Thursday 20 December 2012

Thursday (20/12/12)

My cabin all to myself!
Toilet and shower are quite big too!
Today was a really quiet day which was nice after yesterday and in preparation for our arrival tomorrow morning! I was able to catch up a bit with sorting through pictures and blog entries. We stopped twice on the way to deploy some bottom drifters which are having their first Antarctic trial (developed by scientists from Florida). The device is measuring salinity, depth, temperature, velocity of the bottom and will in the future hopefully help to find out more about bottom currents (direction and speed). Elizabeth is on the ship to deploy them. Unfortunately, the ship is delayed and she will miss her flight and has to spend Christmas and New Years with us at Rothera ... But being from Florida, she has never seen snow before. So this will be a pretty intense experience ;)
The 2 seals were not bothered
by us at all!
Drifter about to go in.
Last day on the ship and although I am really excited about arriving at Rothera, seeing everything and starting my work properly, I am also a little sad to leave the ship. The crew has been really nice and we did not have much to do (in the long-term that would drive me mad though). Usually science cruises are really busy, but the ship was coming in late this season as it is and further delaying it with CTD’s (Conductivity – Temperature – Depth measurements) would have not made much sense. 
This picture was taken on the bridge!
The sun never sets but soon enough
it will never rise!
(Photo: Mike Meredith)
I also went on the bridge a couple of times and was able to ask questions, which was really good. Today, when the ship was navigated through some ice, 2 seals were on an icefloat really close by (maybe about 5m/max 10m away from the ship).
Against my expectation they did not jump off as quickly as possible but stayed on the float and just looked up briefly not really being bothered by us at all ... Guess they have seen the JCR before and knew that we meant no harm. I also had a pretty good view on Adelaide Island which will be my home for the next 18 month! On that note I am off watching the deployment of the second bottom drifter! Afterwards it will be the last dinner on the ship.

The bottom drifter did not get deployed as it was not communicating with the satellite... Science is never straight forward and easy I guess.
A couple of landscape shots (click on them and they are larger):

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Lemaire Channel, Vernadsky, Penguins, bras and more

Wednesday (19/12/12) started pretty early in the morning. At 6am we gathered on the bow of the ship to witness how the JCR would pass through the Lemaire Channel. This is one of the most narrow bits around the area through which the ship fits and it reminded a little bit of the final scene in Lord of the Rings when the sailing ships leave. Only difference that we had snow on the mountains ;) On the way we saw minke whales, crabeater seals (crabbies) and gentoo penguins. The latter were pretty special: 1. They are penguins, they have to be and 2. They “climb” up the walls to find spots without snow to breed and raise their youngsters. We also drove through an area with lots and lots of little icefloats/bergs on the water. I can’t really describe the noise but it was loud and just incredible. On top of that pictures just could not capture the amazing landscape! It is better than Frozen Planet!

Maria and Jacqueline
(the Dutch scientists)
bought me a little glas penguin in the
souvenir shop.
At around 8am (after missing breakfast – it was totally worth the scenery) we arrived at Vernadsky – Ukrainian base (former British base). First of all the RIBs with some crew members approached the base, delivered some cargo (fresh fruits, veg, etc) and asked whether it would be ok for us to visit. After the Yes from the base commander, two RIBs started bringing us across. Thanks to all the crew involved driving forth and back! (This was the first of many journeys I will have in Antarctica on a small boat and hence I was really excited!) We were welcomed very warmly on base, showed around and thanked for the things we had brought. They dished up cake, chocolate and more. Some of us were brave enough to try the homemade vodka offered. I was too distracted taking pictures of penguins from the balcony. In the beginning I was so excited that I said: “I really love penguins. So cool!!!” It was one of those moments where everyone was silent at that exact point in time so my outcry was followed by a lot of laughter :D

The bar is pretty special, as it was build with lots of effort by two wintering carpenters when the base was still British. Unfortunately, they were supposed to do something else with the wood and their time on base; I don’t think they made it back to Antarctica after that. However, the bar does look pretty impressive. There is also a pound coin on the bar which is symbolic for the payment the Ukrainian gave the British for the base. One of our passengers on board (Dave) wintered in the 80s on this base ...

I soon found my way out and sat down next to some of the penguins taking lots and lots and lots of pictures (did I mention that they are the cutest thing ever??). Some of them guarded the eggs, others went for a swim and porpoised (I learned that that means jumping around in the water like dolphins), some just stood around and some picked stones for their nests. One of the penguins was really adventurous and ended up surveying the nosy humans sitting close by, standing only a meter or two away from us J The sun was gorgeous and I did not need more than my two jumpers to keep me warm. Good job I put suncream on in the morning ... It was a “dingle” day in BAS terms (new word I learned today and describes lovely sunshine with calm sea – the perfect day). In the end, when leaving, I was sad to part with my beloved penguins, however I was also glad to still have my bra ... I was told before we went to Vernadsky that I should wear a plain and old bra which I would not miss afterwards as the base is known for asking for women’s bras (they still do not seem to have many female visits). I gladly escaped this fate.
The day ended nicely, we left late afternoon and are now on the way to Rothera, due to arrive late evening tomorrow/early morning on Friday. This leaves us 2 more nights on the ship.

The trail is visible where penguins regularly walk up and down to feed their young!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Sunday (16/12/12) to Tuesday (18/12/2012)

Sunday to Tuesday was relatively unspectacular except of course for the occasional wildlife sightings and the fact of being on a ship on the way to Antarctica. The days went by much quicker than I expected. Breakfast in the morning would include a fry up (if wanted) or cereals, lunch was a 3-course meal (soup, main and desert) as was dinner (starter, main and desert). All the meals had 2 options for the main course of course ... They basically tried their best in feeding us up and succeeded! On the 16th we deployed some scientific gear which is being put in every two years to provide data more or less continuously. On the 18th I saw my first icebergs and we shortly stopped at a station where we dropped some stuff off (only a couple of people were able to go)! I will just put some pictures of the ship into this post so folk can get a better idea what it was like.
one of my first whale sightings! Now I believe in them :)

Iceberg and the first time I have seen Antarctica!

More beautiful views ... Oh wait, those black dots are penguins! lots and lots of penguins!

Scientific gear being deployed.

View from the bridge.

View from the bow.

Starboard side of the ship.

I forgot what this room was called but I guess it is one of the science rooms with lots of computers and desk space.

The computer room with 3 freely accessible computers.

One of many corridors on which I repeatedly got lost.

The dining room.

Everyone had a personal napkin!

Door to my cabin (the one on the right).

Monkey island on top of the bridge, only rule: do not run or jump. Easier said than done when there are so many penguins around!

The base we visited.

Library/conference room with wireless access.

Bar/sitting area.

And the bar. Good job British ships are not dry like the American ones ;)

And the bridge which we were allowed on unless they were super busy.