Voyage 2-3 to re-supply Casey station for the 2014 year
Denise Allen ANARE Club Representatives 2013-2014
The ANARE Club has once again been awarded a berth on a voyage south this summer by the Antarctic Division, to promote the Club and the history of Australian Antarctic activities and to recruit new Club members from amongst the expeditioners. We are grateful as always for the generosity of the Antarctic Division. The berth is on the combined V2/3 Macquarie Island and Casey resupply voyage departing Hobart on the 11th December 2013 and due to return 8 January 2014.
The National Council of the ANARE Club had chosen Michael Carr from Tasmanian Branch to participate, however due to him having prior commitments at the time of the allocated berth, the reserve applicant Denise Allen, our National Social Secretary and Information Technology co-ordinator, will carry the flag on this occasion.
4, 5, 6 Dec 2013
I flew to Hobart on 4 Dec for AAD Predeparture training. All departing expeditioners are required to attend the pre-departure training sessions every three years to maintain currency with latest standards and procedures. Sessions covered included environmental issues, handling cargo safely, polar medicine, dealing with personal interactions and diversity amongst the group and current workplace legislation.
The environmental session involved such issues as dealing with waste, including human waste and ensuring that pest and alien plant and animal species ar not transferred to the stations “Take it new or take it clean”. In recent years the stations have encountered problems with flies, insects, and plant species being introduced and are close to completing a several year program to eradicate rats, mice, rabbits and cats at Macquarie island.
Thanks to Brett Free, John Gillies and Brian Harvey and with the assistance of Jan Adolph at the Australian Antarctic Division I was able to get a bag of Anare Sales items onto the ship for WOV (Wanted on Voyage) prior to the cargo shipping closure on 15 November. Documentation for cargo is electronically entered into the Australian Antarctic Division shipping system “called e-con” and bio-screened to ensure pests are not transported to Antarctica.
9 Dec – Final Pre-departure brief and kitting
A final pre-departure session was held for all departing expeditioners. This commenced aboard the Aurora Australis and was then completed at the Antarctic Division. This involved cabin allocation, mustering and a brief familiarisation with the ship, including entering a lifeboat. We were then taken to the Antarctic Division by bus for a final session on polar medicine, shipping procedures and safety on board. Our planned departure has been delayed until the morning of Wednesday 11 Dec and access to a smart phone or immediate email access is important as most of the communication to departing expeditioners is completed by email.
A scheduled appointment with the AAD clothing store officer ensured a satisfactory kit was received. The clothing and shoe sizing had previously been entered into the AAD online profile and Catherine, the clothing officer had the clothing ready for fitting. The cabin baggage allowance is 30 kg and each bag must not to weigh more than 15kg. We also have a survival pack weighing about 7kg with a base thermal layer, mid polar fleece layer and outer windproof layer, plus boots, hat/balaclava and gloves.
Tues 10, Wed 11 Dec – Baggage weigh-in and departure.
Baggage security and weighing. Buses organised by the Antarctic Division collected us from several hotel locations around Hobart. Those for Macquarie island went through a special bio-security check as they will not have sufficient time on board to ensure their baggage and clothing going ashore is clean. The ship departure has been delayed until Wed morning, so we were free the day. Time to have a haircut, catch up with some Hobart friends, check the Anare Club berth blog and fix a few errors.
Wednesday morning we were all at the Cruise ship terminal at Mac2 wharf by 9.30am to farewell those remaining at home and at 10am we were checked through to door onto the wharfside, gathered together and walked to the ship. Customs procedures were completed once on board.
We had a few hours to settle in whilst the cargo was lashed down by crew. The stern heli deck is full of boats – larc, inflatable rubber boats and trailers, navy bathymetric boats and also a portion of the bow cargo deck with the aurora tender and Bill Budd barge. In fact I dont think I have seen so many boats on board previously.
The gangway was raised at 1400 and we departed the wharf with a small farewell committee of AAD and wharfside workers. The forecast for the next day is looking good- Seas up tp 4 m easing to 2 m and generally westerly winds. As we cruised past Bruny island we spotted the Antarctic plane returning to Hobart. They had departed Hobart at 4 am that day for Wilkins (Casey) and were returning. Truly amazing to think that some people who did pre-departure training with me are now in Antarctica at Wilkins or Casey.
Thur 12 Dec – Smooth sailing Day 1
Seas have been good- slight rolling but a generally following swell. Provided an opportunity for ANARE memberships and memorabilia immediately after lunch and had a good amount of interest, especially on the smaller items of badges. I have found the name – Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions needs to be explained as it is no longer in common use.
The evening informative briefings have commenced and “Life beneath the Deep Sea” by Martin Riddle will be hard to beat. Many new life forms were photographed and videoed during their research on the sea bottom at depths up to 1600m in area of the Mertz polynya. These included sea spiders up to dinner plate size, a many legged swimming creature and a large octopus.
Fri 13 Dec – Smooth sailing Day 2
The smooth seas have continued and we are anticipated to reach Macquarie Island by 9 am on Saturday. Briefings for watercraft operators and those going ashore have commenced. I recorded an interview with Jim Milne who first wintered in 1978 for the Oral history project before he departs for Macquarie Island, accepted a few membership applications and managed a few Anare sales.
The evening talk was a video – Chasing Ice – a project photographing the retreat of glaciers in Greenland, Iceland and Alaska.
Sat 14 Dec – Macquarie island arrival
Macquarie Island was in sight by 8am and we were at anchor in Buckles Bay by about 9 am. I was rostered to assist the Macquarie island expeditioners in embarkation and dis-embarkation, ensure the passengers were signed on/off the ship and rostered to be in attendance at the bunker door for any intermittent arrivals and departures of the watercraft crew. We tansferred 13 expeditioners to Macquarie island and received 4 in return.
