3 Jan 2013
The last of the ocean icebergs are probably now behind us. Some whales were spotted but were left well behind, as with a stiff beam wind in the range of 30 kts we are making good progress. The seas are moderate to rough but sloppy as well and some are finding attendance at meals just a bit too challenging. Sea and air temperatures are both just less than 1C and the sky is overcast with occasional sleet and wet snow.
The good news is that the Astrolabe has broken free after about two weeks trapped in the ice about 800 nm east of us and is now heading to Hobart. Overall a quiet day with DVD’s taking up much of the time of passengers.
Our position at 4pm was 61.24 S 117.58 E Distance covered in the last 24 hrs 240 nm and about 1540 to go.
4 Jan 2013
Today has been a day of glassy seas with confused swells which have gone a long way to keeping meal attendances down. Heavy sea mist restricted the views from the ship and at times misty rain made deck walks impractical. DVD movies were popular with those who were not asleep. The trolling for plankton continues now that we are out of the ice and sampling at the end of each 450 n miles is collected.
The good news is that with both engines going we are now expected to dock in Hobart at about 7.30 am on Tuesday 8 Jan. We should be clear of customs by 9.30am. There is an air of happy expectation particularly amongst the winterers of the 2012 Casey team.
The buoy has been picked up by the Japanese so that is off our list of tasks.
Our position at 4pm was 57. 45 S, 125. 06 E
Current speed is 15.8 knots with Hobart only 1238 Nautical miles ahead
Distance covered in last 24 hrs 285 nm
5 Jan 2013
Our continuing rolling sea is making for good headway at just over 15kts. Mist continued most of the day although as the temperature rose to just over 6 degrees the mist cleared. Despite the swelly conditions the sea this morning was glassy. This remarkable state of the fearsome Southern Ocean has been frustrating to those who wish to experience some of its wildness and welcomed by those still uncomfortable with the constant motion.
All through this voyage the staff of the galley have provided us with an excellent variety of food and this evening is no exception. We are to be treated with a Pizza night. In what for most of us would be trying circumstances they continually surprise us with a varied menu.
Tonight will be the Charity Auction which raises money for the Camp Quality.
Our Position at 4pm was 53.47 S, 132.0 E wth 901 nm to go to Hobart.
6 Jan 2013
The Southern Ocean certainly has a way of reminding us that she should not be taken for granted. To date the seas have mostly been mild to calm, last night however was an exceptionally rough night with the seas on the beam rolling us significantly. During the day the weather eased as we made our way steadily north the water temperature rose to 9.2 C, the air to 10.5C and the misty weather began to disappear.
We are still seeing Sooty Albatrosses and during the day three, possibly False Killer Whales, leapt from the sea in a porpoise like manner. We are making a steady 15.8 kts. The distance to Hobart is only less than 520 miles and we travelled 374 in the last 24 hrs. It has been confirmed that at this speed and in these conditions we should arrive at Macquarie Wharf at 7 am on Tuesday 8 Jan.
There is an increased activity in the laundry and whilst the rest of are contemplating our homecoming the meteorological staff are still at work with their travelling data recordings. John Kitchener is also at work as he has to retrieve his plankton sampler every 450 nms. It is amazing how often that coincided with the small hours of the morning.
Our position at 4pm was 53. 47S 132. 00E
7 Jan 2013
This is our last night at sea. Once more the sea is being very kind to us and the temperature has risen to just over 13 C, very warm to our senses. The breeze is 18 Kts with a swell of 2 to 3 metres. Our position at 4pm was 44.53 S , 145.27 E. We are doing 13 kts and have covered about 375 nm in the last 24 hrs and only have 157 nm to go. Our projected berthing at 7 am is looking good.
I am very pleased to have got the ANARE Club nomination for this voyage and especially grateful that the Australian Antarctic Division saw fit to provide it. This berth gives those of us who served our years away (and sometimes many years away) a chance to see the very substantial improvements in the facilities that expeditioners now enjoy. In particular the focus on science has sharpened substantially especially with flight access from Australia to our mainland bases. This allows some science projects to be on site for as little as a week to setup, monitor and retrieve data. In the example of Casey station over one hundred staff can be catered for at one time in the summer season. We should all remember that these summer visitors are wholly supported by 21 or so support trades, radio, meteorological and catering staff who tough it out during the winter darkness.
I have been particularly impressed by the inflatable rubber boat (IRB) staff. Not only do they operate a taxi service form ship to shore but they also man the barge for the task of moving hundreds of tons of cargo to the base and a similar amount for back-loading to Australia. Particularly the all night monitoring of the floating fuel pipeline over some 2 Km’s was a sterling effort.
For someone whose foot was first placed on the Nella Dan almost 49 years ago to the day that we left, the changes have been breathtaking. The challenges are basically the same, stay safe, keep warm and get the job done. The means of achieving these goals have dramatically changed, apart that is for the biologists, who still live in their 1960’s wooden time capsule some distance from the station but at least all their supplies are carried in by Hagglunds. Gone are the days of dumping 44 gallon drums of kerosene at sea to wash ashore for the biologists to retrieve.
With the pressure of big salaries being offered to particularly trade and support people it is gratifying to know that for some the adventure of a lifetime in our Antarctic Territory is still the choice.