On Our Way… The Roaring Forties

After the months of training and preparation the departure of Voyage 1 was suddenly upon us. The time had come to head south.

We all turned up at the cargo facility on Macquarie 2 wharf on a beautiful, late October morning. Each of us was required to bring our red survival bag and 30kg of personal baggage.

Lining up at the Cargo facility for the weigh in of our luggage

The limit of 30kg luggage is strictly monitored – the cabins on the Aurora Australis have limited storage space and 30kg per passenger is considered an amount that can be safely stowed. After the weigh in and a pre-departure briefing we had free time until boarding time of 1pm.

Expeditioners, family and friends waiting for the boarding call

Once we boarded we could not disembark – so we had to say goodbye to family and friends before entering the security are of the wharf.

Two of my children – Jayden and Madeleine at the wharf to say goodbye and bon-voyage 

The excitement was palpable as we walked through the security gate towards the Aurora Australis.

Boarding the Aurora Australis
Everyone was quite excited – departure day was finally here 

Once everyone was aboard and had found their cabins – we had to attend a briefing by the Captain on the E-deck Mess. He talked about the ship and all the usual safety aspects.  We then had to muster on the helideck at 1500. The port-side cabins on the left and the starboard-side cabins on the right. All expeditioners cabins were on D-deck. I was in D17 which was the last cabin towards the bow (front).

Starboard side muster while still in Hobart

After being split into groups, the First and Second mates took us on a tour of the ship. This included trying on an Immersion suit – These are to be put on in case of emergency to abandon ship and enter the water. They will keep you afloat and warm. The time of survival in one of these suits depends on the water temperature.

Inside the Aurora Australis port-side life boat
Fitzy in a immersion suit – it will keep you afloat and warm?
Two brand new Heli Resources helicopters bound for Davis for the summer – stowed away in the hangar at the stern

We were supposed to depart at 1700. This was initially delayed to 1830 then again delayed to 2230. So we had plenty of time to stow all our belongings into the cupboards and allotted drawers in our cabin. Finally the AA left the dock at 2040.

Because of our later departure – Iwas able to capture this image of crepuscular rays of the setting sun behind Kunanyi (Mt Wellington)

It was a quiet  and uneventful cruise down the Derwent River, but after the city and suburban lights faded behind us we were treated to a weak Aurora.

The pilot boat (foreground) on a intercept course with the Aurora Australis as we slowly make our way out of the harbour

The Roaring Forties is the name given to the air circulation generally between 40ºS and 50ºS. These latitudes are generally below the sub-tropical High Pressure ridge and the region where the flow is strong out of the westerly direction. This flow is further enhanced with the passage of cold fronts. In the age of sail the Roaring 40’s were used to sail around the southern hemisphere, as they were quite persistent in these latitudes. In particular the Dutch used this wind knowledge to sail Around Cape Town and then across the Indian Ocean to then head north towards India or the East Indies (Indonesia).

As we sailed on a general Southwest course we encountered mostly westerly winds and not much of a swell. This started to change on day 4 of our journey as we closed in on a deepening low. Also the air and water became colder and we encountered sleet as we approached 50ºS.

The two forecasters onboard, Damo and Rachel, monitor a devloping low as we approach 50ºS
The orca wind vane on the bow of the AA

Also in these latitudes we were followed by a number of albatross. Often many on board (that were still upright) were on the decks with their long lens’s trying to capture a image of one of these magnificent sea birds.

Black brow albatross following the Aurora Australis


Bramwell enjoying his bunk by the port hole

Next Post……. The Furious Fifties and the Antarctic Convergence Zone

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