Monday 12 November 

After a slightly longer voyage than originally planned, we are finally heading home. We made it to the marginal ice zone yesterday and are now in the swell of the Southern Ocean. Over the past week the scientists have been busy packing up all their samples and equipment and stowing gear securely in preparation for our sea journey.

It’s been an interesting, eventful and successful two months in the Antarctic sea ice zone. While much of the data collected will take some time to analyse and interpret, the scientists have already planned a series of research papers to appear in a special issue of Deep Sea Research in the future.

As the pace of life slows down people are spending time playing games, reading, watching movies, sorting photos and catching up on paper work and writing.

We had a photo competition the other day with five categories: night and twilight, people and ship, wildlife, science action and scenery. From the winners of these categories we chose the overall best picture — awarded to Australian Antarctic Division senior gear officer Aaron Spurr for his image of Dr Ernesto Trujillo-Gomez carrying equipment for his laser instrument (see image at right).

A few of us took engine tours later in the week and you can see here pictures of the V16 and V12 engines, and the ship’s propeller drive shaft.

As we entered the marginal ice zone on Sunday we were treated to views of some spectacular icebergs. The ice floes are much smaller and patchier here, and with sunlight streaming into the open water the phytoplankton in the water column are becoming more productive. The biologists have already noticed a drop in carbon dioxide in the water, as the phytoplankton use it for photosynthesis (and produce oxygen).

This is my last blog post after 8 weeks. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with so many specialists in the sea ice science field. I hope blog readers have enjoyed learning about their work as much as I have. Thank you also to the IT and technical support teams, crew, stewards and voyage management, who supported and participated in this blog, assisted with other media demands, and made my job, and my voyage, enjoyable and memorable.

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