Blog

Parked in the Ice

After arriving at Davis Station – one of the most amazing sights is to see the Aurora Australis parked in the ice.

The Davis re-supply takes place over the sea ice. At the 3 other Australian Antarctic bases the re-supply takes place over water.

As mentioned in previous posts – the AA finally made it through the fast ice to a location at which it was safe to carry out the re-supply of cargo and fuel.

As there was not enough beds on station – some people were still sleeping on the AA and coming ashore for ‘day trips’. A couple of days after arriving at Davis I was fortunate enough to get a ride to the ship in a hägglund to bring a couple of day trippers back.

DSC_4262.jpg
Driving out over the sea ice to the Aurora Australis
DSC_4265.jpg
On the way out to the AA – passing Anchorage Island

The Aurora was parked around 3.5 km off Davis – re-supply was in full swing and they had run the fuel line from the ship to the station fuel tanks.

DSC_4273.jpg
The Aurora Australis in the ice – the fuel line can be seen on the starboard side

At the stern of the ship was an open channel – the ships path through the fast ice. There were many adélie penguins resting on the ice alongside this channel.

DSC_4280.jpg
A gathering of adélie penguins alongside the channel cut through the ice by the AA

Over 3 days around 830,000 litres of diesel was transferred from the AA to the station fuel tanks.

DSC_4283.jpg
The fuel line extends from the starboard side of the Aurora Australis
DSC_4284.jpg
The bright red/orange colour of the ship is a stark contrast to the snow and ice. Also the blue hägglund is small against the imposing size and shape of the AA
DSC_4287.jpg
Amazing to see the Aurora Australis from this perspective
DSC_4293.jpg
Many of the local adélie penguin population came to take a closer look at fuel line and the big orange thing that appeared in their world
DSC_4296.jpg
Adélie penguins make their way to the stern to where the open water may supply a short cut to the open waters
DSC_4308.jpg
Our blue taxi awaits

DSC_4320.jpg

I managed to go out to the Aurora Australis a second time, but this time a group of us walked out across the sea ice on under a beautiful, clear and sunny sky.

DSC_4377.jpg
Walking across the sea ice towards the AA – following the channel made by the fuel line

On the way out to the ship we came across a group of adélie penguins. in their myopic state they come towards us – thinking that we are also penguins. Then they suddenly realise that we are not what we seem.

DSC_4378.jpg
Adélie penguins coming to check us out
DSC_4380.jpg
A picture tells a thousand words
DSC_4395.jpg
An impressive sight out on the ice
DSC_4397.jpg
A pair of beautiful adélie penguins 
DSC_4399.jpg
The ice bergs look amazing 

As we got nearer to the AA – one of the crew came out towards us. It turned out to be the captain Gerry O’ – it was great to see him.

DSC_4406.jpg
Captain Gerry O’ and I pose in front of the AA
DSC_4407.jpg
Re-supply was still in full swing and going well
DSC_4427.jpg
The AA looks impressive from every angle
DSC_4410.jpg
The pink hägglund “Opal” was being used as a taxi

I got a ride back to the station in ‘Opal’ the pink hägglund – I had to be back to open the Post Office. The mail bag would depart with the Aurora Australis.

Later the same evening I had one last trip out to the ship – this time I brought along all the postal stuff (first day covers, stamp packs, and post cards) for the crew to purchase and send.

DSC_4445.jpg
Last view form the Aurora Australis trawl deck

Please share…..

Until next time……

 

Advertisements

Welcome to Davis

Stepping out of the helicopter onto the helipad at Davis – I had this overwhelming sense of familiarity.

As we walked down the road to the Living Quarters (LQ) It was amazing to look out across the frozen expanse of Prydz Bay. The Aurora Australis could be seen amongst the distant icebergs slowly making its way to its ‘parking area’.

DSC_4181.jpg
The AA making it’s way through the sea ice to its ‘parking area’. The winter crew has graded a road to and from this parking area

This is the third time I had been to Davis. First as a forecaster during the southern summer in 2005/06 and the 2nd time was on my way home from Casey Station in 2008.