As forecast a passing low pressure system saw the winds increase to 30kt in the afternoon and operations were ceased by 3.15pm and a pod of orcas cruising in Buckles Bay was spotted by some on the bridge. The evening presentation was from Bill – an engineer involved in designing and producing underwater monitoring equipment.
Sun 15 Dec – Macquarie island unloading
|Temperature 6.6°C||Speed 10kts|
|Feels Like 3.3°C||Gust 12kts|
|Feels Like 3.3°C||Direction WNW|
|Pressure 997.2hPa||Dew Point 2.1°C||UV 00.0|
This is one rare day at Macquarie Island! – Over 365 days of the year, Macquarie usually receives drizzle for 360 of them – but not until very late in the day! Fine weather, light winds and I even spotted the meteorological weather balloon being launched at 10am. Only watercraft operators and those arriving or departing Macquarie island are permitted to leave the ship.
Cargo transfers progressed well in about a 1.5 m swell. I was rostered to monitor the bunker door. This bunker door area is normally the access point for ship refuelling and is currently the only means of access to and from the ship.
All unloading and backloading was completed by 7.30pm for an 8pm departure from Macquarie island. We sailed the 32 km length of the island as the sunset light turned to an almost full moon. Magic – to say the least.
As we passed the huts along the coast, Green gorge, Waterfall bay (near Lusitania bay) and Hurd point the expeditioners at each of these huts flashed lights at us and this was returned by a crew member and others aboard with flash cameras. This could have been a classic situation for a morse conversion by light – but I don’t think anything of substance was actually transmitted/received.
The visibility was so clear we could see the whole length of the island from Hurd point.
Mon 16 Dec – At sea for Casey
The regular eweekly safety drill and muster on the heli deck was held at 10.30am. After the drill blast of seven sort and one long we all head to the heli deck mustering point clothed in full antarctic outer clothing, life jackets and our emergency survival kit bag for roll call. At times we may stay outside a while, while the crew complete safety drills and checks.
The hint of xmas is beginning – with the social committee getting together for xmas planning. I had to refuse an invitation to join the Xmas carols choir!! I didn’t want others to suffer – singing is not my forte!!
The evening talk was a combined effort from the Aurora Basin drilling team. The team is truly international. It includes staff from NZ ice core drilling program in the Ross Sea, the UK program on the Antarctic peninsula and a French drill rig engineer.
Tue 17 Dec – At sea for Casey
The clocks were retarded one hour overnight. We are at about 58 S heading west and the seas have been good so the voyage is very comfortable. My cabin on the port side is due for linen changeover today- we strip our bunks, the towels and linen are placed in the ships laundry and fresh linen is collected.
The social committee have commenced organising Xmas activities and the lounge and dining areas a now decked with Xmas decorations. We will place a Kris Kringle gift under the tree by Wednesday night and we will celebrate Xmas lunch on Friday 19th as we are expected to be at Casey involved in resupply activities on Xmas day.
An afternoon scrabble competition has commenced and I am an eager participant.
Today was my turn to present the evening talk. It had been advertised for a couple of days but was cancelled due to Macca operations and departure. This gave plenty of time for ANARE to gain some exposure. The talk ANARE -” One female, no email” was a combination of club interests and activities, e.g. requests for contributions and some memories of my wintering activities in 1980’s such as husky runs and WYSSA communications and it was well received. Thanks to Rod and Col for providing me with some ANARE Codes via email from Mt Hotham e.g WYLLA, YIKLA. Many on board cannot imagine not having email communication!
Wed 18 Dec – At sea for Casey
We are heading westwards just north of 60S in slight seas. The weather has been kind to us and it is difficult to imagine we are in the southern ocean. The first floating ice was spotted during the afternoon.
The talks program is so popular that afternoon talks have also been scheduled. This is invaluable for us to find out about everyone programs. A visual presentation is so much more effective than a verbal discussion over mealtimes. Today we were transported to Heard island in 2009 by Zane. The voyage picking up the Mawson 2009 wintering team carried out some research and measurements at Heard island on the return voyage.
The afternoon Scrabble still has takers and the competition is keen. Notices are appearing regarding the briefings for resupply. – Watercraft operators, refuellers, biosecurity.
The evening’s presentation was by the ship’s Master – Murray – who gave us a full an comprehensive coverage of his recent walk in Spain – the Camino trail from the Pyranees to Santiago del Compostela. About 300 people registered to start the pilgrimage walk on the day that Murray commenced it.
Also the socialites are busy working on early Xmas celebrations for us all. Tomorrow is to be our ‘Claytons Xmas Eve, and Friday Xmas day and Saturday Boxing Day. We are currently anticipated to arrive at Casey on Saturday.
Thur 19 Dec – ” Our Xmas Eve” – At sea for Casey
The sea conditions have remained calm and a busy day ensured with briefings and activities in readiness for our arrival at Casey. Firstly we attended a Bio security briefing -: Take it New or take it clean” and had to take any bags, clothing, and boots we plan to take ashore to the Wet Lab for cleaning.Then later in the day a briefing was held for monitoring the bunker door during resupply. This is one of the jobs I am tasked to do, along with other round-trippers.
Last night we all placed our Kris Kringle Xmas presents under the tree for Xmas and this morning another pile of gifts were also delivered. It looked like a Santa parcel delivery-there was such a huge amount that it was considered whether we should put the Xmas tree under guard!
