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Excerpt for The Princess of the Bottom of the World (Episode 1): The Journey to the Bottom of the World by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Praise for The Princess of the Bottom of the World

“I loved going on the journey with Scott and the group. I was brought so close to the land and the wildlife by Scott’s descriptions, which can only be accomplished by someone with a heart invested in them. This beautiful travelogue swept me away.”

—Mary Ackerman (nurse practitioner and book club member)

“I especially like Melina and Cassandra, who were both hard working, smart, personable, independent, risk takers, passionate, uninhibited, playful, and lived in the moment.”

—Connie Clark (dean of health sciences and book club member)

“This is a great story! It was an adventure from the start! I like Scott, young and old, for his gumption and romanticism and resourcefulness and adventuresomeness, his humor and playfulness, his combination of regard for safety and protocols with his occasional interest in ignoring those very things. I like his sensuality and brains.”

—Mary Rakow (author and editor)

The Princess of the Bottom of the World reads like a collaboration between Paul Theroux, Rachel Carson, and Robert James Waller.”

—Dan Bergmann (scientist and educator)

“Scott’s narrative voice is compelling, and imparts so much personality that I felt like I had gone on the expedition with him. And I was definitely craving Malbec (one of my favorite wines, too) the entire time!”

—Deborah Steinberg (writer and editor)

“In my preschool classroom, nature plays a big part of the curriculum. I was pleased to see that you included some stories that reflected Scott’s childhood interest in nature. We need to work hard to cultivate young children’s interest in nature so they will become better caretakers of our planet. So after reading The Princess of the Bottom of the World, I’ll be working on how to appropriately include climate change in the curriculum.”

—Pat Padilla (teacher and book club member)

“It’s really wonderful how strongly you express Scott’s emotions and excitement over every glacier. And all his descriptions are so vivid, right down to the feathers of the black-browed albatross. Whew, it’s a powerful ending and I am still crying!”

—Gail Cheeseman (cofounder of Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris)

The Princess of the Bottom of the World

Episode 1: The Journey to the Bottom of the World

by Dan Linehan

Over the years working on The Princess of the Bottom of the World, I've had help in many ways from many people. Thank you all! I wish to dedicate this work to poet and writing instructor David Gitin. His teaching and guidance allowed me to emerge as a writer. I miss my good friend.


List of Episodes

Episode 1: The Journey to the Bottom of the World

Episode 2: Islands of Penguins

Episode 3: Glaciers, Bones, and Ghost Towns

Episode 4: Antarctica, Ho!

Episode 5: Patagonia and the World of Waterfalls

Episode 6: Course Corrections

Episode 7: When the Journey Never Ended


Though a work of fiction, The Princess of the Bottom of the World is a seven-episode series of multimedia novellas based on the author’s true adventures to Antarctica and the surrounding regions, time living abroad in Argentina, work with science and engineering, and nearly two decades of professional writing about the only world that we can call home.


This episode is best read with an image capable reader. Photos in high resolution, and more, are available online by visiting the episode’s multimedia traveling companion.


The series is not intended for all ages. Episodes can contain strong language, mature situations and themes, and/or sexual content.


Cover and logo designs by James Linehan

Cover photo by Dan Linehan


Photo reproductions of the mural “Tango” (Buenos Aires) in Chapter 2 and the unnamed hanging artwork (Ushuaia) in Chapter 3 are used with the permission of Munu Actis Goretta. The mermaid mural on the external wall of the Museo del Fin del Mundo (Ushuaia) in Chapter 6 was painted around 2005 by an unknown artist. Its photo reproduction is used with the permission of the Museo del Fin del Mundo.


Spanish translation assistance by Gisela Zunino (Buenos Aires)


Version E1.12


Copyright 2019 by Dan Linehan. All rights reserved.


Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold, given away to other people, or shared in any other electronic manner. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Table of Contents

Reached by helicopter, Le Cloche Summit overlooks the Argentine port of Ushuaia, which is the southernmost city in the world. Beyond Ushuaia run the Beagle Channel and the Andes Mountains in Chile. (Photo by Dan Linehan)

Praise

Title Page

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: If Not for Cosmos

Chapter 2: The Other Side of the Comet

Chapter 3: Fish, Frogs, and Alluvial Fans

Chapter 4: Cats and Dogs

Chapter 5: Land of Fire and Big, Furry Feet

Chapter 6: For Our Kids

Map: Argentina

Map: The Voyage

Multimedia Traveling Companion

About the Series and Episodes

Author Bio and More Info

1 / If Not for Cosmos

Viewed from aboard a ship anchored in the Beagle Channel, the fiery Sun sets as a sliver of the Moon rises. A wanderer will soon make its stellar dance across the night sky. (Photo by Dan Linehan)

DAY 27: BEAGLE CHANNEL, ARGENTINA

Bang, bang, bang.

I looked up from the expedition gear cluttering the floor and draped over everywhere else. The sudden sounds stopped me from puzzling how to pack up the mess. At this stage in the voyage, I was used to the occasional alarm. Sometimes a drill. Mostly a wildlife spotting. I checked the porthole right away, now an instinct. Nothing but quiet and calm darkness. After being aboard a ship, which was like a pinpoint of floating light on a vast sea, night after night, I’d learned that the dark took on many distinctions. Sometimes it was not really darkness at all. The Eskimos in the Arctic had many words for snow. How many words for night had I already encountered? Now, I didn’t feel the motion of the waves.

Bang, bang, bang . . . BANG!

I opened the door. Cassandra, bundled for the freezing cold, radiated her excitement.

Our ship, the M/V Southern Aurora, was anchored in the Beagle Channel for the night. Because the seas of the Drake Passage were unusually calm, we had made the crossing from Antarctica to Ushuaia, Argentina, in less than two days. The port had no room because of our early arrival.

“Scott, get your jacket. Come outside. Hurry,” she demanded in her heavy Chilean accent.

Cassandra had a beauty that effervesced. It was the way she talked, the way she moved, the way she held herself. She didn’t just walk. She half danced and half bounded from place to place. But now she acted in a way I had never seen before.

On land, Cassandra wouldn’t have given the impression that she made her living sailing on the highest of all the seas. She was by no means fragile, but her delicate-looking frame didn’t appear sturdy enough to be making such voyages. It only took a minute or two after meeting her to understand that she was indeed built to weather anything in her way. This was only the second time in twenty-five days that she had come to my cabin door. I felt my blood surge. I got to see her again. I knew each time could be the last.

“It’s over here somewhere,” I said, not wanting to look away from her light brown eyes or her long, dark brown hair freed from the ponytail I always saw her wear, until this moment.

“Hurry. Hurry.”

“What’s going on?”

“Just get your jacket and come on, before everyone else ruins it,” Cassandra answered.

“I’m looking for it.”

She spotted a tiny part of the jacket underneath a pile of folded clothes, rushed in, yanked it, sending everything else flying, grabbed my hand, and pulled me out of the cabin.

We weaved through the narrow passageways. We were strangely soft and fluffy in our clothing compared to the metal structure around us, which seemed too massive and heavy for a ship that was buoyant in water.

“Where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise.”

Cassandra unlatched a square-shaped steel door that looked like it was sealing off the entrance to a dungeon. Using both arms and all her weight, she budged open the bulky door. It led outside, midway along the left side of the ship. She took my hand again. I did not mind the tow one bit.

“Stay down,” she said. I complied.

We passed a row of bright portholes belonging to the lounge. The expedition members and staff inside enjoyed themselves as if nothing unusual were happening.

“Don’t let them see us,” Cassandra said, with her voice just above the sounds of the water’s calmness. “Keep low.”

“I am keeping low. This better be good.”

She turned and answered with only a crooked eye and mischievous half smile as if to say, It’s always good with me.

Just before we reached the rear observation deck, Cassandra said, “Close your eyes, Scott. Don’t look yet.”

“You’re not planning to toss me overboard, are you?”

“Yes. Now keep quiet or else I’ll get caught. And stop peeking.”

I felt the roughened surface of the deck more than ever as I let my boots drag a little to be sure of my footing. She guided me to the railing. I seized it with both hands. Not that I didn’t trust her. I’d picked up the habit—which I learned the hard way—of always needing to have at least one hand holding on to the ship while I moved about or it rocked around.

