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Antarctic diary extract 3 – Boarding a great white shark

June 29, 2012

I am about to board the Professor Multanovskiy – which is 70m long, around 13m abeam, and was built in St Petersburg in 1982 for polar and oceanographic research. Because she is a relatively small ship (only 48 passengers) I get to spend lots of time visiting seal and penguin colonies, inhabited and abandoned stations, zooming in and out of icebergs and staring up at massive glaciers from our zodiac crafts. A smaller ship can squeeze into narrow waterways, taking me where the bigger ships cannot reach. The map on the left (courtesy of British Antarctic Survey) shows Ushuaia on the tip of Argentina, The Drake Passage, and Antarctica.

I stare up at the Professor Multanovskiy. She is a white ship which surprises me, given we are soon to be surrounded by lots of white ice. She is not an ice breaker but has a reinforced hull and stabilizers. She reminds me of a battle-scarred great white shark with a nose bleed: the rusty anchor has left a stain down the paintwork. She may have 5 decks but the big cruise ship nearby dwarfs her. Somehow I feel much safer on the Multanovskiy – she’s a tough old girl, used to ice and rough seas – rather than the super luxurious cruise ship that looks like it should be touring the sun-kissed beaches of the Pacific Islands.
The Multanovskiy’s striking red lifeboats and the funnel – painted in the colours of the Russian flag: white, blue and red stripes, topped with black – catch the eye. I gaze at the Russian Cyrillic on the ship’s stern and notice a man in a blue boiler suit on the lower deck, in charge of the refueling. His neck is almost as wide as his shaved head and I hear him speaking to a ship mate in Russian. He sees me and nods, once in recognition. Could he become the foundations of a character in my next book? It is a sunny day, but still very cold, and I notice he doesn’t wear gloves or a hat. I am to discover that he seldom does. Behind him, black, rubber, inflatable zodiacs are secured to the deck and the crane used to lift them overboard is still.
My husband has joined me on this adventure, as has a stow-away concealed in my bag who goes by the name of Skippy. We climb the swaying gangway and find our cabin. To my relief, little has been changed since she was a Russian research vessel. She is comfortable and well-equipped but is a working ship, not an Antarctic massage parlour. Our cabin has a cosy bunk bed with curtains, a small desk and chair, slim-line wardrobe and a tiny curtain across the port hole. We have the luxury of our own shower-room/toilet, which is small but perfectly adequate, as long as you don’t have a problem using a pump to get water into the toilet.
I hear Russian over the intercom system : it is the captain directing his crew. I have brought a Russian/English translation book with me in the vain hope I might learn to communicate with the crew in their own language. I open my bag to release my stow-away, who little realises that he will be the first kangaroo ever seen in Antarctica. I blow up my inflatable Skippy (he insisted on the name) to his full size. He seems to fill the void between the desk and the bunk beds, making it difficult to leave the cabin. So I place him on the desk. Skippy is an adventurous kangaroo and has been with me on my many travels, so I had to bring him to one of the remotest and least visited place on Earth.
I hear more shouting on deck and the engines crank up several notches so I race out onto Deck 5 and watch as we depart Ushuaia.
Interesting info: the coldest temperature recorded anywhere in the world was at Vostok Station in 1983. A mind numbing −89.2 °C
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Antarctic Diary Extract 2 – Peeling at the edges

June 25, 2012

I fly into Ushuaia, Argentina, and arrive at my hotel on a grey and moody afternoon.

It is 5 °C but the wind chill makes it feel much colder. I have to remind myself I am lucky, as January is Ushuaia’s warmest month. I take a taxi – which looks like a relic from the seventies – from the small airport to the hotel. We race down an unmade road as the wheels churn up stones that spring out in all directions, occasionally hitting cars coming in the opposite direction. As I peer out of the window, I have my first real glimpse of the town’s poverty: flimsy shacks and concrete public housing, ancient cars and cheap, well-worn clothing. I glimpse a horse half inside a shack’s doorway, its bum towards the road. Odd, but at least half the horse may be warm. The postcard pictures of the town-centre and harbour look very cute, but there is much that the postcards do not show.

Ushuaia is the capital city of Tierra del Fuego Province. It is commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world and is the main departure point for ships going to Antarctica. Tourism now provides increasing employment here, but only in the summer months. It’s a tough place to eke out a living.