Most of the buildings were familiar, though when I stepped into the new Living Quarters it was like stepping into a ski resort.

After some familiarisation I brought my gear up to my room (44) in the SMQ (Sleeping and Medical Quarters.

DSC_4183.jpg
This is what I was greeted with when I entered my room
DSC_4182.jpg
The view from Room 44 in the SMQ

After some lunch in the spacious dining area – I was included in a group of new arrivals to go through station induction, which concluded with a tour of the station.

dsc_4185
Station tour – looking west – The ANARESAT radome on the left, the yellow Operations building in the centre and the corner of the Green LQ on the right
DSC_4186.jpg
Meanwhile re-supply was in full swing – one of the helicopters sling loading a cage pallet

We entered a new building that housed the brand new waste water treatment plant – a state of the art treatment facility that is of such good design that it is said to produce water that is of drinking quality – though this will not be its purpose.

DSC_4187.jpg
Part of the new Davis Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant (AWTP)
DSC_4188.jpg
Water tanks in the Tank House

Next stop on the tour was the EVS (Emergency Vehicle Shed) This is where Davis’s version of a fire truck – which is a Hägglund with the trailer converted to a water tanker and pumping station. Also in the EVS is the SAR (Search and Rescue) Hägglund and to SAR Quad bikes.

DSC_4190.jpg
The Fire Hägglund and the SAR Quad bikes in the EVS

Continuing our tour we entered as many of the buildings as was safe to do so.

DSC_4192.jpg
there are 3 Hägglunds on station – this blue one would soon return to Australia on the Aurora Australis

Many of the buildings are made up of modules which are reconfigured shipping containers.

DSC_4193.jpg
A bit of comic relief in the Science Project marshalling building (shared with Field Store and Boating shed)  – note this building is mostly constructed with shipping containers

There are also many large vehicles. These give the station the look of a mine site.

DSC_4194.jpg
A serious fork lift – complete with snow chains
DSC_4195.jpg
There are many shipping containers scattered all around the station – mostly used for storage

At all four Australian Antarctic bases the biggest building on station is usually the Green Store. This is where most the supplies for the year are kept. The Green Store at Davis also has a Gymnasium, spa and sauna room. Because of its height it also has a decent climbing wall.

DSC_4198.jpg
Inside the Green Store – several huge storage racks which are moveable on rails. There is a fork lift which can reach the highest shelves
DSC_4199.jpg
Inside the Green Store – The awesome climbing wall on the right and on the left access to the gym, sauna and spa

When we arrived at Davis the summer melt had just begun. On the 11th of November the sun was set at 11:25 pm and rose on the 12th at 3:38 am. In the hours between sunset and sunrise the sun was only just below the horizon, so during these hours it was twilight.

The sun would set for the last time at 1:11 am on the 24th of November then rise at 1:56 am – from this time the sun would be above the horizon until the 18th of January 2017.

DSC_4202.jpg
Snow drift near a small fuel tank next to the Science building
DSC_4203.jpg
During the winter season the snow would accumulate on the lee side of buildings, hills or any large object – this is known as a blizz tail
DSC_4204.jpg
Snow sculptured by the wind around some of the site services – The pipes carry water, waste water and fuel between buildings – these are well insulated and have heated wires (traces) through them to stop them from freezing
DSC_4206.jpg
Blizz tail in the lee of the old, unused LQ (Living Quarters)
DSC_4211.jpg
A different view of the blizz tail in the lee of the old LQ
DSC_4208.jpg
Wind sculptured blizz tail in the lee of the new LQ
DSC_4210.jpg
Semi permanent blizz tail of Anchorage Island – about 2 km from station
DSC_4219.jpg
The Aurora Australis close to its parking spot on the 12th of November – view taken from in front of the Weather (BoM) building showing the Pineapple and old Weather balloon building (red)

There is plenty of International co-operation in Antarctica. On the 12th of November we had a Chinese Basler aircraft land on the sea ice in front of the station. The Basler The plane is flown by Canadian pilots. This aircraft was used to ferry expeditioners and some supplies between Casey, Davis and Mawson stations.