“Okay, you can look.”

We were in the channel where the closest lights onshore were miles and miles away. This was the same water that Charles Darwin sailed through, his ship the channel’s namesake.

“What, no plank? No sword to poke me over with?”

“Shush. Look over there,” Cassandra said, pointing up to the heavens above the right side of the ship.

How could I have missed it? How could such a thing sneak into the night sky so unannounced? The McNaught Comet streaked across the Solar System, its tail a wake of ice and rock shimmering in sunlight emanated by the Sun hiding on the dark side of Earth. Moving thousands and thousands of miles per hour, the comet looked as motionless as the Moon.

Out of nowhere, she handed me binoculars. I was used to her magic tricks. I felt the warmth she transferred to them radiate to my hands, up my arms, and into my chest.

“It’s amazing,” I said. “I once saw a comet while on an airplane. It was Hale-Bopp, I think. But it was nothing like this. Have you seen a comet before?”

“Yes. I have a telescope home at Chile.”

We huddled close, sharing the binoculars and watching the comet for an hour. Orion’s Belt, the Southern Cross, and the Milky Way seemed brighter than I had ever seen. We were, after all, anchored in the middle of the Beagle Channel, waiting to get into Puerto Ushuaia. Hardly any light shone from our ship or a nearby fishing boat. We talked about the silver ring on her finger, my silver hoop earring, and the healing powers her mother claimed silver possessed. In her late 20s, she was the oldest of five. I was the oldest of six.

With all the matter of the cosmos above us, I could not think of anything else except her. Standing close to her, it was as if we had stood together since before all the stars that we watched that night began to shine. But Cassandra needed to go. She had to work early in the morning. We had already said goodbye for the night more than two hours ago. All this time with me could cause her trouble.

We climbed down to the next deck and slowly walked alongside the handrail to the front of the ship. An officer making his rounds said hello but did not make a fuss about seeing Cassandra with me.

I turned to watch the officer disappear into the metal catacombs. “I’m not going to get you in trouble, am I?”

“I’ll be okay.”

Approaching a secluded section of the ship, I took Cassandra by the arm, tugged her into the darkness, and kissed her. She resisted a little at first, but her kiss grew from timid to tender. She pulled away, looking over my shoulder. This was dangerous for her. No one else walked nearby. I wrapped my arms around her once more. This kiss far outshined the first.

If the port hadn’t been so crowded, our first kiss and those that followed would never have happened. Though we had been at sea together for weeks, the start of our romance had taken until now. My heart had needed time to defrost, taking the cue from all the melting glaciers I had witnessed. I didn’t realize what a heating effect Cassandra had become until it was almost too late.

The crew was forbidden from getting involved with the passengers. If Cassandra and I got caught, nothing would happen to me. She, on the other hand, would lose her job as well as any other chance to work aboard a ship this season.

2 / The Other Side of the Comet

In the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina, tango is sung in cafes and danced in plazas. A section of a street art mural painted by an artist collective, featuring Munu Actis Goretta, Rafael Landea, Irene Luparia, and Raúl Ruiz, captures the essence of this city life. (Photo by Dan Linehan)

PRESENT DAY: BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

On the edge of his bed, Scott Sullivan sits, facing the bedroom window of his third-story apartment, troubled by the many, many years that have passed since the night anchored in the Beagle Channel. He pours the last of the water from a clear glass pitcher into a wine glass, resting on a slightly tilted, tile-covered nightstand.

He lives in an apartment in the San Telmo barrio of Buenos Aires. The neighborhood is a mix of older buildings as varied as the dispositions of Argentine rulers. Outside on lively cobblestone and paved streets, in any direction or distance, it is easy for him to find a cafe with his favorite meal and drink of empanadas and Malbec wine. Although not all empanadas are equal, finding good vino tinto is never difficult.

His bedroom window seals tightly when it’s closed, and a thick strap to its right rolls and unrolls a hefty set of exterior blinds made of large wooden slats, which keep out all light and most noise and cold. But now, there isn’t any reason to keep any of these away.


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