEET applied all your body and hair still tortured us. We learned to slather DEET on ourselves, then cover with mosquito proof clothes and hats, and then spray your clothes, hair and hat with DEET.  This helped. The insects that bit my husband on Devils Island caused huge ulcerating sores that lasted for several weeks. Sharks surround the island.

Not exactly a typical tourist destination. Although several people who were yachting around the world were anchored off the island and there is a small restaurant.

We next crossed the area where the contents of the Amazon empty into the Atlantic Ocean, called the Atlantic Confluence. An amazing sight! The fresh water from the river, being lighter, flows up on top of the seawater, diluting the ocean and changing its color over an area up to 250 square miles. This is a big river confronting and beating, for the aforementioned miles, a really big ocean. Remarkable.

See photos: (Hard to get good ones.) The process was so diffuse, lasted so long, and was so frustratingly hard to photograph, because there was no clarifying markers. In the photos you see odd brown water mixing with ocean water. This is something you have to see yourself to fully appreciate.

SANTAREM (Note: the river was seasonally low when we visited. The Houses, ramps, etc., are built to accommodate seasonal changes in the river.)

Our next stop was Santarem, a town 500 miles upriver, near the confluence with the clear water of Rio Tapajos. This was once a thriving rubber port supplying Henry Ford with rubber for car tires. It is the third largest town on the Brazilian Amazonas.

In Santarem we saw “The Meeting of the Waters,” where the blue Tapajos River and the silty Amazon River meet. We went on jungle hikes admist the incredible  flora and fauna and saw monkeys, boas, many different types of parrots, sloths, turtles and a huge variety of large and small insects. We visited the incredible Mercado Modelo, which is a large market halfway between Belem and Manaus, selling amazing fish, produce and supplies.

Traveling further upriver we were constantly sighting the elusive pink dolphins which was quite exciting.

BOCA DE VALERIA

Our next stop was Boca De Valeria, home of the Cabacio Indian Settlements. This was an incredible place. We hiked in the jungle with indigenous guides seeing much more flora and fauna. We took a trip up a tributary off the Amazon in a dug out canoe with a native guide and his two-year-old son and visited villages scattered all around. We spent time in the main village and interacted with the very friendly people. We toured their school and donated school supplies we had brought for this purpose.

One does get a very clear sense in the Amazon that one would probably not be able to survive here if lost for several nights. It is a stunning, but sobering place.  The people who have adapted to living here permanently are remarkable and impressive. They were also very nice  and were welcoming towards us. Once you have been here, your desire to protect and preserve the people, animals and jungle becomes even more intense! It is a amazing place!

PARINTINS

Parintins is an island town halfway from the mouth of the Amazon to Manaus. It has a population of 100,000. In Parintins we toured the interesting floating markets, essentially shops on boats on the river.

We explored downtown and the water front markets, visited the cathedral and most exciting of all took a small riverboat down a tributary for a day, where we fished and caught piranha, observed the incredible homes along the river and watched the spectacular wildlife.


We were mesmerized by the constant flow of water taxis up and down the river. People jump on the boats with the items they came to buy, sling up their hammocks and get ready for the ride up or down the river.

MANAUS

Our final stop was Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas. This is the most populous city in the Amazonas, located 1000 miles from the mouth of the Amazon. It is situated near the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes, the two major rivers that form the Amazon. Manuas is becoming an eco-tourism destination and has some wonderful Eco-resorts which we did not stay at.

In Manaus we explored the city on foot, visited the Teatro Opera House, The Our Lady Immaculate Church and took a tour by riverboat up the Rio Negro to the January Ecological Park where we saw the giant water lily pads, more of the natural flora, fauna and Riberinhos (river house) settlements along the river banks.

This was the end of our Amazon experience. Several people we met were continuing on up the river for more adventure. Highly recommend you add this experience to your bucket list. It is a fascinating other world!

Interestingly The Opera House in Manaus had a plaque on the front of the building, stating that Matt Damon had paid for the building to be restored. It was strange seeing this sign in the middle of the Amazon. I guess he gets around!

