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NGO_Vleeptron (aka "Bob from Massachusetts") recently featured LIVE on BBC WORLD SERVICE, heard briefly by Gazillions!!!

My Photo
Location: Great Boreal Deciduous Hardwood Forest, New England, United States

old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

28 November 2005

i wanna buy junk snacks at the Cofrima grocery store sooooo bad

Click, I'm sure Something Good will happen.
The Antarctic Research Vessel R/V Laurence M. Gould at sea.
Photo taken 2 November 1998 by Dave Leger.


Yo Dan --

Hope this reaches you. I am unbelievably jealous.

Ordinarily you'd steer clear of cruise ships like the plague. But for your beloved dear old Unkie Monkey, please keep an eye out for tourist ships you may encounter which don't seem like total jive-ass ripoffs.

I obligate you to bring me back a souvenir. Postcards will do. A snow globe -- well, that would make me your grateful slave forever. But you'll know the cheap tacky souvenir for Uncle Bob when you see it, it will sing my name in your ear.

Down below is my blog business card. Oboy oboy make a buncha copies and hand them out liberally to everybody you run into down there. I will Die of Blog Joy if someone from Antarctica leaves a comment on Vleeptron. Or you might consider Leaving A Comment while you're on The Gould. Wow wow.

Let me know what kinda science monkey business you're up to on this trip.

Envy envy drool green envy envy.



I have a few Personal Problems. They're pretty much under control these days, because I am Happily Married in a State of Wedded Bliss, and S.W.M.B.O. keeps my ass off superfast English motorcycles and some of the other more overtly suicidal hobbies I once enjoyed.

One problem I still have is a penchant for sticking my head down the craters of active, deadly volcanos, or trying to get as close to them as the Law will allow, or, when the Law is distracted elsewhere, a little closer.

I'm rather bitter about volcanos, because Planet Earth has so many really rawkin' deadly dangerous volcanos, and Bob is Just One Guy, and I have fallen on Hard Times and no longer have my private Lear jet and my personal pilot Philippe, so it's pretty unlikely I'll be able to Collect 'Em All.

However, Christmas/Hannukah is coming up, and if anyone would like to send Bob a round-trip ticket to any of the following, this would make Bob REALLY HAPPY:

1. The Big Rock Candy Mountain

This one's particularly appealing to me, because to get to it and back again, you have to drive a few hundred miles through wilderness that's infested with armed bandit gangs -- Land Pirates. I've had a little e-mail correspondence with a geologist professor woman who climbs up and down the Big Rock Candy Mountain fairly regularly, and I am Insanely Envious of her. BRCM is unique among all the volcanos of the world because it spews out stuff which chemically resembles soda pop.

(DO NOT BE SUCKERED into going to the Utah thing that the US Geological Survey is calling the Big Rock Candy Mountain. The REAL TRUE BRCM with the Land Pirates is NOT in Utah.)

2. Anak Krakatau

In the local patois, that means "Krakatau's Daughter." Find where Krakatau used to be, before it blew its top in 1883 -- the biggest volcano eruption that human beings ever witnessed -- take a boat ride there, and there's this short little itty-bitty volcano now, smokin' and fumin' and spewin' out flying red-hot rocks as you sail as close as the nervous skipper will allow. (This is also Water Pirate territory, or pretty close to it. Local Pirate Index: 6.)

Right now Anak isn't even worth tossing a virgin down it. But if you remember her Red-Hot Momma ...

3. Kick 'Em Jenny, the Underwater Volcano

The lady volcanologist who runs the Montserrat Volcano Observatory tells me there's really nothing to see here most of the time -- just an ordinary part of the surface of the ocean. But Jenny's pretty active Down Below, growing taller and bigger all the time, and maybe if I can get a boat ride there, she'll boil up some fish that will float to the surface for me. (Local Pirate Index: 0 out of a possible 10. But it used to be a 9 or 10. Of course there's still lots of smuggling ...)

At the bottom of the very narrow, superfreaky goat-leaping mountain road to the MVO is a small local tavern called the Desert Storm Bar. I guess that's where the mostly Montserratan and Trinidadian Vulcanologists knock back a couple of brewskis on hot days, and chat about Volcano Stuff, and take guesses when the Soufriere Hills Volcano will or might or could Blow Her Top again.

