I’m on the ship! It’s great. Big ports, big boats, black oil on your
hands, real people, really real people, gritty town, hot weather, bumpy
seas. It’s real and it’s great.
Bought four cheap watches in Cambridge before leaving: two analogue, two digital.
Daft really; didn’t stop to think that the analogue will be only half helpful
where we’re headed. Two am or pm? Does it matter? There’s still night and day
here though… not even as far south as Britain is north. I have a cabin with
a porthole (that even opens) and our own shower and loo. Height of luxury.
Twenty-one of us travelled from Heathrow to Montevideo and we only managed
to lose two bags and a passport along the way. No-one went AWOL in Monte despite
the local attractions and we’re due to pick up another 10 or 20 in the Falklands.
This is on top of the crew who number about 20 as well I guess.
The men are fantastic,- really nice. Mandy (personnel), Penny (dentist), Jo
(senior scientist) and myself are the women aboard so far but that’s going to
increase too so it’s not as biased as people imagine. And I’ve seen albatrosses
(black browed), dolphins (or porpoises?), penguins and petrels already. Sunburn
and seasickness allowing, I could stand on that bow forever. Over.
PS: The Shackleton’s website
is updated weekly… with pictures! You can also email
me (make sure the subject line says ‘personal’) or leave a comment below.
As for books, I’ve been drawn to two that aren’t read-alongs, I’m afraid. Stupidly
left Magnus Mills’ latest
on the plane but will hopefully get a replacement soon so that’s the one to
start with. Unless you can get your hands on the latest by Dave Eggers. Hope
you’re all okay.
Why did you buy four watches? Where did you see the penguins? Do you really think you’ll get confused, during the long summer, as to whether it’s am or pm?
And as for the porpoises, penguins and petrels ñ I think it’s now time you found an animal beginning with the letter q…
four watches because cold+batteries=bad. penguins swimming like ducks by
the boat. ducked and paddled away but I’m worried might have got eaten up
by the boat. Sorry, ship. And it’s galley, foredeck and arse-end to you.
Yes, I’ll get confused but maybe that’s why I’m going… no quails yet but
I’ll keep you posted. Albatrosses are the most amazing. Don’t call them
seagulls, that’s bad too. Rh.
porpoises, penguins and petrels – I think it’s now time …
No, let her go on. She hasn’t mentioned the pigs, porcupines, possums or parrots yet !
I am sure someone will wake you during AM. Typical Mum question: What is the food like on board? Still real fruit and vegies left?
Sounds awesome there! Hope that after … (how long does journey take??)
days on the boat it’s still half as exciting as in the beginning…
I’d thought that most groups would fly in ANtarctica, but do you guys
have so much equipment that you’re goig by boat, or what’s the reason/ (I
think it’s great to go by boat; don’t get me wrong, just thought it was
less common in this hasty world). As for the time, I guess looking at the
place of the sun in the sky wouldn’t work there either?
It is awesome, yes. And I’d far rather the boat too but I know what you
mean about a world in haste. The jouney takes a few weeks…hope to arrive
around christmas or new year. The truth is, Halley is still a very remote
place and though you can fly in, it’s only possible by twin otter via
Rothera, a base on the antarctic peninsula. You have to land on skis so
only little planes are possible. This is expensive on fuel, often results
in being stranded in Rothera due to weather and also is expensive in money
and time. During the summer season, there will be abut 60 of us there so it
just wouldn’t be logistically possible to fly people in. The VIPS and most
important workers go in early to wake the base up but since all the cargo
is on the ship (for instance my lab and all the steel posts for raising
buildings) there’s not much point in arriving before the ship. Not to
mention all the years food and fuel that we’re carrying. So yeah, it’s a
coastal site for a reason. Last year was the first year since 1956 that the
ship hasn’t been able to get in (too much sea ice) and we’re all
desperately hoping that was an anomaly and not start of a trend.
To continue the questioning, here’s another one: First time since 56 that
ship couldn’t get to the coast due to sea-ice: More sea-ice could be due
to cooling (cool->more ice), but more likely it is actually due to warming
and the melting of ice-caps and huge sea’s of ice such as happened last
year; was the melting of that B_shelf something ice-shet indeed the reason
for the increase in sea-ice?
I’m picturing Shackleton’s some what scary adventure alright! a room with your very own port hole* what extravegant lodgings! when you are back from this trip could I have you come into my classroom as a guest speaker??? teaching is going well…..doing lots of learning and doing the best I can with the teaching part! i’m sooo excited for you rhian and hold you in my thoughts always. be safe! love kelly.
Well, I know where I’d rather be! Even though Cornwall is nearly as wet…I am prone to exaggeration! How cool that we can contact you on board ship! Isn’t this world amazing….seen any quails yet?!! What’s your typical day like?
