Bandits and beyond
Thanks to Cathie’s organisation, Coade, Scotty and Ali were pretty much ready to go at 1130 Friday morning. The survival packs were stowed (or so we thought), the food and beverages were packed along with all the rest of the paraphernalia required to get off-station for a few days. Scotty drove the Hägg onto the sea ice and away from station as the day dawned. It was clear to the northeast and we were hopeful of a glimpse of the sun for the first time since the beginning of June.
We had to drill on the way as the sea ice past BR2 was uncharted territory. There had been no-one that way since the sea ice formed in March. Drilling showed the sea ice to be well over a metre everywhere without exception. We passed a myriad of icebergs all shapes and sizes, some forcing us to divert from the way-pointed route, but all pristine and magnificent in the morning light.
Settling into Bandits was easy once the generator was started and the kettle was boiling. That night we enjoyed a sky full of aurora australis, made even more spectacular by the lack of station lights.
The next day bright and early, well, before lunch anyway, we left for Mikkelsens Cairn. It was here in 1935 that Norwegian Captain Klarius Mikkelsen and his wife Karoline (officially the first woman to step foot on the Antarctic continent) stepped off the whaling ship Thorshavn and spent the day. There is a photo of them at this very spot. Some of us hugged the pole sited there then we gazed out over the icebergs at the golden rays of the sun now barely above the horizon. I thought of how the Inuit’s must have felt in early times when the sun returned to start warming the earth once again and how relieved they must have been.
We then travelled to Wilkins Cairn, a rocky outcrop peeking from beneath the formidable east Antarctic ice sheet. I don’t think I have ever been there without the wind blowing before this trip. It was a perfect day and that high up the sun was back with us again. We got the flag out and read Wilkins's proclamation claiming the area for Australia, just has he did in 1939 (I love doing that bit) then packed it all up again for the next explorer to find.
Next was a quick visit to the largest of the Wyatt Earp islands to hug a few rocks then back to Bandits for some warm food and congenial conversation over a very fine port.