The afternoon presentation was “Moss Drones” by Zybanek – a test procedure using aerial drones to monitor the stress levels of moss. Seems like fun to fly these eight rotored helicopters in Antarctica.
The evening presentation was by Glenn from FOCE. This project involves monitoring changing CO2 levels in the oceans, resulting in changing the ph level and acidification of the ocean. These changes will affect the ability of oceanic animals to produce calcium carbonate e.g for shells.
The evening ” Xmas Eve” activities included Carol singing by torchlight, and a Trivia Quiz.
At the completion of the quiz, floating ice and icebergs were in sight so many headed to the bridge or the decks to watch the sunset. We were treated to one of the best green flash phenomena I have seen. For just a few seconds after sunset the green bauble that appeared on the horizon gave us a sense of Xmas wonder.
Fri 20 Dec – White Xmas – at sea for Casey
The day started with King Neptune and his entourage coming aboard to ‘welcome’ all those newcomers to the oceans south of 60S. This ceremony invloves kissing the fish, honouring neptune and being christened with ‘gloop’ – reportedly from the ocean floor.
We were presented with a white xmas with floating seaice, icebergs and snow in perfectly calm seas and overcast skies. The special occassion Xmas feast lunch started at 1pm with lobster, prawns, smoked salmon, oysters, salads, roast ham, turkey, beef, vegetables, pavlova, xmas pudding and brandy custard, xmas ake, mince pies, lollies and cheese platter. The food is so good it is difficult not to put on weight. Most headed on deck after lunh for a short period before Santa’s arrival at 3 pm. It was strange that Santa had a tinge of blue on his skin – possibly from the deep ocean ceremony of Neptune earlier in the day. An amazing assortment of gifts were handed out – some received tennis racquets, scooter, bbq and bbq tongs. The evening was completed by whale and iceberg watching as we cruised through calm seas and open pack ice in minus 1 degree C temperature. The clocks go back an hour tonight to bring us in line with Casey time.
Sat 21 Dec – Summer solstice – Our Boxing Day – Cruising the packice
Many were up early to enjoy the scenic cruising through pack ice. There is not a lot of wildlife about – an occassional whale, penguin and seal. John tells me that his water sampling during the voyage is not showing any chlorophyll – so any plankton, krill and higher order creatures in the food web chain are not in the area as they rely on this for food.
We deployed a whale mooring which will record whale sounds until next season.
The afternon talk was from Paul about Tassie forests and his reponsibility in managing the protests as a policeman of many years. In the evening we were treated to a display of ‘Hot Rods and Old Cars’ with a combined effort from the car enthusiasts on board – Martin, Bloo, Ty, Graham, Bill and Paul. There were some lovely vehicles and restoration projects amongst this collection – an Elva racing car, a 1927 Dodge and a beautiful blue Bristol.
Today is the summer solstice – the longest day and we were keen to see how long the sun would set. Casey and our ship location is still north of the Antarctic circle so the sun will just skip below the horizon before rising again. As we approached the Petersen Bank near midnight – the golden light of sunset was awesome on the bergs and pack ice. The sun set at midnight and was back above the horizon around 0110am. Cloud on the horizon marred any possiblity of a green flash and made the actual time of emergence above the horizon again difficult. The sunset photos being taken of sunset became sunrise photos as the passage of the sun near the horizon merged sunset and sunrise together. The second mate – Naomi Petersen had the responsibility of manouvering the ship along the along the Petersen bank and several stayed up into the early hours of the morning to enjoy the views of the many grounded icebergs in twilight colours.
Sun 22 Dec – Arrive Casey- Day 1 at Casey
We approached the end of the Petersen bank and Frazier islands around 6 am. Many were up on deck to watch Casey come into view in absolute clear visibility and light winds. We set anchor in Newcomb bay at 0700 as indicated previously by the Master of the vessel as our anchorage time.
Four personnel arrived by IRB (Inflatable rubber boats) from Casey at 0800 and the station leader Andrew Hull provided a pre-shore briefing for us regarding station procedures and our round trip projects ashore.
Beds are limited ashore, so most will stay on the ship overnight with day trips ashore. The weather has prevented the first wave of personnel being flown to Aurora basin. The second wave drilling team that have come down with the ship are priority to go ashore and commence field training for deep field along with a few other priority staff, such as the Met forecaster – Michelle and a Marine science group. The remainder of us will have an opportunity to commence projects and go ashore tomorrow. Unloading commenced in perfectly calm, glassy waters.
Mon 23 Dec – Day 2 at Casey -Ashore
The weather has remained calm and the day trippers headed ashore from 0800 in IRB. The Aurora basin drilling team who are to field training and overnight camping out on the ice were first, then the Navy bathymetric team surveying the harbour and then others (me). The procedures onshore ar well regulated. We dropped our survival kit bags in the back of a ute and proceeded to walk up the path over the snow to the station to gather in the Red Shed – (Accommodation and Mess) for station induction. After discussions with the station leader, Hully, we were allocated our respective station tasks and areas we could access or work in. I caught up with a few previous Antarctic and Bureau of Meteorology co-workers and opened the ANARE club membership and memorabilia ‘shop’ in the ‘Wallow’ lounge area after lunch. The station has an international flavour with overseas members of the Aurora basin drilling team still on station and the small club sales items – beanies, badges and stickers – were snapped up. It seems an ice floe in the harbour has hampered the decisions to commence refueling.
Tue 24 Dec – Day 3 at Casey -Bunker door duty
I remained on ship today monitoring the bunker door – the access point to and from the ship. We are rostered on in six hour shifts to assist people and baggage moving to and from the ship. The refuelling also commenced. The lay-flat pipeline was deployed across the water, pressure tested and fuel pumping commenced from ship to shore. Many others are rostered in four hour shifts to be in zodiacs on the water and walking the pipeline ashore to ensure there are no leaks and pieces of ice do not drift near the pipeline. Cargo unloading also continued concurrently with refueling.
