ANARE Club Representative Voyage 5 2004/2005
Kit Scally in Antarctica
Kit Scally in Antarctica
Shipboard life is characterised by routine: work, play, sleep – and eating. To deter mutiny amongst the scurvy expeditioners, food assumes a top priority. In this department, the AA’s kitchen scores top marks. Restaurant hours are generally OK but dinner is a little early from 1730 to 1830 hrs. By breakfast the following day (0730), hunger pangs are rife. Being weak in spirit, late night snacks (cheese on toast and/or teddybear biscuits or Tim tams) with a leftover sausage or two helps out till morning. At the time of writing, we’ve used up all our fresh milk and are now devouring UHT cartoned product. However, there’s still plenty of fruit, prawns, chocolate gateaux, baked mangos with cream cheese and lime and other tasty morsels to tuck into. On most days, anti-slip table mats are a necessity to keep plates and cups in place on the tables although soup is best taken from a cup.
17th March 2005
The pack ice was reached on Saturday the 5th. Quoting this day’s SITREP best describes conditions at the time: “Very slow headway through a difficult band of ice off Mawson. Recent bad weather seems to have repositioned ice in worst possible location. Stopped forward [ship] movement for the time being and commenced fly-off operations. Mawson SL [Station Leader] [flew via chopper] to [the] ship and returned to station. At this stage uncertain if we will get into Horseshoe Harbour.” These were the ice conditions at the time.
Thurs 24th Feb, late.
It’s now 32 days since the Aurora departed Hobart on her “visit (almost) every station” voyage. The journey from Casey to Macquarie Island has lived up to its reputation of testing everyone’s sea-legs. But more of this later.
Casey is Australia’s most southern Antarctic base situated almost due south of Perth. Just drop a vertical for a tad under 4,000 kms and you’re there! We passed the convergence and the Antarctic Circle on the way to Mawson. Due to ‘inclement weather’, King Neptune’s traditional visit was postponed until a date to be fixed. In the meantime, DVD movies, cards and (5-minute) Speed-Chess were popular pastimes to help while away the time.
31st March 2005
Very soon after leaving Casey, the AA had a rendezvous in mid-ocean to pick up an acoustic recording package (ARP) that had been recording whale and dolphin sounds while resting on the seabed 3000 metres below the surface for the past 12 months. Using the ship’s GPS equipment, the AA arrived at the designated spot “X”. With many eyes scouring the unusually flat ocean, the recalcitrant buoy was soon visually sighted about 150m off the port bow. (You’d have thought the USA owners would put a radio tracking beacon on the device!) The local birds decided to give it a once-over peck just in case it was something worth eating.
Four days out of five were spent flying cargo to and from the station and the ship. It has been recent practice for the ship to pull anchor at nightfall (soon after 5pm at this time of the year) and slowly steam up and down the Island, returning to the station early the following morning. On day four, the weather was unsuitable to drop anchor in the morning so we continued our figure-of-8 journey along the Island’s eastern coast. Another day of hectic shipboard life followed – breakfast, washing clothes, morning coffee, writing diary and chatting, lunch, reading, afternoon smoko, visit the Bridge, dinner, coffee, talk, drink at the bar, evening coffee, talk, bedtime. A hectic lifestyle some would say.
And so we steam a mere 3 days or 1548 kms from Macquarie Island back to sleepy Hobart-town. There will be a few hours wait aboard the Aurora Australis berthed at #3 wharf while Customs clearance and other formalities take place before clanking down the stairway, picking up our sausage bags and catching a taxi to Salamanca Place for a coffee (or a glass or two of chilled Chardy perhaps?). After a plane trip to Sydney, it’s back to reality and work on Monday morning. Maybe the past 41 days have just been a dream.
Maybe not – I’ve got the Kodachromes to prove it.