“Hey, Dipper, have you ever been to Antarctic?”
“Me? No, no. No way, no how. Never. And not because of the cold, either.”
“Well, why not?”
“Because of all those big-toothed critters down there. You know, like fur seals, and leopard seals, and Patagonian toothfish.”
“Elephant seals too?”
|Young elephant seal|
“I’m not sure elephant seals still have mouths after they grow up. It’s hard to tell. But, my great-great-ad-infinitum-granddaddy was there once.”
“He was? What was he doing?”
“Well, according to family lore, GGGGranddaddy was on South Georgia Island, just looking around. After a while, he got tired of the stench of the whaling factories and the toothy critters. So, he stowed away on the first ship leaving the island that wasn’t a whaler.
|Ruins of the Norwegian whaling station Stromness on South Georgia Island.|
“After a few days, he jumped ship for the nearest iceberg that floated by. Said he couldn’t get any sleep on the ship because the sled dogs kenneled on the upper deck were always barking and howling.
“Anyway, some time went by before he saw the ship again, so he flew over to see what was going on. The ship was caught fast in the ice and was slowly being crushed. The dogs and the crew and a big pile of supplies were on the ice.
|Frank Hurley photograph of the dying Endurance.|
“GGGGranddaddy noticed one man who kept going back to the ship and diving into the frigid water. But, he always came back empty-handed. GGGGranddaddy asked the man what he was looking for, and then GGGGranddaddy went into the water and found them. He guided the man to the spot and watched as the man hauled out 150 glass negative plates.”
“Dipper! Are you talking about the Shackleton expedition? The Endurance? The greatest survival story of all time?”
“Yeah, that’s what they called it.”
“And your GGGGranddaddy helped Frank Hurley save his negative plates?”
“That’s what I’ve been told.”
“That’s really something dipper. By the way, that Patagonian toothfish you mentioned? Some genius renamed it and created a booming market for it. It’s served in all the best restaurants”
“You mean people actually eat that ugly thing?”
“Yes. But now it’s called Chilean sea bass!”