Aurora basin drilling team return from field training and now wait for suitable weather to be deployed inland to the ice drilling site at around 3000m above sea level. They need a 48 hour weather window in case those arriving suffer any altitude problems shortly after arrival and need to be return to lower levels. A French contingent also arrived on board tonight to return to Hobart with us. Merry Xmas to all those at home who will be celebrating Xmas Eve.
Up early to take my rostered task of monitoring the bunker door again to find a notice on the whiteboard stating that we are to depart Casey and head towards the Mertz glacier area to assist a stricken tourist vessel – the Akademik Shokalskiy. I thought its Xmas Day – Not April Fools Day!
Refuelling was discontinued and the hose line emptied and packed up – (we have only despatched about half the required amount), all people for Casey packed to go ashore ASAP and a small contingent of people from Casey arrived on board prior to our departure. There was lots of activity, xmas wishes and farewells happening during the morning.
It was a busy morning at the bunker door – shifting personnel and bags between the ship and shore. Preparations for departure were completed by midday when we raised anchor and departed Casey harbour.
Three ships have been directed by the Australian Rescue centre to head towards the Mertz glacier to assist the Akademik Shokalskiy- the Aurora Australis, the Xuelong and L’Astrolabe. We are the furtherest from the vessel at the moment.
We cruised past the Frasier islands and along the Petersen bank in perfectly calm conditions with some magnificent tabular bergs in sight. At 1600 a muster was held. The muster point on the helideck is now clear of equipment and we enjoyed the scenery of the many grounded icebergs as we waited in full antarctic clothing in calm conditions with temperatures close to zero.
We have 10 new people on board, which includes a media contingent and the ‘French team’ that arrived last night turned out to be an Italian team from Concordia station and I with the departure of my cabin mate -Jane – to Casey for the summer, I now have a cabin to myself.
Thur 26 Dec -Casey-Mertz rescue mission – Akademik Shokalskiy
We sailed eastward towards the icebound Akademik Shokalskiy through open pack ice at around 63S.We have about four days sailing before we can reach the vicinity of the ship near Commonwealth Bay. Seas have been calm, with overcast skies. At this latitude at this time of the year, we do not get any period of darkness overnight, just twilight before the sun rises again. An after lunch game of Scrabble re-commenced and the competition was fierce – but Paul managed to dispose of all seven tiles in one go and his 50 bonus points placed him as a clear winner. The evening presentation was from Stephen, who has been working as a hunter on Macquarie Island involved in the eradication of the rabbits, rats and mice.
Sat 28 Dec -Day 2 Casey-Mertz rescue mission
The Lastrolabe and Xuelong reached within 6 nm of the Akademik’s position late yesterday and were unable to break through. We are due to arrive in their location late on 29 Dec – four days after departing Casey. We have been travelling in foggy and overcast conditions just outside the pack ice and as a result we have about a 2 metre swell, causing the ship to roll a little. When we were in the ice the presence of the floating pack ice dampens the movement of the waves and ocean swell. So most on board have been quietly reading books or watching movies.
The xmas decorations have been packed up. The ship shop contains monogrammed clothing, memorabilia and essential items such as toothpaste and deodorant and opens for half and hour at 4pm on most days and is now being frequented as we begin to appreciate the opportunity for some retail therapy. Also the DVD borrowing system is seeing an increase in movie loans. The food served up by the galley remains outstanding and mealtimes continue to be a highlight. So some of us walked a few laps around the corridors to earn our dinner. The evening presentation was a photographic session of Natalie’s 10000km tour over 6 weeks of WA National parks during wildflower season.
Sun 29 Dec -Day 3 Casey-Mertz rescue mission
A quiet day an board. We have been tidying cabins and cleaning in case we need to take extra passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy. I, and several others, are fortunate to have our own cabin at the moment – however if we are required to take passengers we will need to fill all cabins to a three or four person share.
I am on met duty today doing three hourly observations between 5am and 11 pm, in foggy and then snowy conditions. We have barely been able to see one mile ahead all day and one needs to keep a good lookout as icebergs slowly appear out of the mist. Mostly the visibility has been between 50m – 200m all day. We arrived in the vicinity of the Mertz glacier late in the evening around 11pm. Contact was made to Akademik and Xuelong by VHF radio and we decided to hold in clearer water until visibility improved in the morning before trying to push through the thicker pack ice towards the Akademik’s location.
Mon 30 Dec -Day 4 Casey-Mertz rescue mission
An early morning attempt has been made to attempt to reach the position of the Akademik Shokalskiy. The pack ice is very thick, snow covered and difficult to push through and visibility is not good – almost whiteout conditions without any definition of the surface or the horizon. The wind is also not favourable – around 20 knots from the southeast, i.e behind us – so the pack ice and thick floes are settling back behind us as we move through, closing the lead. At risk of being stuck ourselves we turned back about 9 nm from the Akademik Shokalskiy and returned to the more open pack ice in front of the Mertz glacier. We now wait for better weather conditions for either another attempt at breaking through or for the helicopter on the Chinese vessel Xuelong to enable passenger transfers to occur. We are currently about 17 nm from the position of the Xuelong. The weather does not look favourable for a couple of days with strong southeast winds, poor visibility and low cloud expected.
Steaming back and forth near the front of the Mertz glacier we are in an area of water that was part of a glacier front a few years back before a large iceberg (B09) floated by, bumped into the glacier and caused a large portion of the glacier front to break off.