We flew to Eleuthera on our way back to the US by puddle jumper. This is an interesting Caribbean Island in that is uncrowded and untouristed. The neighboring Harbor Island receives the bulk of visitors, so Eleuthera gives one a sense of the Caribbean without all the development. Apparently it was once a major tourist destination, but the tourist infrastructure was destroyed by a hurricane and never rebuilt.

We didn’t have room in our luggage for all the shells we collected in Eleuthera!

A trip up The Amazon isn’t for everyone. I am grateful to my husband for going along with me. It was a trip of a lifetime, that we will never forget!

I Married a Statistician: Pt. II ( OR a Question of BINGO!)

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(Click to enlarge)

I persist in the occasional practice of buying lottery or scratch off lotto tickets despite regular feedback from my statistically savvy spouse that I have a snowball’s chance in Hell of ever winning.

Here’s how he explains the probability to me:

Your odds of winning the 5 of 5 California lottery as well as the mega number are less than 1 in 175,000,000
Your odds of winning 5 of 5 lottery are around 1 in 4,000, 000
Your odds of winning the super lotto 5 of 5 plus mega number are 1 in around 40,000, 000
In other words, you are never going to win, and this is a waste of money.

“Okay. FINE,” I say. “I’ll buy ten tickets then.”

He says, “In actuality that will not increase your odds of winning.”

“What do you MEAN?” I say, “If I buy 1,000 lottery tickets, this won’t increase my odds of winning the Lottery at ALL?”

His answer, “Mathematically yes, Actuality, no.”

You see, this is where I start to get peevish with these math n***s, I mean people, they’re so, equivocating……

Anyhoo, back to the subject of BINGO.

I recently bought 5 Lotto tickets. Upon scratching off the first ticket, I was able to ascertain that this card required more than the usual determination of whether I got a winning, $5 -$5 -$5 combo or, better yet, the lucky $50,000-$50,000-$50,000 combo, which I know I’m gonna get really soon since the odds are in my favor.
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This matching three numbers type of computational activity is already stretching the outer limits of my most advanced mathematical capabilities.

This card had actual numbers, in COLUMNS, that required CALCULATIONS, plus additional WEIGHTING FACTORS!

See sample cards: (click to enlarge)
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Due to religious and ethical considerations, as I have explained before, I do not partake in such mathematical misadventures, and leave all of this type of questionable activity solely to my savant spouse.

So, I left the five tickets on his desk after he went to bed, with a nice post-it-note, asking him to figure out whether or not I (we of course) had won.

In the morning I found five of these sheets on my desk, along with a nice note attached saying:

“Please don’t buy these types of tickets anymore.  They are too difficult to score. Your odds of winning $20,000 are 1 in 600,000.  If you buy one of these tickets every week for 10 years, your chance of winning will be 1 in 8,000 and you’ll spend $15,600 for this chance. And by the way, you lose.”

Hmph.

Well. Clearly I did.

But, on the other hand……

I didn’t have to spend 45 minutes figuring this out now, did I?

He really does take all the fun out of gambling though.

Here is how the California Lottery doesn’t explain to you the probability of your winning their games: (in case you think my husband’s explanations are convoluted)

Odds and Available Prizes

Prizes Odds 1 in Total # of Winners
$20,000  600,000    46 15 31
$1,000     300,000    92 30 62
$500         60,000       460 192 268
$100         1,091 25,300 10,201 15,099
$50           632 43,700 17,501 26,199
$40           414 66,700 26,689 40,011
$30           333 82,800 33,598 49,202
$25           194 142,600 56,103 86,497
$20           125 220,800 85,671 135,129
$15           125 220,800 89,059 131,741
$10           125 220,800 85,861 134,939
$9              100 276,000 111,134 164,866
$8              56 496,800 190,363 306,437
$5              17 1,600,800 616,991 983,809
$4              14 2,042,400 777,826 1,264,574
Ticket       13 2,208,000 837,018 1,370,982

I must admit though, living all these years with a math whiz, has really improved my probabilistic abilities.

'According to our research 56% of the 34% of people responded to the 48% of questionnaires sent out thought the statistics were meaningless.'

‘According to our research 56% of the 34% of people responded to the 48% of questionnaires sent out thought the statistics were meaningless.’

Which gives me a great idea……..

Let’s form a pool!  If we all go in together and buy 500 tickets this will really improve our odds of winning!!!

Who’s in?

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