Slow Motion in the Fast Ice

At 4:30pm on the 9th of November (day 14 on Voyage 1) we reached the fast ice around 10 nautical miles (18.5 km) from Davis Station. After travelling about 2650 nautical miles (~4,900km) in 14 days to get to this point one could imagine that the last few miles would take a few hours at most….

Approaching the fast ice we passed many beautiful icebergs.

A iceberg stationed on the edge of the fast ice with the Vestfold Hills in the background
A beautiful iceberg on our port side as we neared the fast ice
To the north of our position were icebergs of many colours, shapes and sizes packed closely together
Icebergs embedded in the fast ice 

At 4:30pm the Aurora Australis was travelling at 12 knots ready to cut through the ice edge and deliver us to Davis Station.

There were many adélie penguins to witness our progress through the ice
Many expeditioners were also on the decks to witness our first attempt at breaking through the fast ice
We rammed the ice edge at speed but within 30 m we had come to a standstill

After the first few attempts at ramming the fast ice it became apparent that this was going to be a long slow process.

After the first attempts of breaking into the fast ice parts of the ice sheet broke off and started drifting in the strengthening winds

Oh well — might as well enjoy the slow trip through the ice. It allowed us to take many photographs as we inched past each amazing iceberg.

Beautiful icebergs in the fast ice
This berg was fairly close to our starboard side
A couple of Emperor penguins amongst a group of adélie penguins, watch with curiosity as the big orange boat (bob) passes. The Sørsdal Glacier is in the distant background

As the sun traversed the horizon it illuminated the ice and icebergs in many different hues. There was a mention that the penguins on the ice were travelling much faster then the AA.

Icebergs that we had passed earlier looked so different in the evening light 
Hundreds of penguins came to see what was travelling through their world
Some adélie penguins find it easier to slide along the ice on their belly

Meanwhile snow petrels in their hundreds gathered in our wake, possibly opportunistic feeding in the waters stirred up by the Aurora Australis.

Hundreds of snow petrels in our wake
Hard to see the hundreds of snow petrels roosting on the ice out of the freshening winds

At this time the sun was above the horizon for 24 hours a day. We will not see the sunset again until mid February. Later in the evening the sun was low on the horizon, casting an eerie purple glow on the landscape.

The beautiful evening glow a half hour before midnight

The next day – 10th November – I was up on the Bridge very early. Since arriving at the fast ice at 4:30pm yesterday we have only progressed around 1km (in 14 hours). So during the morning  helicopter operations commenced – to fly essential persons the short distance to the station.

Early morning on day 15 of the voyage – shows we have progressed only ~ 1km through the fast ice (in 14 hours)
“March of the penguins” – port side early morning of the 10th of November

The following 3 photos were taken with a wide angle lens – Samyang 14mm F2.8

11th November – early morning – starboard side – to the southwest
11th November – early morning – our trail through the fast ice
11th November – early morning – port side – slow progress towards the Vestfold Hills

There were large numbers of penguins seeming to wander aimlessly across the ice.

Adélie penguins marching northward – Vestfold Hills in the background
More adélie penguins walking across the fast ice. They seem to know where they are going  

Later that afternoon I had my first real glimpse of Davis Station – home for the next 12 months.

Davis Station amongst the Vestfold Hills

The slow pace continued during the day as we inched closer to our goal. The ship would reverse back down its track for 200m to 300m, then full throttle forward to ram the sea ice, riding over the top of then crushing through with the sheer weight of the steel hull. This process gained another 20m. They would repeat this routine time and time again.

Adélie penguins gather behind the ship on the side of our track in the ice
Adélie penguins purposely marching to an unknown destination
Taken from the bow of the AA. Late evening on the 1oth of November – our track clearly visible to the stern of the ship

Early on the 11th of November, the clouds cleared to a beautiful sunny morning. We were still slowly progressing through the ice to our goal – a point close enough to carry out re-fuelling the station across the sea ice.

The early morning sun sheds a different light on the pristine landscape
Great early morning sun provides perfect light for photography
Penguin tracks criss cross the snow covered ice
In the bright morning sun the coloured buildings of Davis were easier to see
The surreal ice bergs off Davis lit by the bright early morning sun  

At 9am we were told to be ready to fly. Essentially I was packed and ready, so I went all over the Aurora Australis taking last minute pictures of our home for the last 2 weeks.

This beautiful print “All the Tracks of the Aurora Australis” hangs on the wall of one of the landings of the main stairwell
Damian hams it up for the photo – pointing to our names on the E-deck white board – we were on flight #7
From the porthole of cabin D27
Amazing light – A last look from the decks of the Aurora Australis
A lone snow petrel provides a stark contrast against the darkening cloud

At 0945 on the 11th of November we were asked to go to the helideck and board our flight to Davis.

Flight #6 just about to lift off for the short flight to Davis Station
“Uniform Uniform Hotel” departs for Davis Station

We arrived at Davis Station at just after 10am on the 11th of November 2016.

It is an amazing experience to step onto the Antarctic continent

Next……Finding our feet



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