* * *

Another Personal Problem of mine is Arctomania. Whenever I am Unsupervised, I try to get Farther and Farther toward, Nearer and Nearer to the North Pole or the South Pole. So far Difficult Financial Circumstances have forced me to confine my Expeditions to the North Pole.

Okay okay once a long time ago I had two weeks vacation and very little money. Usually that means you stay home and go to the movies and do your laundry. Actually I had a camping trip to the Maine woods planned, and that would have been quite lovely and memorable.

But at the last moment, when I had the tent and the Coleman Stove the size of a can of beans (these things never work, by the way) all packed, I had this Brane Fart:


Then the Alien Growth in my Brain started whispering:

Hudson's Bay ...
Hudson's Bay ...

That's how much I knew about Hudson's Bay. I even had its name wrong. It's Hudson Bay. But I'd seen this old Hollywood movie once called "Hudson's Bay." That's pretty much all I knew about it.

I was pretty sure it was in Canada. So I opened the Canada Page of my road atlas.

It wasn't on the map. There were a few highways heading real far north, but then all the highways stopped, and the map stopped.

So I went to the library the next day and looked in their Real Serious Maps. They went a lot farther north. And most of these maps, at the top, just had like Nothing. A few sea serpents and Narwhales and cartoons of Local People with just one big eye in the middle of their foreheads hopping around on One Leg, but like this was just Blank Paper mostly. Terra Incognita.

There was just this one skinny red line that went North to some smaller body of water, the southern udder of Hudson Bay, called James Bay / Baie James. The map legend said skinny red lines were railroads. I started phoning around and finally got a guy from VIA (Canada's AMTRAK) and he said that wasn't VIA's railroad, but a sort of private-public independent railroad that would indeed take me North through a shitload of Nothing to a place called Moosonee in James Bay.

First I had to drive my crappy little VW sports car (Karmann Ghia, just a VW bug with a lawnmower engine but a really sexy streamlined body) to Where the Highway Ends, in Cochrane, Ontario.

That was fun. By the last night, it was early June, and the sun was still out at 10 or 10:30 p.m. I drove into a roadside park that said


There was Me and My Car and the little two-lane Highway ... and Nothing Else. Oh, well, trees. There were a lot of trees, mostly evergreens. Probably 9 gazillion hectares of Nothing But Trees on both sides of the Highway. That was cool.

The next day waiting for the train to leave from Cochrane we did some laundry in a laundromat, and when I told this nice local couple that I was going to Moosonee, they looked at me a little funny and told me to be careful there because it was full of Wild Indians. (That's the SECOND time nice sincere local people have warned me about Wild Indians. Actually the third, and the third time they were right, some local aboriginal kids actually did throw rocks at us, one whizzed through my hair and me and this other dope who hadn't heeded the warning diddy-bopped back onto the ship, the MV Northern Ranger.)

The train ride straight north through the Real Serious Nothing took about eight hours. The train was jam-packed with Real Indians (Inuit and Swampy Cree), microwave repairmen, and three or four big, suspicious-looking guys who looked like The Man the Mountie Always Gets. Entertainment on this train consists of Eight Hours of Heavy Drinking. You always know you're in the True Wilderness when the Heavy Drinking All Day and Night starts. But usually everybody's pretty well behaved because nobody wants to risk getting thrown off the train There.


But Vleeptron is not here to talk about Moosonee or James Bay tonight. (Later I did make it to Authentic Hudson Bay, and even brought back some Real Hudson Bay Beach Rocks, and I was not devoured by a polar bear -- and not everybody in that town, Churchill, can say that.)

Ever since Moosonee, the Alien Growth in my Brain keeps luring me Farther and Farther North. Usually Canada, cause that's nearest and cheapest. Find Nain on a map -- I been there.

But Iceland, too -- the Land Where You Get Up to Pee at 3 a.m. and the Sun Is Still Out. Six months later, you want to Pee at Noon, you pee in Darkness. And Helsinki -- for North, Helsinki is Not Chopped Liver.

But I have been neglecting South.

I don't mean the Tropics.

I mean Antarctica. I ain't never been there. But I want to sooooooooooooooo bad.

