Simply messing about in boats
Lets face it. We are all tourists at heart. The work is good here, the people are great, but what most of us really came down here for was to see “it”, Antarctica, the great big wild white wilderness that remains elusive on every adventurer’s list of “must see” travel destinations. To be honest you can sometimes be on station and feel like you could be anywhere, not at the end of the earth. There’s the smell of diesel, the sound of tractors reversing, the drone of the powerhouse and a continuous hubbub of activity. To bring in the New Year, thanks to the incredible efforts of our boaties (Hully, Dave and Micky), we were able to leave the confines of station and get a taste of the real wilds of Antarctica.
In groups of six we donned our mustang suits and boarded our inflatable rubber boats (IRBs) with a full artillery of cameras, go-pros, spare batteries and gigabytes galore. We zoomed away from the wharf, but soon killed the engines and got out the oars to quietly approach a leopard seal sprawled out asleep on the ice, with a very cheeky Adelie penguin dancing mischievously close to its head. The sound of the powerhouse was gone to be replaced by the continuous rapid fire of cameras as hardy expeditioners transformed into excited penguin paparazzi. Chasing the perfect shot, we followed a group of proposing penguins around the point to Shirley Island, where the colourful language of the paparazzi continued as the camera button was pressed a fraction of a second too late… yet again. A confused Adelie created the perfect photo opportunity when it leapt out of the water on to our IRB, but we were all so shocked that by the time we had managed to heave our hefty lenses into place it had decided that we were boring and had turned to jump back into the water.
After a chocolate break we turned our noses towards the open ocean and went in search of “David’s berg”. Dave Burrows is our arts fellow who is taking stereoscopic images of a particular berg, that as a result has now acquired his name. It is an exceptionally spectacular berg that has multiple turrets with an amphitheater in the centre, and looks like a castle on the horizon as you approach it. When we arrived at the berg, Dan, our wintering chippy, called out “How on earth do we describe this to someone back home?” which is exactly what I am struggling to do here. It is almost impossible to describe what it is like to be in the presence of an iceberg. They are intricate and beautiful and majestic and being near them makes you feel incredibly small. You can see their depths spanning out beneath the water in an array of aquamarine colours and you realize how just true the saying is “just the tip of the iceberg”. 780 photos later and I am still nowhere near to capturing just how beautiful they are.
The boaties ran numerous trips over two days so that everyone on station had the chance to experience Antarctica from the ocean. They deserve a very big thank you from all of us! What a fantastic way to bring in 2012.