DSC_4215.jpg
The black flags mark the skiway/runway on the sea ice in front of Davis Station. In the background are hundreds of icebergs embedded in the sea ice
DSC_4220.jpg
The Basler approaches the skiway from the south
DSC_4226.jpg
The Basler just about to land on the sea ice runway
DSC_4228.jpg
The CHINARE Basler has landed
DSC_4229.jpg
Expeditioners await the arrival of passengers from the Basler

Whilst the station was in full re-supply mode – I was in the Met office for a few days with the outgoing Met OIC (Craig) as he handed over the Met office duties. This is quite a intensive time on station with so much happening.

DSC_4230.jpg
Wide-angle phot0 of some of the weather instruments – Stevenson Screen and snow guage
DSC_4231.jpg
Another wide-angle – showing the anemometer, Craig and the blue Met building

During some down time – I managed to have short walks to familiarise myself with the station.

DSC_4234.jpg
The AA in its parking spot about 3.4km off station. In the foreground big tide cracks and ridges can be seen
DSC_4248.jpg
Standing in front of the Davis sign post

For seven days the station was very busy with re-supply and re-fueling. Around 900000 litres of diesel fuel was transferred from the ship to the station in a 48 hour operation. Also all the food and other supplies came ashore and were packed away for the up-coming year.

DSC_4258.jpg
All hands on deck – unloading produce from a sea container into the cold store beneath the LQ
DSC_4325.jpg
A brand new ‘ferrari red’ hägglund arrives on station

A very important vehicle arrived on station – a pink hägglund called Opal – a tribute to those whose lives have been affected by cancer. There will be more about Opal in a future blog post.

DSC_4326.jpg
Opal the pink hägglund arrives across the sea ice to Davis Station
DSC_4327.jpg
Opal arrives at the station

I came back to my room after a shift and found I could not enter. All my gear had arrived and as a joke they piled all the boxes and crates in my doorway. It was exciting unpacking and setting up my own space.

DSC_4330.jpg
Unpacking all my boxes and crates

one of my jobs on station is Post Office Manager. in the middle of re-supply I received the crate filled with postal stuff – including First Day of issue envelopes and stamps. It also included all the packaging and other paraphernalia needed to send letters and packages back to Australia and the rest of the world. That night I opened the Post Office.

DSC_4334.jpg
The 

Late one evening after 10pm the conditions outside were superb – so I went for a walk around station taking photographs, trying all the lens that I brought. It was a beautiful still and sunny night.

DSC_4347.jpg
Looking out over the sea ice at the distant ice bergs 

 

DSC_4350.jpg
The soon to be RTA’d (Return To Australia) red hägglund parked near the link (disused) between the SMQ and the old LQ
DSC_4354.jpg
Icicles form on the snow and ice that has been graded from the roadway – The AA in its parking spot
DSC_4357.jpg
The Davis sign next to the Operations Building
DSC_4356.jpg
A closer view of the Davis sign
DSC_4359.jpg
The LQ (darker green) and the SMQ
DSC_4366.jpg
I love my new Nikkor Micro 105mm f2.8

Next Time – The Aurora Australis parked in the Ice….

Please share…

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.

DSC_3944.jpg
A iceberg stationed on the edge of the fast ice with the Vestfold Hills in the background
DSC_3946.jpg
A beautiful iceberg on our port side as we neared the fast ice
DSC_3954.jpg
To the north of our position were icebergs of many colours, shapes and sizes packed closely together
DSC_3959.jpg
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.

DSC_3976.jpg
There were many adélie penguins to witness our progress through the ice
DSC_3981.jpg
Many expeditioners were also on the decks to witness our first attempt at breaking through the fast ice
DSC_3983.jpg
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.

DSC_3986.jpg
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.

DSC_4001.jpg
Beautiful icebergs in the fast ice
DSC_4008.jpg
This berg was fairly close to our starboard side
DSC_4009.jpg
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.