The evening presentation was from Marty about his year as a field training officer with British Antarctic Survey on the peninsula area of Antarctica.
Tue 31 Dec -New Years Eve – Day 5 Casey-Mertz rescue mission
Today was a day of rain, poor visibility and low cloud. The air temperature is just below zero and the ice that had built up on the deck, railings and met instruments has now melted and fallen off. This has freed up our wind speed indicators again. These had iced solid, providing inaccurate data and requiring us to estimate our wind speed and direction.
Attempts were made to push into the ice, however heavy floes and ridged ice prevented our passage and the weather was unsuitable for any evacuation plan. The after lunch scrabble competition is keen with Jessica scooping the high scores today.
News Years Eve was celebrated with a fundraiser Trivia Quiz for Camp Quality with the dress standard being colourful clothing. The costumes for the evening were inventive, considering very few of us brought colourful clothing and many of us wear Antarctic Division issued clothing. The team ‘Deliverance’ with their rescue and hillbilly clothing was very impressive, presenting a co-ordinated team image.
Happy New Year to all.
Wed 1 Jan -New Years Day – Day 6 Casey-Mertz rescue mission
We left the relatively open water and began pushing through ice again today. This was an increasingly slow process as we weaved between floes and through heavy pack ice towards the Xuelong. We could see greyer ‘water sky’ reflecting of the cloud behind us as we left the more open water and whiter ‘ice glint’ ahead towards the thick ice floes. The weather progressively cleared during the day and by the evening we were within a few miles of the Xuelong and could see the Akademik Shokalskiy in the far distance. The domed Antarctic plateau ice was also visible by afternoon, rising in the distance. It appeared to be windy on the plateau as blowing snow was visible being picked up from the surface giving the ice horizon a blurred, indistinct edge.
The evening presentation by Grant was a humorous report about soil remediation from fuel contaminants at Macquarie Island.
Thur 2 Jan – Day 7 Casey-Mertz rescue mission
We did not make much progress into the ice overnight. The ice drift was taking us further away from Xuelong than we were proceeding towards it – despite considerable heavy pushing and bashing. The weather cleared with 20 knot southeasterly winds in the morning easing to 10 knots in the afternoon. Some low cloud threatened in the morning, but cleared away to a fine sunny day. The Chinese commenced helicopter operations just before lunch to an ice floe next to our ship. The Chinese flew over the floe to inspect it, then did a test landing on the floe, then set down a crew who radar tested the ice thickness and found it to be around 3 metres – so they set up a landing site.
Our watercraft operators were placed on the floe to assist and direct passengers and move luggage. Passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy began arriving in groups of 12, each with their luggage around 2 pm. They were lifted onto the deck level in our tender boat. By 7.30 pm we had all 52 on board, plus 800kg of luggage and scientific equipment. I was tasked with directing them from the entry stairwell to the lounge area for name checking – in my ANARE logo-ed shirt. They then were able to relax in the E deck mess or in their D deck cabins until all transfers were completed prior to on board briefing by the Master and the Voyage leader and the “Not just a passenger “video about safety on the ship.
Fri 3 Jan – Day 9 Casey-Mertz rescue mission
It seemed a long night of noisy bashing the ice to slowly work our way through the heavy ice floes. The new passengers are settling into the self service style of the Aurora mealtimes, serving themselves at the salad bar or at the bain marie, working out where to find the plates, cups, tea, coffee, cutlery etc and for us it is now much more congested in the mess. We had an emergency muster to ensure all aboard know where they need to be. We spent all day slowly working our way out of the ice and reached the edge of the pack around 10 pm with a golden sunset lighting up the icebergs.The Chinare ship Xuelong is yet to extract themselves from the heavy multi year ice floes to proceed to continue their program for this season.
Sat 4 Jan – Day 24 of the voyage – Back to Casey to complete the job.
Last nights presentation was by Doug, who has his own photographic business. His images of this voyage were outstanding.
With new passengers aboard the after lunch Anare sales have picked up and even some of the regulars were looking for ‘new clothes’ – just for something different to wear.
The Aurora Australis had been asked to remain near the Mertz/Commonwealth Bay area as the CHINARE (Chinese Antarctic Research Expeditions) ship is still having difficulty extracting themselves from the heavy pack ice. Their ship is much larger than ours, although it has similar ice breaking capacity. However the length of the ship means that they have more difficulty in moving around the large floes.
During the day we were released by the RCC (Rescue Control Centre) and are now heading towards Casey to complete the resupply of the station. Earlier today we were moving through open water which had a reasonable amount of sea ice floes, icebergs, bergy bits and growlers (glacial ice floating <1 m above the sea level) but they have now become fewer. As a result we are able to move quicker and are cruising westwards at 12 knots. With a new group of people on board means a new supply of presentations and John provided a great presentation of his trip to Commonwealth Bay with his sons in a 32ft steel yacht
Sun 5 Jan – Day 25
We passed near the South Magnetic Pole again this morning around 6am. I was on the bridge doing meteorological obserations and the mate noted that the magnetic variation was swinging. It had changed from 5W to 18W to 30W and then 40W over a short period of time. The air and sea temperatures are just above zero (quite warm) and the weather has been foggy most of the day with the occassional piece of floating ice. We are doing good speed towards Casey.
Another oral history recording has been completed and I have a third planned for tomorrow, however we still found time for a game of scrabble. We had some new contenders, with some Akademik Shokalskiy passengers joining in and raising the bar. A six letter word with the ten point Z on a double letter in a word on a triple word score is hard to beat.
My ANARE sales items are gradually being depleted and today an order form was taken for a website order once they return home and gain internet access again.
