Days left aboard the ship were numbered. Down to about two, actually. In the eighteen days that had already passed, life aboard the Sea Spirit had begun to seem like real life. We knew all five accessible floors of the ship by heart, knew every shining, shifting hallway, knew where our friends lived and were on a first-name basis with most of the crew, not just the expedition staff. We had grown accustomed to drinking desalinated seawater, to the constant tilting of the floor, to the slightly confusing effects of our seasickness medicines. We had learned how to perform biosecurity checks and how to reembark on rough seas and how to fend off a charging fur seal and how to entertain ourselves. We felt, especially during the last few days, like we actually lived on that ship, that its 100 or so passengers made up the entirety of people we knew, that the Sea Spirit and its parka-clad community were our world. Some part of my mind began perceiving Cabin 601 as my actual place of residence. In retrospect, that seems like a sign that it was probably time to get off the ship, but returning to reality seemed unfathomable and sad. We lived here now!
I shall now explain a bit more about our dinners, which tended to be pretty extravagant. Upon entering the dining room each evening, we were presented with a menu listing two appetizers, two soups, two salads, four main courses that included a pasta dish and a vegetarian option, and two desserts. From this menu, we were free to choose whatever we desired, every day, since all meals were included in the expedition. Naturally, Tom and Josh had been joking since the beginning about attempting to eat the entire menu one night. Some said it couldn’t be done. However, as our return to land grew near, we were eager to fit in as many social events as possible in the time remaining. Thus, the Drake Passage Eating Contest was born.
Eating contests are, in general, a highly unadvisable practice. Take into account the fact that, at that point, the food was actually three weeks old, and the fact that we were headed into some of the roughest seas on the planet, and we must have been literally out of our minds. Nevertheless, we remained excited. Alex dropped a crisp 50-dollar bill as a prize for the winner. The challenge had begun!
Josh talks about his feelings of preparedness before the competition.
Nothing like a few videoclips to truly remember what a comedic force the Aussies are. Have I ever laughed so much in a span of only three weeks? As for the competition, I’m not going to go into details for fear of nauseating any readers who might have actually participated, but there was a giant pasta carbonara dish involved and nobody made it except Tom (yet Josh got within two bites of the last dessert). It certainly was an event, though, and that’s all we really wanted anyway.
A few hours after crawling nauseously into bed, the Drake Passage hit. I awoke desperately gripping the edges of my mattress as the ship rolled, plunged, and shuddered with alarming force, sending belongings flying around the room. Waves smashed against our sixth-story window; drawers rolled slowly open only to slam violently shut as the ship immediately lurched in the opposite direction. We clung to our beds, bracing ourselves for the intermittent shudders, and finally fell asleep to the sound of creaking wood and objects sliding from one wall to the other. When we awoke the next morning, half of the railing along the bridge had been ripped off by the rough seas, and our neighbors’ cabins flooded, but all was well otherwise. Success!