Report 17: The end is nigh

The BROKE-West voyage team - still smiling after 66 days at sea together
Still smiling after 66 days at sea together: Ruth Casper (Deputy Voyage Leader), Per Larsen (Bosun), Scott Laughlin (Captain) and Steve Nicol (Voyage Leader) (Photo: Adrian Boyle)
Iceberg and approaching storm in the Southern oceanWeather chart

Steve Nicol, Voyage leader

Since leaving Davis all our thoughts have been concentrated on willing the ship towards Hobart—not that we don't like the Aurora, it's just that everyone has had a long period away form home and is looking forward to seeing loved ones, trees, vegetables and the occasional adult-rated drink. The weather is the main trick to getting speedily home and, having inherited a platoon of meteorological types from the stations, it was inevitable that the weather gods, who have smiled on us for the last 2 months, would turn against us—and they did. On Sunday we experienced the stormiest weather of the voyage with 50kt winds and associated large swells. Although this did not slow us down greatly it did make for an uncomfortable 24 hours and sent many, including several seasoned seafarers, to their bunks for a period of enforced horizontal contemplation. But now we are into a more amenable weather system with a following wind and sea and the ship is barrelling along at close to 16 kts, juddering and shaking as it eats up the miles. Our ETA is now set for Sunday afternoon at 1600, two days earlier than originally planned, which has put a smile on the faces of those aboard—and apparently on the weather gods.

As the voyage draws to a close it is time to thank all those who helped us to realize what seemed at the outset to be an almost impossible task. The irrepressible ship's crew have been superb—the deck crew have made the scientific deployments dependably efficient, the galley crew have kept us amazingly and creatively well-fed for months, the engineers have kept everything working fantastically, the officers have ensured that we have made the best available of the time at our disposal, and Scotty the Captain has made the whole business a pleasure. Ruth, the Deputy Voyage Leader's unassuming competence and eye for detail has underwritten the success of the voyage, and the Marine Science Support officers Tony and Kelvin have made an art of ensuring the science proceeds. The 61 strong scientific party (including our voluble communications officer who has been awarded honorary scientist rank for his contribution to voyage statistics) has continued to amaze with their dedication and hard work, their enduring good humour and their susceptibility to bribery with only moderate amounts of chocolate. Were I to sail again I would wish it were with you! Thanks should also be given to all those who have allowed themselves to be caricatured in these diary entries with no available avenues for recourse—any resemblance to people living, dead or moribund was entirely intentional. Thank you too to Mawson and Davis stations who willingly subjected themselves to our tight timetable, and in the case of Mawson, our tight presence too. The returning expeditioners from both stations have patiently stood by (or reclined) whilst we finished our work and made the trip back so pleasantly uneventful. The people at the AAD in Kingston who have been at the end of numerous bothersome e-mail requests and phone calls and who have largely left us unmolested deserve significant praise. Finally, to our families and friends who have put up with our absence for what seems to us (and hopefully for them too) like an astonishingly long time.

As a parting gesture, some useful, amazing and just plain idiosyncratic statistics gleaned from one of the Australian Antarctic Program's least inscrutable voyages are reproduced for posterity below. We hope that you have enjoyed reading about our antics as much as we have enjoyed being part of this monumental and at times transcendental undertaking.

BROKE-West January 2nd – March 12th 2006

Voyage statistics

Total distance sailed: 12 300 nm, 7500 nm actually on the survey itself. The area surveyed is between 1 and 1.5 million km2 – depending on who is doing the estimation, what software is used and how much sleep Toby has had.

Demographics of BROKE-West scientific team (including doctor, comms officer and voyage management) – thanks to Natalie for her sterling work on this.

Mean age overall: 32.92

Mean age (female): 32.2

Mean age (male): 33.46 (skewed age profile not entirely due to Voyage Leader)

Sex ratio: 43% female (not significantly different from a 1:1 ratio – a first for the Australian Antarctic Program?)

No significant difference in participation rate by star sign or birth month, however, significantly more of the voyage participants were born on a Friday or Saturday. Now, what about day of conception?

Exactly 100 713 photos have been taken, this is equivalent to 1.16 frames per minute. If printed to standard print size and laid out in a line they would stretch for 14.6 km.

Over the course of the voyage we have made 639 satellite phone calls from the ship, or one every 2.5 hours.

There have been 374 email transfers—sending 25 989 email messages for a total of 84.6 MB (compressed) receiving 46 885 email messages for a total of 152.1 MB (compressed). We were obviously far less prolific than our friends and colleagues.

One person alone (we'll refer to them simply as A/Prof B – not his real name) was responsible for 1203 received email messages at a total of 60.7 MB (uncompressed) and 1309 sent messages at a total of 34.0 MB (uncompressed), representing almost a quarter of all transferred email traffic!

We have read 2520 pages of news, with approx. 74% or 1865 pages of it seemingly bad news.

The whaleos drank almost 300 litres of tea on the bridge and have lost track of the number of biscuits they devoured.

The total depth of water sampled by the CTD was 358 067 metres. Shigeru circumnavigated the CTD 1257 times whilst sampling it, a total distance of 11.8 km – he earned two days off from the gym as a result.

The amount of water brought to the surface was 26.4 tonnes – the amount spilled onto CTD room floor was ~ 2640 litres. Attributed cost of spilled water approximately $70 000 – this will appear on Nathan's next credit card statement.

The Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) produced 6 048 000 pings and the software crashed a paltry 19 times. Only one of these crashes can be directly attributed to Esmee sitting on the off button.

Total number of krill caught = 315 760 equivalent to roughly 0.2 krill per litre of fuel consumed.

Number of viruses sampled: 17 360 000 000 individuals, with a combined length if laid end to end of 0.937 nautical miles.

We started the voyage with 1.6 tonnes of fresh vegetables—we now have none.

We consumed 2.39 tonnes of meat despite the presence of several determined vegetarians.

We consumed almost enough chips (594 kg) for everyone to attribute one kilogram of their cumulative weight gain entirely to their intake.

On average, one egg was consumed every 4.7 km

We only caught 110 very small fish but consumed 240 kg – this is obviously unsustainable.

The Captain showcased 66 nightly episodes of the highly dubious TV series 'Alias' in his cabin; we spent 69 days at sea which was uncannily well timed—what would we have done if he had had access to the third series? Was SD6 involved?