To sleep, perchance to dream…

Someone must have sprinkled sleepy dust through the corridors last night, or perhaps spiked my dinner with something. I slept until 11.30am this morning – through breakfast and nearly through lunch as well. I don’t think I’ve ever slept that late in my life. But the time changes are throwing everyone’s body clocks out – we’re jumping forward one hour every two days, and it’s a bit disconcerting – hard to get to sleep at a normal time and hard to get up for breakfast. And lots of those weird dreams you have when you sleep in – I was having to go in some strange beauty pageant, but I had to climb over rocks to get there, I think there was a Hagg involved, my hair was fast turning grey and I couldn’t find the place where I was meant to be for the start of it, and I just knew the dress wasn’t going to fit. And what were they doing running a beauty pageant for people my age?!

Tui, of course, has been up and out on deck for hours photographing light mantled albatross, of which there are about eight circling the ship. These beautiful little fellas are a dark charcoal colour with a white eye marking that makes them look permanently surprised. They’re one of the smallest of the 22 (or 23? – google I miss you!) species of albatross, but very graceful. I’m including a photo – I’m cheating a bit as I took this one on the way down, but it really does look cold and miserable out there! Although Tui said she’d seen a wandering albatross a couple of times, so I think I should get my gear on and go for a look – they are such huge birds it would be amazing to see one.

We’re only two hours behind eastern summer time now, fast catching up. Also, there’s proper darkness again at night time, which is a novelty, AND it’s cold and rainy today, perfect weather to make you roll over and snooze some more. Some of the winterers are pretty excited because they haven’t seen rain for a year – it rarely or never happens in Antarctica.

I realised what a truly tough bunch they are last night. Corey one of the winterers, showed us some DVDs: the Davis Station DVD which runs for an hour and a half with photos and footage of each person and exciting events of the 2010/11year, plus a DVD they entered in the Antarctica 48 hour film competition (in which all stations get 48 hours notice of the topics that need to be in the film, sort of a speedy Tropfest) and the bloopers of a DVD they made for schools. It says something for the creative talents of these folk that the hour and a half DVD was fascinating and beautiful from start to finish and a great tribute to the people and the place.

One of the segments showed the midwinter dip. They have to go down with huge chainsaws and machines to cut a hole in the sea ice, as the bay is well and truly frozen at the time of the year. There’s no sun in June, but the sky looked pink in the footage. I thought I’d done pretty well plunging into icy waters of about zero degrees (or maybe one, or two degrees) at the Antarctic Peninsula last year off the ship Polar Pioneer. However, although the water temperature for the midwinter dip isn’t that much colder (probably about minus 2, as seawater freezes at a lower temperature), the air temperature for these guys was -20, so it is a very brave feat indeed – and everyone on station took the plunge, except Cookie who was recovering from an injury. I’m very impressed.

We are still having a dream ride through the Southern Ocean – it’s kind of like being on the Manly ferry – very cruisy. There’s part of me that wishes for a bit of a storm so I can see what it’s like. Material! No one wants to hear about a smooth ride!

Thanks for all the lovely emails over the past few days – it’s been fantastic to hear from my buddies at home, and I’m thrilled that people I don’t know wrote to say hi – especially friends and family of expeditioners who came down with me. I’m touched that you are sharing this trip with me.  It’s a satisfying thing to write a book, but to tell a story as it unfolds and know people are following it is a real treat.

How much of an iceberg is beneath the surface?

Now it’s 1pm! Where’s the day gone? I’m torn between going outside in the cold to look for birds and settling down to some work. My supervisor has just said it might be better for us to meet in January rather than December to look at my novel – in effect, an extension. It’s good to have some extra time to tidy it up and improve it when I get home, but God I love a deadline…

Hello to the gang at Tuesday night choir! Hope you tenors are continuing the muckup tradition without me and Kath there to goad you on.

Have a great day.

Jesse xxx

About Jesse Blackadder

Living at the easternmost tip of Australia on the caldera of an extinct volcano, Jesse Blackadder is a novelist, freelance writer and Doctor of Creative Arts. She is fascinated by landscapes, adventurous women and very cold places and has published three adult novels and three novels for children.
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1 Response to To sleep, perchance to dream…

  1. Sarah says:

    Sleepy dust! Bring some back with you will you? You know that it’s verging on cruel to talk of sleeping in til 11.30 to someone with a baby who wakes at 4.30am……

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