I drove to Pittsburgh yesterday for the family Christmas celebration (a matinee of Star Wars followed by dinner at Bravo, then present-opening this morning), and drove back this afternoon. For entertainment on the drive, I listened to two different podcasts that touched on two very different aspects of the upcoming Antarctica trip.
A travel podcast that I consistently find useful is Chris Christensen’s Amateur Traveler Podcast, and a few months back I had downloaded a 2013 episode on Buenos Aires, the city where our trip starts. I listened to that one on the drive yesterday afternoon, and learned quite a bit:
—I learned that the Monserrat neighborhood—where our hotel happens to be—is Buenos Aires’ oldest.
—I learned that residents of Buenos Aires are called porteños (Buenos Aires is a port city).
—I learned that there’s a fair bit of European influence, especially Italian influence, in Buenos Aires. So it now makes sense to me that the photography guide I’m working with who’ll give some of our group a photo tour has a name that’s more Italian than Spanish: Bernardo Galmarini.
—I learned that we’ll be there at the hottest, most humid time of the year. You’d ordinarily not want to visit Buenos Aires in January or February—but hey, for us, Buenos Aires is the gateway to Antarctica, and this is by far the best time of the year to visit Antarctica. It’s summertime there, and that means that the icy waters are reasonably navigable.
—I learned that there’s some dispute, or at least confusion, over whether tango is the name of the music, or the name of the dance that is done to that music. The guy Christenson interviewed, Leandro Gonzalez, who grew up in Buenos Aires but now lives in the U.S., stated pretty unequivocally that “Tango is the music—milonga is dancing tango music. When people talk about tango you are exclusively talking about the music. When you talk about the dance you talk about milongas.” I thought that was pretty interesting—until I started googling it, and found all kinds of contradictory information. Some sites talk about both tango and milonga as musical styles, and others talk about them as dance styles. So, who knows?
On the return trip this afternoon, I listened to something completely different: an interview with an Australian researcher who studies leopard seals. I knew from reading an e-book called A Photographer’s Guide to Antarctica that there are three kinds of seals we’re likely to see off the Antarctic coast: leopard seals, Weddell seals, and crabeater seals. Leopard seals are very high up on the food chain in Antarctica, feeding on everything from krill (small crustaceans) all the way up to penguins and even other seals. So when I searched my podcasts app for Antarctic-related episodes and found one from the BBC’s The Life Scientific series on leopard seals, I decided to give it a listen.
It turned out to be fascinating—an interview with Tracey Rogers, a marine biologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia. She’s especially interested in the vocalizations that leopard seals make, and it was interesting to hear how she’d hang around at the edge of the ice, using a device called a hydrophone to hear the underwater sounds. She also tells a harrowing tale of a colleague who left their tent on the ice in the middle of the night to answer the call of nature—and fell into the icy water. And she talks about how climate change has led to the “tropicalization” of the southern oceans, and the resulting changes in ecosystems. It’s a short podcast episode, less than 30 minutes, and well worth a listen.
I have so much reading I’d like to do between now and the start of the trip next week: I’ve bookmarked articles on everything to Buenos Aires to Ushuaia to photographing icebergs. Seems unlikely I’ll get to it all. But I’m grateful for the five-plus hours I spent in the car this holiday, and the chance it gave me to learn some fun stuff while I drove.