Sorry for the delay in replying..we’ve been having a jolly in Stanley for
the last few days and I thought I’d save (and savour) emails for the days
at sea. Bart, yes, I think most people agree it’s related to climate change
(and I much prefer the time ‘climate change’ to ‘global warming’ since it
is more accurate in its ambiguity). Last year the increased sea ice wasn’t
necessarily due to cooling or warming but rather wind direction. During the
winter, the sea ice around Antarctic increases as the water freezes. During
the Spring the sea ice melts which is why we go in now. However, the
melting/breaking up of sea ice such that we can get to Halley is also
dependent on winds from the South/East blowing that broken-up ice out into
the open water. Last year, the winds blew fairly consistently from the open
ocean towards the land and so compacted the ice into the bay. (If you look
on a map, Halley is located on the side of the Weddell sea…other bases
such as Neumayer further around the coast didn’t have this problem I don’t
think). So the ice stayed near the coast and, come winter, refroze. Now,
possibly for the first time, we have ‘multi-year ice’ to contend with. i.e.
ice from last year as well as this year. Hence the concern about getting
in….The plus side is that the ship is stocked with a lot more fuel than
she was last year so that we can stay in there and keep trying. Around New
Year last year they had to turn back to the Falklands in order to
refuel..and so had to leave the area around Halley for a few weeks. It’s
possible that a lead appeared and refroze during that time. As for the
Brunt Ice Shelf…the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the areas in the world
with greatest warming of late so, yes, that was climate change and will
have no doub t resulted in more sea ice and icebergs floating around. I
don’t think that was related to the Halley situation though. (Aside: I’m
typing this off the top of my head and not as an expert…there are others
at BAS I can check with if you want more reliable answers!)
Mum: food is actually great. There are three chefs on board since a couple
are going in for BAS to cook at Halley plus the one emplyed for the ship.
We had an amazing spread of salad today that I felt I should fill up on as
it’s splendour will no doubt decline with time. Plus, we’ve only just
started moving again so everyone’s tums were still fairly stable! On other
days, it’s more like school dinners but then we get nostalgic for custard
and chocolate sponge so that’s alright too. Three meals a day though and
not a lot of exercise means we’re all getting fat. So much for coming home
fit antarctic heroes!
As for fruit and veg..yup, we loaded up at Monte and now also at the
falklands so there’s lots. There was also a line of people wrapping fruit
and veg in paper this morning in an attempt to make it all last longer.
Apparrantly at Halley last year they even managed to have a few potatoes,
onions and oranges survive until mid-winter (June 21st).
Kels bells, I would love to talk to your kids but aren’t you somewhere in
the north west corner of canada? That sounds more remote than the
Falklands! If you would like, I’m happy to answer questions from them over
email though…but DON’T give them my email address…just send me a list
of questions you’ve compiled or send them to Felix to post here. What size
hmmm..typical day….haven’t really had one yet although routines are
starting to develop. Got thrown a bit while we were at the falklands though
as we had all the joys of LAND and ESCAPING to entartain us.
The day seems to be defined by food times I guess, and eating. And
drinking. Not surprisingly. Breakfast 7:45-8:30, lunch 11:45-12:30, dinner
5:45-6:30..mainly set so that crew can eat either before or after shift
changing times of 4, 8 and 12 (am and pm). The time in between is filled
variously. I love it on deck so spend quite a bit of time out there. Saw
dolphins playing around the ship this morning which was wonderful. In
rougher waters most people hole up in their beds as it definitely feels
better horizontal. Even sitting up in bed is a bit of a struggle on bad
days. There’s also a mini gym (exercise bike, rowing machine , weights
thing) that I’ve attempted..and email ofcourse. Haven’t yet sunk into any
of my many books, except the ‘Tibetan Art of Living and Dying’ which is
great for short bursts and contemplation durig the rest of the day. Music
has also been a godsend when stuck in bed. Saying that, I’ve generally not
been too bad though I hear the seas are going to get much worse. In the
evenings, most people sit around chatting and playing games. Backgammon and
cribbage seem to be the current faves. Didn’t take long for them to
discover my lack of numeracy skills. And momentary daydreamers have already
been known to be asked “gone to Rhianland have you?” Discovered again.
Darn. (Snap recollection of Elaine calling me spacy kasey on the Scilles).
Anyway, hope Cornwall dries up a bit..I think I know where I’d rather be
I have just been to the official website, Rhian, just how many photos can you manage to sneak into?!!! The ice sounds very exciting, very exciting, oh, were you excited by the ice by any chance?!!! It snowed here (briefly) and I was very excited by a wee flurry, so I cannot possibly imagine what it must be like to crunch through acres of the white stuff! Keep writing, I like this excitement by proxy!!! xxx
Hey Rhian, on searching the BAS website trying to find the answer to my question: how far south-east (?) is the CASLab from the main station, I came across this site, so I hope it’s ok that I’ve left a message for you. Been thinking about you and Katie. Hope you are both ok. Have you met up with her yet? Keep imagining that I am coming too! Then remember, boo…
All sounds amazing. A few things I was wondering…how long were you in Uraguay for, what was it like? Are the Falklands a strange remote extension of England or do they feel more South American?
OK, take care, keep warm and eat your greens!