Dinner has been arranged for 10 o’clock. Just before it is served we all gather in a private dining room arranged by the hotel manager. Annie, Lesley and Fay join the five of us travelling out. They prove to be great fun and do everything to make sure our last night in Punta is enjoyable and memorable. The wine flows like wine and I order the most enormous Chilean steak that comes covered in cheese. It’s absolutely delicious. I stand up and propose a toast, ‘To tomorrow and our long journey into the depths and wilderness of the Antarctic.’
To my utter amazement this is met by downcast looks and much shaking of heads, almost as if I’ve put a bad spell on our chances of leaving. They all explain, almost tripping over each other’s words, that it is unlikely we will be able to take-off tomorrow. Once again I hear those ominous words, ‘only the weather will decide’. I had actually thought the others had been waiting for me, so we could fly off together, but it turns out this is not the case. They have in fact been trapped in Punta for the last two days, waiting for the weather to break. The high winds to the south have totally prevented any flights taking off across the Magellan Straits. I had been lucky to arrive. The flights in were also subject to constant delay and cancellation arising out of the current uncertain and highly changeable conditions.
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They all tell me that I must be prepared for the worst and could even be stuck here for up to a week before we can take off. I have to fight hard not to laugh out loud at their solemn faces but they don’t laugh back in response. They can’t understand my own rather laid-back reaction. Perhaps I haven’t understood. They repeat the decisive statement the weather will decide. Yes, I respond, but the weather shouldn’t decide our attitude. We must think and act positively and must always assume that everything will go according to our plans, yet be prepared in case it doesn’t, then we can change if necessary.
I try to explain some Zen philosophy which has got me through and out of some difficult situations but I can see they are unconvinced. I expound further about the basis of karma, the necessity of creating positive thoughts, fighting negativity and sometimes just going for it. The more I argue my case, the more they try to counter and I quickly realise that I will need a small mountain of positive karma to overcome the negativity they are setting up. I quickly change the subject and offer to tell them a joke in an effort to lighten everything up. Hopefully it will put everyone into the right frame of mind. We are going on a great adventure; it is important to enjoy each moment as it unfolds, no matter what it may bring. The wine waiter fills our glasses again and they all quieten down to await my story. I only hope it won’t strike the wrong chord.
I stand up, the joke comes over better that way: ‘As you will all know, in any position of command it’s absolutely vital and important to lead with responsibility and decisiveness. But also at the same time to show some delicacy and respect for those in your command. Well, to illustrate, the Captain of a platoon calls in his Sergeant. “Sergeant Brown, I have just learned some bad news.” “Sir?” Sergeant Brown responds.
The Captain continues, “I have heard that Private Jones mother has just died. I want you to tell him the news but break it to him gently.”
“Sir,” Sergeant Brown responds again, smartly saluting. “No problem, leave it to me.” He goes into the mess hall and shouts for attention. “Men, all those with mothers put your hands up. Not you Jones, keep yours down.”’
It might have been the wine but the joke goes down well and naturally after that the evening deteriorates as the wine flows even more freely. When we have finished yet another bottle or two it is definitely time to call it a day. But what an incredibly full day it has been. I feel as if I am thousands of miles away from my usual life and of course I am. We are all on the brink of setting off into deepest Antarctica and who could know what tomorrow will bring. We all agree to be up early, ready to fly out, just in case the weather decides to allow.