I think Fedor’s Travel Intelligence website sums up past and present Ushuaia well, and I quote:
‘When the prison closed in 1947, Ushuaia had a population of about 3,000, made up mainly of former inmates and prison staff. Today, the Indians of Darwin’s “missing link” theory are long gone—wiped out by diseases brought by settlers, and by indifference to their plight—and the 60,000 residents of Ushuaia are hitching their star to tourism… Ushuaia feels like a frontier boomtown, at heart still a rugged, weather-beaten fishing village, but exhibiting the frayed edges of a city that quadrupled in size in the ’70s and ’80s.’
I pass a memorial to the Argentinians who died during the Falklands invasion in 1982. The war with Great Britain has not been forgotten. Perhaps some of the men I pass fought in those battles. The occasional car still sports a sticker claiming the Islas Malvinas, even if that sticker is faded and peeling at the edges.
I spend the morning exploring the town and then sit in a warm cafe and read my Lonely Planet Guide to Antarctica. Jeff Rubin, the author, really knows his stuff. I am reminded that 70% of the world’s fresh water is frozen in Antarctica’s ice sheets. Imagine what would happen if that water melted rapidly into the sea
Interesting info: Antarctica is almost twice the size of Australia
Photo: Ushuaia harbour taken from the ship © L.A. Larkin 2012
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Win an advance copy of Thirst!

June 22, 2012

Would you like to get your hands on one of the very first printed copies of Thirst – before it even hits the bookshops?

There are three signed copies of Thirst to be won, and all you have to do is complete this sentence:

 

I am thirsty for this thriller because …

 

I will then judge the best three entries and contact you through the email address you used when you placed your entry.

The names of the competition winners (only) will also be announced on my Facebook http://www.facebook.com/editprofile.php?sk=basic&success=1#!/LALarkinAuthor and Twitter pages https://twitter.com/#!/lalarkinauthor

The closing date for entries is mid-day, 14th July 2012 and the winners will be announced at mid-day on 15th July 2012.

Go to Read More & Comment (below) to post your entry … Good luck!

If you are entering this competition from outside Australia and win, please note that postage could take a number of weeks.

TERMS & CONDITIONS

L.A. LARKIN (“PROMOTER”) “ADVANCE COPY OF THIRST” PROMOTION

How to Enter
To be eligible to enter, individuals must go to https://lalarkin.com/blog and comment on the blog post entitled, WIN AN ADVANCE COPY OF THIRST, by completing the following sentence:
I am thirsty for this thriller because …
Entries will be accepted from 12:00 pm 22nd of June 2012. Entries will close at 12:00 pm, 14th July 2012 and the winners will be announced at 12:00 pm on 15th July 2012.
Terms and Conditions
1. Information on how to enter and prizes form part of these Terms and Conditions. Participation in this promotion is deemed acceptance of these Terms and Conditions.
2. Employees (and their immediate families) of the Promoter and the Author L.A. Larkin and any other organisations associated with this promotion are ineligible to enter. Immediate family means any of the following: spouse, ex-spouse, defacto spouse, child or step-child (whether natural or by adoption), parent, stepparent, grandparent, step-grandparent, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, brother, sister, step-brother, step-sister or 1st cousin.
3. Entry is only open to individuals over 18 years of age.
4. The Promoter reserves the right, at any time, to verify the validity of entries and entrants (including an entrant’s identity, age and place of residence) and to disqualify any entrant who submits an entry that is not in accordance with these Terms and Conditions or who tampers with the entry process. Failure by the Promoter to enforce any of its rights at any stage does not constitute a waiver of those rights.
5. Incomplete, indecipherable, or illegible entries will be deemed invalid.
6. If there is a dispute as to the identity of an entrant, the Promoter reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to determine the identity of the entrant.
7. Promotion commences 12:00 pm 22nd of June 2012. Entries will close at 12:00 pm, 14th July 2012 and the winners will be announced at 12:00 pm on 15th July 2012.
8. This is a game of skill and chance plays no part in determining the winner. Each entry will be individually judged based on the creative merit of the entry.
9. Winner will be notified by direct email. In addition, their names (only) will be announced on L.A. Larkin’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
10. The Promoter’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
11. The winning entry will be awarded in the following manner:
o The three Winners (defined as the persons who have submitted the entries judged to be the winning entries), will win a signed copy of “Thirst” (RRP AUD$29.99).
12. Terms and conditions of the prize for the best entry:
o The Prize/s will be sent via post to the postal address nominated by the winner.
o The Prize/s may be redeemed by the Winner only. No relative, partner or friend of a Winner may claim any part of a Prize/s, nor may the Winner transfer any part of a Prize/s to any other person.
o The Prize/s is not redeemable for cash.
13. If for any reason the winner/s do not redeem an element of the prize/s at the time
stipulated by the Promoter, then the prize or that element of the prize will be forfeited.
14. If the prize/s is unavailable for any reason, the Promoter, in its discretion, reserves
the right to substitute the prize/s.
15. Prize/s, or any unused portion of the prize, is not transferable or exchangeable and
cannot be taken as cash.
16. All entries submitted become the property of the Promoter. Entries will not be returned to any entrant. As a condition of entering into this promotion, each entrant licences the Promoter to use their entry in any media for an unlimited period for any reason including but not limited to future promotional, marketing
or publicity purposes. Each entrant warrants to the Promoter that each entry submitted is an original literary work of the entrant that does not infringe the rights of any third party. The entrant agrees to indemnify the Promoter against all costs and claims by third parties arising from a breach of this warranty. Entrants consent to any use of their entry which may otherwise infringe their moral rights pursuant to the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).
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Antarctic Diary extract 1 – Write with authenticity? Go live it!