DSC_4020.jpg
Icebergs that we had passed earlier looked so different in the evening light 
DSC_4031.jpg
Hundreds of penguins came to see what was travelling through their world
DSC_4045.jpg
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.

DSC_4059.jpg
Hundreds of snow petrels in our wake
DSC_4061.jpg
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.

DSC_4072.jpg
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.

DSC_4086.jpg
Early morning on day 15 of the voyage – shows we have progressed only ~ 1km through the fast ice (in 14 hours)
DSC_4093.jpg
“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

DSC_4098.jpg
11th November – early morning – starboard side – to the southwest
DSC_4100.jpg
11th November – early morning – our trail through the fast ice
DSC_4103.jpg
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.

DSC_4115.jpg
Adélie penguins marching northward – Vestfold Hills in the background
DSC_4119.jpg
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.

DSC_4122.jpg
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.

DSC_4127.jpg
Adélie penguins gather behind the ship on the side of our track in the ice
DSC_4133.jpg
Adélie penguins purposely marching to an unknown destination
DSC_4141.jpg
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.

DSC_4146.jpg
The early morning sun sheds a different light on the pristine landscape
DSC_4147.jpg
Great early morning sun provides perfect light for photography
DSC_4151.jpg
Penguin tracks criss cross the snow covered ice
DSC_4152.jpg
In the bright morning sun the coloured buildings of Davis were easier to see
DSC_4157.jpg
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.

DSC_4162.jpg
This beautiful print “All the Tracks of the Aurora Australis” hangs on the wall of one of the landings of the main stairwell
DSC_4167.jpg
Damian hams it up for the photo – pointing to our names on the E-deck white board – we were on flight #7
DSC_4170.jpg
From the porthole of cabin D27
DSC_4171.jpg
Amazing light – A last look from the decks of the Aurora Australis
DSC_4173.jpg
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.

DSC_4174.jpg
Flight #6 just about to lift off for the short flight to Davis Station
DSC_4178.jpg
“Uniform Uniform Hotel” departs for Davis Station

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

DSC_4180.jpg
It is an amazing experience to step onto the Antarctic continent

Next……Finding our feet

 

 

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.

DSC_3148.jpg
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.

DSC_3173.jpg
A lone adélie penguin scurries across an ice floe to get away from BOB
DSC_3204.jpg
Passing through a field of icebergs near 60ºS

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

DSC_3221.jpg
Leaving a trail through the extensive coverage of pack ice
DSC_3228.jpg
Fairly easy going through the vast expanse of pack ice
DSC_3232.jpg
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.

DSC_3246.jpg
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).

DSC_3308.jpg
Early morning sun on day 12 sheds a different ambience on the sea ice
DSC_3351.jpg
We came upon several large tabular icebergs seeming to keep each other company in this wild frozen landscape
DSC_3400.jpg
Just after noon on day 12 – a couple of adélie penguins take refuge on a iceberg
DSC_3418.jpg
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.

DSC_3434.jpg
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.

DSC_3448.jpg
Close up of ice formation on the bulkhead at the bow of the AA
DSC_3450.jpg
The ships colourful paintwork provides a stark background for ice crystals
DSC_3458.jpg
Sea spray frozen on the hawsehole
DSC_3459.jpg
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.

DSC_3474.jpg
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
DSC_3497.jpg
At times there seemed to be endless pack-ice ahead of us
DSC_3510.jpg
Distant snow showers on the Southern horizon
DSC_3525.jpg
Enjoying the view and the ride from the bow of the Aurora Australis
DSC_3531.jpg
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.

DSC_3565.jpg
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
DSC_3583.jpg
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.

DSC_3587.jpg
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.

DSC_3636.jpg
King Neptune and his cohorts arrive on E-deck
DSC_3690.jpg
Kissing the Royal Fish
DSC_3722.jpg
The next group of inductees kneel before the King
DSC_3836.jpg
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.

DSC_3881.jpg
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.

DSC_9251.jpg
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.

DSC_1857.jpg
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.