In the evening presentation, Fred took us through her winter at Dumont d’Ville filming emperor penguins for the BBC-Spy in the Huddle series. She did not break the record for the longest presentation – but it was well worth every minute, including some personal edits of the robotic cameras used amongst the penguins.
Mon 6 Jan – Day 26
Today was a grey, overcast day with large snow flakes falling at times and swell to about 2 metres, so the ship has a slight roll to it. The presentations are in full swing. Chris from Akademik Shokalskiy provided an after lunch presentation about the science programs they were undertaking, prior to becoming beset.
We are expected to arrive at Casey later tomorrow, however the weather forecast does not look favourable for us to complete the refueling and resupply within a few days. The wind on Wednesday and Thursday is expected to be around 40 knots at Casey, which will be too strong for safe operations. We had an afternoon briefing in readiness for our arrival and the watercraft operators are preparing themselves for cargo operations soon after arrival, if the weather permits. So much of Antarctic activities relies on the weather and one needs to take any opportunity for any weather window that we have available.
We celebrated the Master’s birthday with a blueberry cheesecake birthday cake and the evening presentation by Ty, “Creatures of the Deep Sea” was a fascinating report of his five years of work recording the animal life at the bottom of the ocean and the effects of long line and bottom trawl fishing on the seabed wildlife. Technology has now allowed cameras to record at deep ocean depths and he even had footage of an elephant seal that was very interested in the camera and light whilst swimming at about 1.4km below the surface of the ocean.
Tue 7 Jan – Day 27
We held an afternoon presentation by Chris from AAE on ‘Antarctic Ice” about the flow of the ice sheets, mostly in the West Antarctica area and the impacts on sea level rises.
There are concerns about the weather at Casey for the next few days, so if conditions are good some will commence their programs and unloading on arrival at midnight to take advantage of any weather windows. It is reported that Casey has 50 knots and has reached as high as 90 knots today as a small low developed in Vincennes bay.
By 6pm we were approaching the Petersen bank again, in very different conditions than two weeks ago when the solstice provided a golden light show. This time grey skies, low cloud and misty conditions did not present the grounded iceberg city in its best light, however the sights of amazing icebergs appearing out of the mist was still enjoyable and especially to those on board who have not previously travelled this way.
We were in Casey harbour setting anchor by around 11pm and were pleased to find calm water and light winds to commence operations at midnight.
Wed 8 Jan – Day 28
We managed about six hours of cargo overnight while the winds were light. Some passengers with shore programs were transferred ashore, the navy undertook several hours of bathymetric survey of the harbour and several loads of cargo were transferred to Casey along with some Return to Australia (RTA) cargo brought onto the ship.
A low pressure system was approaching and by 6am the snow could be seen lifting from the surface on the plateau, indicating that the winds were picking up. The operations were ceased and we raised anchor to leave the harbour to ride out the strong winds in more open water. The winds increased to around 60 knots during the day as the low passed over us and some interesting cloud formations were observed.
The news at breakfast was an advice received that both the Xuelong and the Akademik Shokalskiy have both freed themselves from the ice, prior to the arrival of the Polar Star. This produced a joyous celebratory mood by many. I would like to have seen an updated sea-ice image of their area to determine whether a large iceberg, about 8nm x 1nm in size, that had appeared to break of 9B09 had caused the seaice to break open and allow the movement of the pack ice floes.
Thu 9 Jan – Day 29
We remained outside the harbour with another low approaching from the northeast. The winds in the morning eased, but increased again during the afternoon as we played a waiting game for the weather to improve to commence cargo and refuelling operations again. The weather is anticipated to improve tomorrow.
The crew ran a man overboard drill and their were several activities were organised such as exercise on the heli deck, singing in the games area and games such as cards and scrabble. Many took the time to rest or watch a movie, whilst some still had reports to write and results to analyse.
An afternoon presentation by Greg, mainly for the benefit of Akademik Shokalskiy passengers gave an overview of Antarctic activities, including the treaty nations and stations.
Fri 10 Jan – Day 30
We are still playing the waiting game with the wind blowing 40-60 knots at Casey as we steam transects a few kilometeres away. As we cruise up and back outside Newcomb Bay we have been recording the ocean depth. These bathymetric transects will eventually be uploaded into the system for ocean mapping. The winds eased at Casey during the evening, however they are expected to increase again tomorrow with Sunday now being the most likely day for re-commencing our cargo and refueling operations.
An afternoon presentation by Eric regarding managing climate change using possible geo-mechanisms brought about controversial discussion.
at 11 Jan – Day 31
Today was still overcast with 40 knots of wind at Casey during the morning. The weekly safety muster drill was held on the helideck with warm temperatures of plus 3 deg and I understand that the attendance was completed in record time for this number of passengers. An afternoon presentation by Ian was about his ‘freeze dry’ project at Wilkes during the mid 90’s to early 2000’s. They determined that ice could be removed from within a building by sublimation, assisting in the preservation of old buildings and as a result Ian has become involved in the preservation of Mawson’s hut at Commonwealth Bay.
Several other activities are occurring around the ship, such as morning yoga, afternoon exercise on the helideck (not for the fainthearted), movie or series sessions in D-deck recreation room, or just viewing icebergs in our vicinity.
We circumnavigated a large iceberg about 1 nm long that had recently calved or broken, probably from the Vanderford or Adams glacier front. A tide line could be seen clearly visible about a metre or two above the current floating level and this tide line disappeared where the iceberg was previously joined. We also had some heavy snow falls during the afternoon.
With favourable weather conditions forecast for tomorrow we are planning to re-commence cargo and refueling operations.
