Surprising how deeply happy you can feel in unusual circumstances. Or maybe not surprising – after all, here I am in the sea ice on the way to Antarctica with a bunch of fascinating people having the time of my life. When am I likely to be doing such a thing again? Being stuck in the ice is just adding to the adventure.
It’s minus 9 this morning, “bitterly cold” again, we’re stuck in a new, stubborn patch of ice and every now and then I get a whiff of a lingering leftover from Neptune’s blessing yesterday (two shampoos were not enough to get rid of the smell). The photos of the event have proven very popular, particularly the more disgusting ones (be thankful you only had a taste of them on the blog) and the slideshow ran on repeat for a couple of hours in the mess this morning.
Hopefully my lovely assistant Sarah has been able to put up my post about Neptune’s welcome and the pictures so you’ll know what I’m talking about. I notice it didn’t appear in Aurora’s official sitrep for yesterday, which is funny because it was certainly the most memorable thing that happened.
Apparently we’ve progressed about 12 nautical miles in the past 24 hours in a zig zag pattern (if you’ve been looking at the link to the map of the ship’s progress you’ll get the idea). Someone told me this morning that they saw the computer on the bridge giving our ETA at Davis as November 2015. Certainly it seems unlikely we’ll arrive tomorrow as scheduled, as we’re still 500km away.
After not moving for about eight hours yesterday (the crew took the opportunity to do some engine maintenance) we finally got going again during the barbecue, which drew a big cheer from the crowd assembled on the trawl deck (which is at the bottom level on the back of the boat, under the helideck). For the first time I got into my full outdoor issue for the occasion, feeling a bit silly as I lumbered down the hallway in my snow boots and freezer suit. But once out on the trawl deck I was very glad I had all the gear on. Standing outside for a few hours, even out of the wind, gave me a much better idea of the cold. Our BBQ was cooked over a proper wood fire with some big Tassie logs that burnt for a while afterwards to keep us warm, we had a birthday cake for the three people whose birthdays fell during the voyage (Francis, Timmo and Nabuo) and our 100% alcohol ration flowed on a trust system that seemed to work very well.
King Neptune’s welcome had been a deep bonding experience and so the following BBQ was great fun, a chance to have some really good talks with people and just enjoy the feeling of being in Antarctica. Everyone else will be doing the real thing for the next six or 12 months, but for me every Antarctic experience is to be savoured, as I’ll only be on the continent for a week or so, and I’ll be parting from most of the good sailors on this voyage in just a few days. Although I am considering going AWOL until the ship leaves and staying on for the summer as station blogger. Surely there’s an opening for that?
Another busy day today, with a safety muster (in full outdoor gear) and a two part briefing about the water pumping procedure, which I’m rostered to help with once we get there.
I heard a tale over breakfast from a guy who was stuck in the ice for sick weeks, but not on this ship. I think Aurora Australis once was stuck for two or three weeks in the ice outside Mawson. I suppose I might run out of things to blog about after that amount of time. I might have to start posting my novel in instalments…