DSC_3894.jpg
New ‘pancake’ ice developing
DSC_3897.jpg
Heading towards the setting sun late on day 13 of V1
DSC_3903.jpg
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)

DSC_3914.jpg
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.

DSC_3930.jpg
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.

DSC_3931.jpg
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.

DSC_3940.jpg
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Furious Fifties….the Antarctic Convergence Zone

Warning – this post contains many photographs!!

On the 30th of October we crossed latitude 50ºS

dsc_2539
Up on the “Monkey” Bridge (above the main Bridge)

It was getting decidedly colder, but wasn’t to unpleasant to be out on the decks. Also we hadn’t really seen any big seas yet, however things were going to change.

DSC_2557.jpg
Enjoying the evening sun on a pleasant cruise to the Antarctic
DSC_2559.jpg
Snow showers in the distance to the port side – it is getting colder

As we sailed further south and west the days became longer.

DSC_2569.jpg
Sunset at around 9:30pm on day 5 of the voyage

On day 6 of the voyage we encountered some very light winds and low seas. This was the calm before the storm. The computer models were suggesting that we would be heading straight into a deepening Low Pressure system.

dsc_2609
The AA heading SW…. the Eye of the Storm heading SE

This was early on day 7 of the voyage. As you can see from the next picture we were at 58ºS with a following wind of 40 knots. Under all that cloud we encountered heavy snow.

dsc_2610
This from the Ships display – We had a 40 knots wind on our stern
dsc_2611
Heavy snow on the helideck. A group does a field training exercise on using a GPS

During day 7 we kept steaming in a SW direction – aiming for the relatively lighter conditions near the south of the deepening low centre. The result was the wind was from the stern which consequently knocked down the heavier southwest swell

DSC_2619.jpg
The cross marks our position. We set a course for the southern section of the low, to avoid the worst of the conditions to the north of the low centre

The pressure kept falling rapidly during the day – almost dropping to 940 hPa. In the tropics a pressure this low can be found in the centre of a severe tropical cyclone or hurricane.

dsc_2620
The barograph on the Bridge shows the pressure dropped 30 hPa in a 24 hour period
dsc_2629
A plot of our positions – superimposed on a wind and MSLP forecast chart

On day 8 of the voyage we passed just south of the low where we encountered a bigger swell from the southwest. The temperature of the air as well as the ocean decreased (air -2℃) as we encountered strong to gale force southerly winds which seemed to be blowing up from the Antarctic continent. The Captain also set a westerly course to keep us north of the main pack ice.

DSC_2649.jpg
The barograph shows that the pressure rose as fast as it fell, ultimately falling to as low as 942 hPa
dsc_2651
Ploughing through the southwesterly swell

Around 10am we saw our first signs of sea ice.

dsc_2646
First sighting of sea ice at 10am on the 3rd of November

Once we saw the first signs of ice, it became, at times,  a torrent of floating ice. Late afternoon a large iceberg was spotted on the southwest horizon and at 8pm that evening the First Mate (Madeleine) declared the winner of the iceberg tipping competition. My 15 minute time slot was a little after the official declaration.

DSC_2689.jpg
With the first big iceberg spotted – many of the expeditioners were on the Bridge searching for bergs on the horizon

By late evening  we had sailed into a break in the clouds, so there was excellent viewing and many icebergs, large and small, photographed.

DSC_2701.jpg
Late evening on day 8 of the voyage and we were in a clear slot in the weather and cloud
DSC_2709.jpg
The iceberg in the distance was the first large one seen on this voyage
DSC_2712.jpg
Almost perfect conditions in the far Southern Ocean at 58º 30′ S – This was late evening on the 8th of November

Because of the relatively calm conditions many expeditioners were on the Bridge enjoying the sun and occasional iceberg.

DSC_2721.jpg
The occasional large iceberg seen in the late evening of day 8 of the voyage
DSC_2726.jpg
Many icebergs are silhouetted by the setting sun on a crystal clear evening
DSC_2734.jpg
At these latitudes there were many Cape petrels flying around the ship
DSC_2747.jpg
Sunset was around 10:40pm

After the sunset the evening twilight lasted for another hour. During this time we entered several ice fields. was beautiful as we encountered more and more ice. In just over 12 hours after seeing the first ice the ship was completely surrounded.