Sun 12 Jan – Day 32
Finally we have light winds at Casey and we slowly made our way into the harbour of Newcomb Bay. New ice can be seen in strips forming on the ocean surface. Cargo operations were commenced and preparations for refueling. The fuel line was deployed over the ocean with sea anchors installed to hold it in place. The lay flat pipeline is then pressure tested prior to commencing pumping the special antarctic blend diesel fuel that will run the station during the year. The set-up took several hours and fuel pumping was commenced around 6 pm. Shifts of watercraft operators continually run up and down the fuel line in inflatable rubber boats (IRB), whilst pumping is happening to detect any leaks and ensure that any floating ice does not impinge along the line. The continue this in four hour shifts throughout the night until the transfer of fuel from ship to shore is complete.
I spent much of the day between 8 am until 8 pm on roster monitoring the bunker door, where access to and from the ship is by ladder to a barge or IRB and then to shore about 1.5 km away. We assisted people getting on and off the ship and passed their bags to the IRB’s.
Mon 13 Jan – Day 33 – Ashore at Casey
I spent the day ashore at Casey station. During the morning a small ceremony was held to scatter the ashes of the Anare Club webmaster Ian Bruce who passed away last year. It turned out that today was the anniversary of Ian arriving at Casey in 1988 to spend the wintering year at the Casey tunnel.
Refueling was completed during the morning and by mid afternoon the hose and sea anchors had been retrieved. Cargo operations continued throughout the day in calm conditions. The Navy continued their bathymetric survey of Newcomb and O’Brien bays.
The shipboard activities are continuing for the passengers unable to go ashore.
Tue 14 Jan – Day 34
The unloading and backloading continues in light winds and snowy weather today. The watercraft operators working in shifts on the Bill Budd barge and IRB’s and the Navy staff undertaking the bathymetric surveys of the bays were listed to depart the ship for shore today. Some were rostered to monitor the bunker door, whilst others occupied themselves with movies, writers festival and email access. We are currently linked into the station network and can access our off ship email addresses that we would normally have at home. We anticipate departing Casey tomorrow afternoon.
Wed 15 Jan – Day 35
The last of the cargo was backloaded in perfect sunny and calm conditions. During the morning I decided to head onto the upper decks to take in the sun, watch the last of the loading and soak up the antarctic views. I sat down looked up at the inland horizon and said “There’s a plane”. The US hercules aircraft did a fly by of the ship heading out to sea, then turned back and landed on the skiway just inland of Casey. About 20 minutes later it took off and flew past us again. Surreal. Awesome.
By 1.30pm we had raised anchor and were heading out of the harbour and Newcomb bay. Most were on deck watching Wilkes and Casey disappear into the distance, then to soak up the views of the icebergs grounded on the Petersen bank and the numerous ice floes of the open pack ice. Plenty of wildlife was spotted, including a Ross seal, an elephant seal and emperor penguins. The evening was completed with a special drinks BBQ occasion on the trawl deck at the stern of the ship. This is such a nice place to be as we pass icefloes and icebergs as we are near the level of the ice floes. Our anticipated arrival date in Hobart is 22 Jan.
Thur 16 Jan – Day 36
We are into the open sea and have begun to rock and roll a little. Some have taken to their bunks. We are heading through a low pressure system with about 3-4 metre seas, 20-30 knot winds and foggy conditions.
I only have a few large sizes of Anare club sales items left and finalised sales today. The AS passengers held a writers festival and Lena delivered the purchased post ‘first day of issue’ items to those who had ordered them from Casey.
The evening presentations have recommenced and Natalie informed us of her project at Macquarie island. An endemic cushion plant on Macquarie island – Azorella has been undergoing dieback and.this species has now been placed on the endangered list. She was required to set up a seed bank at Macqurie island for the botanic gardens as they have been unsuccesful in achieving germination elsewhere.
Fri 17 Jan – Day 37
We are now north of 60S and north of the Antarctic zone. The air temperature is around 4 dec C. Many were out on the decks enjoying the warmer temperature and sunny day. I completed another oral history recording for the Anare Club by lunchtime. The lunch atmosphere is one of discussions of Hobart, hotel accommodations, home and flight bookings, although a few are still not attending meals. An afternoon presentation by Eric, the Akademik Shokalskiy oceanographer, informed us about the dynamics of ocean waves and the effect of coriolis force and rosby waves.
During the afternoon the BBC have been providing snippets of their radio programs and today’s was about using sniffer dogs on ships to collect the scats (faeces) of a declining resident killer whale population in Canada (Prudoe Bay). the scientists are using the skats to attempt to determine why the population is declining.
The evening presentation was a repeat of the Master’s walk through Spain, for those who have arrived on the ship since his last showing.
Sat 18 Jan – Day 38
The cloudy morning turned into a sunny afternoon with rolling seas and many were watching for seabirds such prions and albatross. The morning started with the usual Saturday morning muster on the helideck followed by a security lock-down drill by the crew, during which we were restricted to D deck (our cabin floor) for a short time. The daily activities schedule is continuing – yoga, exercise workout, scrabble, games and movies are helping most to pass the time as we head towards Hobart.
We had two afternoon presentations today. The first by Chris, about the ‘Secrets of Scott’s Journey to the Pole in 1912’, was very informative. Chris has spent some time going through the journals of the participants of the early Antarctic expeditions. He highlighted some discrepancies in the published wordings of diaries to those that had been written in the original diaries. The omissions change the context of the quotes, as published.
Then Janet – a senator elect – discussed actions required for using renewable energy alternatives in aiming towards a zero carbon society by 2030 and hopefully reduce our impact on a warming atmosphere.