This was Not a Happy Sunday for me. I got an e-mail from my sister about one of my three Very Interesting Nephews, whom I named Huey, Dewey and Louie because I could never get their names straight. (They assigned themselves the correct duck nephew names and kept them straight.)

This is a Happy Sunday for my nephew, though. He just boarded the R/V Laurence M. Gould in Punta Arenas, Chile -- the Southernmost City on Planet Earth -- and the ship has set sail for Antarctica.

My nephew -- I still can't keep them straight, but I have given them New Adult Names, now, and this one is Ice Cube -- is a glaciologist. If the Vleeptron Archives go back that far, one of Vleeptron's very first posts was about Ice Cube and his warning to all of us stupid enough to venture out upon any Glacier: Beware The Moulin, and that of course led to the very interesting series of posts about poor Otzi, and the international Alpine tug of war over his frozen, dessicated corpse.

In other words, Ice Cube is sailing from South America to Antarctica on a government research freighter as we speak. He is looking over the side, or out the porthole, and seeing the Antarctic Ocean. And I guess in less than a week, he will step off the Gould onto the continent of Antarctica.

It is nearly Winter up here where I am and I am Freezing My Ass Off and there is Snow all over the ground.

Well. Geography Lesson. Down where Ice Cube is, it's Springtime! Springtime! And he is heading So Far South, to The Frozen Tuchas Of The World, that He, Too will very shortly be Freezing His Ass Off and boyoboyoboy is HE gonna see some Snow On The Ground! (Yes yes and Penguins too, he is gonna see some Penguins.) But I think in Summer in a couple of months, gals and guys who go to do Science Stuph in Antarctica can often play softball in long-sleeve shirts, some days are warm enough for that if you keep running around. And soon the Sun will never go down.

(Local Pirate Index: 0. But occasionally a high-speed multi-national protracted ocean pursuit of Outlaw Gourmet Fish Poachers and Smugglers. Argentina-Chile War Tension Index: 2. Hot Local Volcanos: Mount Erebus. Wild Indian Index: 0.)

I am just guessing, but I think he's going down there to mess around in a scientific sort of way with the local Glaciers. Probably to measure How Much Is Left of them, and How Fast They Are Melting Away. And Ice Cube has been reminding me to tell all of you who live anywhere near the seacoasts to buy some big rubber hip-wader boots, like the kind you saw emergency crews wearing recently in New Orleans. You probably won't need them. Don't worry. But buy them now, while they're fairly cheap.

I certainly don't want to Kill My Nephew. He's a very lovely and very brilliant and rather funny and dedicated Real Scientist. And I wish him a bon voyage, without too much horrible puking in the High Beaufort Index Seas.

But right now, at this instant, maybe I would like to whack him upside the head with a Halvah Bat for a half hour. Because he is going to Antarctica (I think for the SECOND TIME!!!!!!).

And Uncle Bob is not.

What follows is a little introduction to The R/V (Research Vessel) Laurence M. Gould.


Type of Vessel: Antarctic Research & Supply Vessel (Subchapter U)
Builder: North American Shipbuilding, Larose, Louisiana
Year of Construction: 1997
Official Number: 1057229
Length Overall: 230 Feet (70.2 Meters)
Length Between Perpendiculars: 212 Feet (64.7 Meters)
Breadth (Molded): 46 Feet (14 Meters)
Breadth w/ Reamers: 56 Feet (17.1 Meters)
Installed Power: 4575 Horsepower from two Caterpillar 3606 Diesels
Lightship Weight: 2754.99 Long Tons
Lightship LCG: 99.567 Feet Aft of Frame O
Lightship VCG: 22.907 Feet Above the Baseline
Deadweight: 1025.68 Long Tons
Maximum Draft (Loadline): 19.417 (5.9 Meters)
Loadline Displacement: 3780.67 Long Tons
Gross Tonnage: 2966 (International)
Selective Caller I.D.#: 368138000
E.P.I.R.B. I.D.#: ADCC020F3101001


Living arrangements on the LMG are very comfortable, with all science cabins consisting of two bunks, a head and a shower. The chief scientist and MPC cabins have dayrooms as well as the sleeping compartment. All cabins are equipped with a telephone/intercom and two LAN jacks for connection to the network. This network access includes the ability to connect to the ship's primary data acquisition computer system for viewing and logging data. All grantee and RPSC berthing is on the O1 Deck, which is on the same level as the Lounge/Conference Room and the Sauna and Hot Tub areas.