June 20, 2012

I have an idea for a story. A thriller set in Antarctica. A tale of exploitation and greed, of man’s short-sighted, self-destructive impulses; a tale of survival against all odds and one man’s attempt to stop a global, environmental catastrophe. A battle between the forces of good and evil, the odds stacked in favour of the villain.

But to understand how my hero can survive the horrors I will be putting him through, I am going to experience Antarctica first-hand: feel its cold clawing at my bones and its dryness as I dehydrate, smell the ammonia of pink penguin faeces, hear a fur seal bark like a dog, touch ancient ice, and experience the feeling I have stepped into a time capsule as I visit old, abandoned stations, expecting the occupants to return at any moment. I want to be awed at Antarctica’s beauty, experience its isolation, fear its ferocious and unpredictable weather and its turbulent seas, and understand why so many of those who visit this great white continent are drawn back again and again.

So I fly to Ushuaia in Argentina and from there I will board a former Russian oceanographic research vessel, The Professor Multanovskiy. I will cross the infamous Drake Passage and will travel down the Antarctic Peninsula until I cross the Antarctic Circle. I plan to get my hands dirty. Well, icy anyway.

What exactly is the Antarctic Circle? It’s the parallel of latitude that runs 66° 33′ 44″ south of the Equator and it encircles Antarctica. As Wikipedia puts it: ‘Every place south of the Antarctic Circle experiences a period of twenty-four hours continuous daylight at least once per year, and a period of twenty-four hours continuous night time at least once per year.’

To write my action adventure, I am going on my own adventure. Come and join me as I experience swells that threaten to swallow our ship, glaciers the size of small countries, and learn about life in the coldest place on Earth.

Interesting info: Antarctica is dryer than the Sahara Desert.

 Photo © L.A. Larkin 2012

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My first blog post

June 19, 2012

Hello and welcome to my first blog post. I have been a published thriller author for two years now and have really enjoyed updating my readers with news and information through my website, Facebook and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter have enabled me to interact with you, but space is limited. What a blog gives me is a way of communicating without restriction on word count, as well as an easy way for you to communicate with me and share my posts. To leave a comment, just click on the ‘Read more and Comment’ link.

To share an article, simply click the Facebook, Twitter, email, Google+ or the Share This icons at the bottom of each post. If you want to be notified that I have posted a new article, then please click on the RSS feed icon to the right of this blog. There is also a ‘Search’ box which will help you find previous articles: all you do is tap in a key word or two. ‘Latest News’ postings have now been integrated into the blog, and you can also find these through the ‘Search’ box.

To kick off my blog, I will be sharing extracts from my Antarctic diaries. In 2008, I had an idea for a thriller that I wanted to set in Antarctica. I knew enough about the great white continent to know that if I wanted to bring Antarctica to life through my writing, I needed to spend time there.

Thirst will be published on 1stAugust 2012. I hope you enjoy it and that it transports you to a frozen, dangerous and stunningly beautiful world, to a remote Australian station under threat from a mercenary foe, and to a reluctant hero who will ultimately not only have to save Antarctica, but the whole world.

I hope you enjoy my Antarctic diary extracts, as well as my other blog posts. So let’s get started …

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