The evening presentation was Mick’s posting on secondment with the Royal Navy in Scotland where he say he managed to acquire a taste for scotch whiskey. He will probably enjoy a ‘wee dram’ after being on this dry ship for six weeks.
Sun 19 Jan – Day 39
We are far enough north for the nights to be getting dark again.The clocks have been advanced another hour forwards and as I was effectively up until about 2 am for weather obs and to enjoy the almost full moon upon the water – I managed to sleep through the 11:30 lunch. We have one more advance of the clocks to be on the same time as Hobart again.
There are plenty of presentations are happening. Nicky’s talk on dwarf Minke whales on the Great Barrier Reef drew a full house. Her family run a business in Cairns to research the social behaviour of these whales during a short period in late June, early July each year. Her footage of swimming with several whales was truly awesome – something she has participated in since she was about 10.
I gave a repeat presentation of ‘One female, no email’, which basically promotes the ANARE club with slides of my early years. Hopefully the editor will receive lots of contributions via email!
The evening was another special occasion event. An auction to raise funds for Camp Quality which the Aurora Australis supports. Plenty of donations were received such as handicraft items, drawings, paintings, knots and accommodation stays and about $11000 was raised. This included funds donated for head shavings.
Mon 20 Jan – Day 40
The presentations today were focussed on learning about the world around us. Firstly Ryan gave a presentation on his work at Casey over summer working for Geoscience Australia. He gave us a Geodesy 101 cartoon, prepared by NASA, to provide us a basic understand of mapping the earth and its movements. Then Peter filled us in on the bathymetric surveys the NAVY completed in Newcomb and O’Brien’s bays at Casey, using multiscan equipment on their small boat – the Wyatt Earp.
We had an all passenger briefing in readiness for our arrival in Hobart early on Wednesday. We will arrive into a secure port area and then be transferred to hotels for departure formalities and we recieved instructions on cleaning and preparing our cabins for the next voyage. Folks are busy tidying and packing now.
The evening presentation was by Leanne about her recent touring of Route 66 across USA on a motorcycle.
Tue 21 Jan – Day 41-Last day at sea
We have been busy preparing for our departure from the ship early tomorrow. Our bags are mostly packed and all AAD bags and returnable clothing have been taken to the hold to go direct to the AAD. We have cleaned our cabins and bathrooms in readiness for tonight’s inspection, so its now time to go outdoors to enjoy the warmer temperatures and sunny day.
The lecture series is still going a-pace with an amazing variety of content shown. Nicole presented a ‘Shock Art’ series and encouraged all those who had not been at Hobart to visit the MONA gallery. She also showed some impressive art works of her students from Hornsby. She had won her trip on the Akademik Shokalskiy through an art competition and her student’s artwork will be the Google search logo on Australia Day – 26 Jan.
John provided us with the story behind the building of the Mawson’s Hut reconstruction project. This building is a replica of Mawson’s Hut at Commonwealth Bay and is now a museum on the waterfront at Hobart. I am sure many will want to visit it during the next few days. I showed ‘Blue Ice’ again for those who missed it on the first showing -a 1954 ANARE film about the establishment of Mawson station. The difference between resupply activities over the past 60 years is marked, however the penguin chicks chasing their parents for food could easily have been recorded by any one of us today.
Jamie gave us an overview of a rat eradication project he has been involved with on South Georgia last year. He hopes to be involved again next year and Justin informed us of the efforts undertaken to assist stranded and beached whales back into deeper waters by his wildlife team in Tasmania.
Then a longer session by several of the AAE (Akademik Shokalskiy) members regarding the status of their science programs. The oceanographic drifting buoys that were released showed a variety of different paths and eddies in the ocean currents.
The Bruny Is and South east cape lighthouses are flashing in the darkness and the silouette of South Bruny island is visible in the moonlight!
Wed 22 Jan. Day 42 – Arriving Hobart
Our all passenger briefing last night advised us that we would be alongside Mac3 wharf in Hobart at 7.00am. All AAD passengers were required to take their cabin baggage to the heli deck between 6-6.15 am for lining up in readiness to run the customs/quarantine dogs along the bags. All AAE (Akademik Shokalskiy) passengers to bring their bags between 6.15-6.30 am. We had a chain of people lifting them throught the stairwell and onto the helideck.
There was a contingent of media to greet us at the wharf outside the security area. Customs officers came aboard around 7.30am, our arrival cards/passports were processed and the ship was cleared for us to depart the vessel. This departure is a very controlled process under modern port security procedures. A bus pulls on the wharf close to the ship and we walk down the gangway and load onto the bus.
Firstly the AAE passengers were taken ashore to a pre-determined hotel location for their farewell proceedings. About 30 mins later we departed the Aurora Australis and were taken by bus to the Old Woolstore Hotel to greet families and for our farewell proceedings.
A representative of the Rescue Coordination Centre congratulated us on our efforts involved in the rescue and presented the ship’s Master, Murray, with a certificate of appreciation. Then we were all individually presented with a small medallion from the Australian Antarctic Division. A nice touch!
As the Aurora Australis is a ‘dry’ working ship, that is no alcohol apart from two drinks of beer/cider on special occassions such as Xmas, New year and at completion of the re-supply, it is common practice in Hobart for the expeditioners and crew to gather at the Customs house hotel in the evening of the first night ashore for drinks. Quite a gathering turned up, including some of the AAE passengers – which was great to see.
A big thanks to the AAD for enabling an ANARE Club representative to participate in a voyage each year to promote the club. This year I joined up several new members (incuding a few extra than anticipated as a result of the rescue operations) and enabled many to become aware of the ANARE club website and memorablia that is available.