The Lounge/Conference Room is open 24 hours a day for everyone's use and is stocked with more than 150 movies. A small book library is also housed in the Lounge for all to use, but please return any borrowed book right after you have finished reading it. This is a donation-only library, so feel free to leave any books aboard that will lighten the load on the way home. They will be greatly appreciated.

Once on board it is wise to take a walk around the ship to get familiar with all exits, your emergency muster station, and the best way to get to your work areas. Visits to the Engine Room are welcome, but it is best to coordinate this with the chief engineer or one of the ECO crew for safety's sake.

The LMG's Workout Room is equipped for both weight and endurance training. A Universal Weight Machine, treadmill, rowing machine and exercise bike occupy the weight room. Just across the passageway is a sauna and hot tub for relaxing after a hard day's work or workout. This area is open 24 hours a day as well, but please keep the volume down on both your voice and the stereo as there are people sleeping 24 hours a day on the 01 Level.

The Mess Hall is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is located all the way forward on the starboard side of the Main Deck. Please refrain from wearing greasy or dirty work clothes in the Mess.

Edison Chouest will provide vegetarian meals upon request. If you have special dietary interests or needs, please contact the MPC to see if they can be accommodated. For the snack food junkies: Plan to visit the Cofrima grocery store, very near the pier in Punta Arenas, just before sailing. Snacks, like Chocolate, toffee or your favorite health food will make the ship feel more like home. These types of foods are not served in the galley, and satisfying a junk-food (or health-food) craving will help make your time at sea more enjoyable.

Meals are served at the following times:

0730 - 0830 Breakfast
1130 - 1230 Lunch
1730 - 1830 Dinner
2330 - 0030 Midnight Rations

General use laundry equipment is provided on the Main Deck just aft of the Galley and Mess Hall. Soap and bleach are provided. Please observe good laundry etiquette and transfer clothes in the washing machine into the dryer if one is available. If not, place it on top of the dryer. The people removing their dry laundry can then put in the next load. There are a limited number of washers and this will help speed up the process. Remember that it's best not to do laundry in seas greater than 15 feet. Much like the people on board, the machines will just shut themselves off if the seas get too rough.

Clean linen is available from the ship's supply and includes blankets, sheets, pillowcases and towels.

While You Were Sleeping ....

Finally, please remember to think of your shipmates when walking the passageways of the L.M. Gould.

All members of the crew, including ECO, RPSC and grantees work around the clock shifts, so someone is always "in their rack." Keeping passageway conversations at a minimum will make everyone's days at sea more agreeable.


Anonymous Jim Olson said...

oooh! An Adventure!.

Can I go on the Great Southern Adventure? I am sure that Protestant Divine types are in short supply in Antarctica...there must be something for me to do while there...

Anonymous Jim Olson said...

Morning update....The Husband says I can go on the Great Southern Adventure only if he can go too. We've done Paris and London...Antarctica sounds like a great travel challenge.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

i forbid any missionary work in antarctica, vleeptron does not sanction any of that kinda mickeymouse und Affengesselschaft. whatever the penguins worship now, let them continue in their Belief System unmolested by missionaries.

(For details of Penguin Belief Systems in Antarctica, I cannot urge strongly enough a reading of "At the Mountains of Madness" by H.P. Lovecraft. Best to read in a room all by yourself with terrible wind and thunderstorms outside at midnight. Have a clean pair of underwear nearby.)

I think u told me the UCC continues to sanction purely medical and educational missions to places like The Frozen Tuchas of the World. Vleeptron has been advised there has been a critical shortage of Spongebob Squarepants band-aids in Antarctica lately, bring lots of Spongebob Squarepants bandaids.

lives in a pineapple under the sea?

Anonymous Jim Olson said...

Oh yes, we have aid and relief workers everywhere. We just give out stuff and help, we don't hold it back with one hand hoping that the unconverted heathen will convert just so they can get food and medical care.

No prostlytizing for me. I just wanna see the Southern Cross again.


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