DSC_2764.jpg
Serene sailing through an ice field at 11pm
DSC_2767.jpg
As it got darker we started to see more and more ‘bergy bits’
DSC_2768.jpg
Icebergs come in so many shapes, sizes and colours
DSC_2777.jpg
The Aurora Australis cuts a trail through the the thin pack ice
dsc_2791
At 11:20pm, just before it became dark, we spotted this lone leopard seal on a ice floe

An hour after spotting the leopard seal the darkness was complete, then we were treated to an amazing light show, that is the aurora australis. As I didn’t have a tripod and because of the ships movement it was difficult to capture this amazing colourful spectacle. However I was mesmerised by the ships spotlights – searching for icebergs in our path.

DSC_2838.jpg
Spotting for icebergs at 12:40am

For the next three days we made our way directly westward along 59º 30′ S – so as to avoid getting into the thick ice to soon. On day 9 of the voyage a larger iceberg did drift by closer to the ship.

DSC_2875.jpg
First closer encounter with a larger iceberg – Several seabirds can be seen nearby

The weather later on day 9 turned to heavier snow.

DSC_2893.jpg
Jock was happy with his effort of moulding the snow into a couple of small snowmen

Early on day 10 of the voyage we passed close by to another low pressure system, so again it was an uncomfortable ride for some of the passengers.

DSC_2903.jpg
A swell running through the drifting ice field
DSC_2938.jpg
Day 10 – swell, ice and snow – well and truly in the Southern Ocean

Every now and then we would practice the muster – Emergency bells would sound and we would muster, wearing our survival gear and life preserver, in our designated muster area. On day 10 it was quite a rough ride so it was unsafe to muster on the helideck so we mustered in the E-deck mess.

DSC_2947.jpg
Muster in E-deck mess

Later in the afternoon on day 10 (5th November) the conditions significantly eased. Many of the passengers were up in the Bridge as a big tabular iceberg passed close to the port side.

DSC_2950.jpg
A large tabular iceberg coming into view on the port side
DSC_2953.jpg
The amazing colours and patterns in a large tabular iceberg – look carefully and note the many seabirds near the base
DSC_2959.jpg
Abut half way along this beautiful tabular iceberg
DSC_2965.jpg
Amazed to see the many seabirds near the icebergs

Only as I was editing and sorting out photos of this iceberg did I notice the birds resting on the top.

DSC_2974.jpg
Seabirds resting on the top of this tabular iceberg
DSC_2989.jpg
A couple of Cape petrels flying alongside the AA
DSC_3006.jpg
Icebergs come in many shapes and sizes – this one is probably a piece broken off a larger  iceberg

One of the lens I purchased is a Micro Nikon 105mm f2.8 – It will be great for close up photos. I decided take some shots with it on Day 10.

DSC_3024.jpg
Icicle on the Bridge deck – taken with my Micro 105mm lens

Towards evening on day 10 we made our way through some pack ice.

DSC_3047.jpg
Pack ice on the evening of day 10 of the voyage
DSC_3082.jpg
More pack ice

At around 9pm on day 10 we had a visit from a giant Southern Petrel This species is one of the largest seabirds – their body measures between 86cm and 99cm (34 -39 inches) and a wingspan of 185cm to 205cm (73 – 81 inches)

DSC_3106.jpg
A Southern Giant Petrel came along side to see what this big orange thing was

Day 11 (6th of November) was similar to day 10, passing many icebergs and areas of pack ice as well as open water.

DSC_3135.jpg
In the early afternoon – Jock and I on the port side Bridge deck watching the pack ice drift by

Late in the afternoon of the 6th of November (day 11) we crossed over 60ºS.

Next…. The Screaming Sixties and a visit from the King

Please leave a comment and share this blog

Thanks

 

 

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.

dsc_2363
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.

dsc_2370
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.

dsc_2373
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.

dsc_2377
Boarding the Aurora Australis
dsc_2380
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).

