Berserk in the Antarctic by David Mercy

By David Mercy

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The strong headwinds and a driving rain, right in our faces, caused the captain to make his first command decision with us on board: we would anchor for the night and wait it out. Spotting a suitable anchorage, Jarle steered the boat close in to shore to a secluded bay beneath the snow-capped island mountains and we tossed the anchor overboard, where it finally caught hold. But someone would need to keep watch to make sure the boat didn’t drift in the night – and, setting precedent, I drew first watch.

There is a moment of deafening silence. By now we have both heard repeatedly about the Drake Passage – the most dangerous water crossing in the world. I set our odds of death at 30 per cent. That night, the captain brings up Manuel’s up-and-down attitude. We are set to leave the next day. As we lie in our bunks, we debate whether or not we should bring him along. I want Manuel to go with us. I’m excited as hell, but have no idea what to expect out there on the ocean. I’ve never been on the open seas before and honestly want a third person to make our shifts easier.

I began my long, slow crawl out of the gutter, taking soul-crushing, humiliating odd jobs in and out of the film industry to pay my way. I was desperate for work and my girlfriend – even though we were in the process of breaking up – used her connections to get me a well-paying gig as a bookkeeper for a children’s game show produced by industry giant Merv Griffin and hosted by Ryan Seacrest, before he ascended to the mantle of American Idol. Feeling like a complete sell-out, I drank every night for a week, finding refuge in the bottle, going from bar to bar, until one night I hit a parked car on the way home and kept going.

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