The Screaming Sixties…. and a visit from the King

During the evening of day 10 (6th November) of the voyage we passed out of the Furious fifties and into the Screaming Sixties. Through the skills of the captain and crew of the AA we managed to avoid the worst of what the Southern Ocean had to offer.

Being close to the ice edge, we expected to see more icebergs and we were not disappointed.

The intricate patterns of a large tabular iceberg that drifted past the port side

All icebergs are fresh water and are the result of pieces breaking off the Antarctic ice shelfs or glaciers. Nearly 90% of an iceberg is below the surface of the water.

As we sailed further south towards Davis we started to see more wildlife.

A lone adélie penguin scurries across an ice floe to get away from BOB
Passing through a field of icebergs near 60ºS

As we progressed southward we encountered thicker patches of pack ice.

Leaving a trail through the extensive coverage of pack ice
Fairly easy going through the vast expanse of pack ice
Cape petrels were our constant travelling companions – this one shows the ships red colour reflected on its plumage

Just when we thought we were in the thick sea ice – we would come across wide expanses of open water with scattered icebergs on every horizon.

Crepuscular rays extend out below the cloud, providing a sombre backdrop for icebergs

For a number of days the depth of the ocean below the hull of the Aurora Australis was around 4000 metres (13,125 ft) or deeper. Early on day 12 we passed over Gribb Bank with the depth rising rapidly to 2000 metres (6,600 ft).

Early morning sun on day 12 sheds a different ambience on the sea ice
We came upon several large tabular icebergs seeming to keep each other company in this wild frozen landscape
Just after noon on day 12 – a couple of adélie penguins take refuge on a iceberg
Cruising through the pack ice

during the afternoon of the 7th of November we were given permission (from the Bridge watch) to venture out onto the bow of the ship. This gives a whole new perspective on travelling through the sea ice.

Taken from the bow of the ship as we crush through the pack ice

Being on the bow also gave me the opportunity to use my Micro lens.

Close up of ice formation on the bulkhead at the bow of the AA
The ships colourful paintwork provides a stark background for ice crystals
Sea spray frozen on the hawsehole
This is one of my favourite photos with the Micro lens

Later that afternoon we passed some more stunning icebergs and once again we were in the thicker sea ice.

Every iceberg has its own story – this one has sharp rugged edges suggesting that large bits have broken off or it has broken off a larger berg
At times there seemed to be endless pack-ice ahead of us
Distant snow showers on the Southern horizon
Enjoying the view and the ride from the bow of the Aurora Australis
It never ceases to amaze me seeing the stunning, vivid blue colour of the sea ice under the water

I was up on the Bridge early on day 13 (8th Nov) and was amazed that the extensive pack ice of the night before had been left in our wake and there was very few icebergs around. We were near 65ºS and were expecting to be in thick sea ice all the way to Davis. Here we were cruising at 12 knots and making very good time…. This can change suddenly. Within the hour we were well and truly back in the thick of it.

The further south we went – we began to see more and more wildlife – a crab eater seal on the sea ice to our port side
In the early afternoon the sea ice seemed to extend forever

Whiteout has been defined as: “A condition of diffuse light when no shadows are cast, due to a continuous white cloud layer appearing to merge with the white snow surface. No surface irregularities of the snow are visible, but a dark object may be clearly seen. There is no visible horizon.

Almost “white out” conditions – when there is little or no distinction between the cloud and the snow covered sea ice
031 DSC_1066.jpg
White Out conditions at the Casey ski-way  – taken when I was there late 2007

Later in the afternoon we had a visit from the King. This was supposed to happen as we crossed 60ºS, but due to circumstances beyond his control King Neptune paid us a visit on the afternoon of the 8th of November. The audience with the King and his entourage to place in the E-deck mess. Expeditioners who had not been south before were called to pay homage – and drink the special drink, be covered in slime and kiss the fish.

King Neptune and his cohorts arrive on E-deck
Kissing the Royal Fish
The next group of inductees kneel before the King
The King’s official photographer was the colour coordinated character on the right

After cleaning up the mess in the mess, we had a grill dinner on the Trawl deck at the stern of the ship.It was quite cold out there and the expeditioners that attended were all dressed in their Antarctic kit.

Photo taken from the trawl deck, where we had gathered for a grill dinner

After dinner most of us gathered in the E-deck mess. I had donated two photos which I had printed with a matt board surround then packaged. These were auctioned at 6:30pm and the proceeds went to the charity Camp Quality

The first picture to be auctioned was of the Aurora Australis taken at night after mid-winters dinner in Hobart.

The Aurora Australis in Hobart on mid-winter’s night 

The bidding opened at $100 and there seemed to be a lot of interest and in a very short time the bids were in the $300’s. The bid that finally won was for $400

The second photo was of Russell Falls in Mt Field National Park.

Russell Falls in Mt Field National Park – September 2016

Again the opening bid was $100 and again the bidding was frenetic. The winning bid was $300. 

One of the expeditioners (Mick) offered his time to clean a cabin. The bidding for this was won at $350. All up we raised $1050 for the charity. Iwas amazed and humbled by the generosity of the expeditioners and crew on board the AA.

After the auction I went up on the Bridge to experience the stunning sea ice as we progressed further south.

New ‘pancake’ ice developing
Heading towards the setting sun late on day 13 of V1
This ice formation is called nilas – definition below

Nilas designates a sea ice crust up to 10 centimetres (3.9 in) in thickness. It bends without breaking around waves and swells. Nilas can be further subdivided into dark nilas – up to 5 centimetres (2.0 in) in thickness and very dark, and light nilas – over 5 centimetres (2.0 in) in thickness and lighter in colour. (Wikipedia)

The late evening sun casts stark shadows across the sea ice

Overnight we crossed the Antarctic Circle which is approximately at latitude 66º 34′ S. South of this latitude the sun is expected to be above the horizon for at least one 24 hour period.

Taken just before midnight on the 8th of November – We crossed the Antarctic Circle in the early hours of the 9th of November

I woke on the morning of the 9th of November to find the wind and snow had returned and that we were only around 60 nautical miles from Davis. This is the Sitrep from that morning.

Early morning snow on the 9th of November (day 14 of V1)


During the day preparations were well underway for our arrival at Davis. This included cleaning all our gear that may have mud or seeds from use in Australia. It also included a thorough induction on helicopter familiarisation and travel.

Surprisingly our travel through the sea ice was fairly easy and by mid afternoon on the 9th of November we sighted the brown of the Vestfold Hills.

Our first glimpse of the Vestfold Hills – around 3:30pm on the 9th of November

We reached the Fast Ice (sea ice that is grounded or attached to land), 10 nautical miles from Davis at around 4:30 pm on the 9th of November. Nearly there and only a matter of a short time and we would step ashore. Well Antarctica is always full of surprises.

Next……..A slow motion journey through the Fast Ice.














One thought on “The Screaming Sixties…. and a visit from the King

  1. I have just signed on to follow your blog. Your photos are amazing & just reinforce for me the wild, pristine beauty of this continent. I look forward to seeing more.


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