DSC_2388.jpg
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.

dsc_2392
Inside the Aurora Australis port-side life boat
dsc_2396
Fitzy in a immersion suit – it will keep you afloat and warm?
DSC_2398.jpg
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.

DSC_2402.jpg
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.

DSC_2410.jpg
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.

DSC_2438.jpg
The two forecasters onboard, Damo and Rachel, monitor a devloping low as we approach 50ºS
DSC_2443.jpg
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.

DSC_2516.jpg
Black brow albatross following the Aurora Australis

 

DSC_2521.jpg
Bramwell enjoying his bunk by the port hole

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

The Other Things We Have to Do…

A consequence of being at a remote Antarctic Base is that one does not have the option of calling 000 for emergency services. The expeditioners wintering at all Australian Antarctic bases become the emergency response. Fire is one of the biggest threats on an Antarctic Base so  Fire Prevention is of major concern.

As a result we attended a extensive 5 day training course at the Tasmanian Fire Service training facility at Cambridge (near Hobart Airport).

One of the initial parts of the training was in the use and identification of the different fire extinguishers.

 

 

dsc_2058
Learning how to fight a fire with the appropriate fire extinguisher
Many house fires start in the kitchen – When a pan or pot of oil catches alight the common reaction is to pour water on the fire.
We were shown a demonstration on why this should not be done!!
dsc_2061
The instant that water is poured onto burning oil
dsc_2062
A split second later the water and oil vaporise resulting in a fire ball

We also learnt how to safely handle a big fire hose… The nozzle at the end of the hose is called a branch where the water flow rate and spray pattern are controlled.

dsc_2073
Kerryn controls the branch while Paul (Sharky) and Christopher assist in holding the heavily primed hose
A very important part of the training included the safe and correct procedures in using Breathing Apparatus (BA) in fire fighting and emergency rescue. Correct fitting of the mask was paramount. Incorrect procedure could result in lethal gases entering the mask.
dsc_2103
Expeditioner fire fighters in BA about to enter a burning building
dsc_2087
BA1 and BA2 approach a vehicle on fire

On each of Australia’s Antarctic stations there is a roster of the weekly fire team on call. A fire team consists of 6 expeditioners – Fire Chief, BA1, BA2, BA3, BA4 and BA Controller. The BA controller has a clip board and a timer – They check that the BA is fitted coreectly and they write down how much air each of the BA cylinders has and a time when that is expected to run to a safe low level. They also take the alarm key from the alarms on the BA set. The BA controller usually is also the pump operator.

dsc_2126
Richard the BA controller and pump operator

We learnt many techniques of hoe to control or extinguish fires. This depends on the type of fire, the material or fuel that is burning. The primary concern is the safety of the Fire fighters and rescuers.

dsc_2143
Two teams controlling a LPG gas cylinder fire. The right hose is spray to protect the fire fighters from the intense heat. The left hose aimed at the cylinder to cool them down. The person between the 2 hoses is directing the left hose aim, receiving hand signals  from the person on the far left.
dsc_2153
Observing the difference in temperature and intensity when LPG gas fire changes from vapour to liquid.

It was a intense but very rewarding and informative week of training.

dsc_2134
Davis Fire Team

The final part of our training took place a few days before departing for the south. This was basic Search and Rescue (SAR). Again the reality is that we can’t call on anyone but ourselves in the case of an emergency.

In bushland behind the Antarctic Division in Kingston we became familiar with some of the equipment that we will have in our SAR kit. We were also shown how to use this equipment as a precursor to further intensive training when we reach the Antarctic continent.

dsc_2350
SAR training – learning about ropes and pulleys
DSC_2343
An exercise in weight distribution on anchor points and using ropes and pulleys
DSC_2354
Becoming familiar with the climbing harness and helmets used in SAR

Thanks for viewing this blog. Please share the link and don’t hesitate to drop me a line or a question.

The next post will be about the voyage through he Southern Ocean.