Amongst an incredibly busy summer program of resupply, science, and training, we somehow managed to continue the aim to maximise this Antarctic experience, through some recreational boating around the Casey station area.
The station has a couple of Zodiac Inflatable Rubber Boats (IRBs) primarily for scientific and logistic work which we were lucky to be able to employ in a recreational role. Our station team is comprised of so many amazing people, with such varied backgrounds, and a multitude of talents and skills, Coxswains being amongst this cohort! Our Casey Coxswains comprised Clare Ainsworth (BOM observer), Ray Chivas (carpenter), Tom Clarke (chippy) and Rachel Presser (station support officer). These fine people were supported by our field training officers, and other volunteer crew members who made room for this around the already busy station operations.
Casey Cruise Lines operated under weather and operational constraints, but luckily here in paradise we are blessed with perfect weather every day (almost). Generally, we all got to spend a couple of hours out amongst the smaller icebergs and exploring the coastal area around Shirley Island, where Adélie penguins have a rookery established full of fat, fluffy, grey chicks. For most of us, this was definitely the more entertaining/comedic part of the cruise. The chicks on the most part were a similar size to the adults and were engaged in chasing them everywhere in order to satisfy their voracious appetites. For anyone that has witnessed penguins running on land at speed, try to imagine a whole island of this, perhaps with some circus music in the background. Where there are penguins, there are usually Leopard seals loitering around, and my particular cruise was lucky enough to see a beautiful seal just cruising back and forth in front of a group of nervous ice-bound Adélies. We couldn’t decide if it was too full already, or sick of the taste of penguin perhaps, but it wasn’t the slightest bit aggressive, more curious at our arrival I think. The skuas were also in abundance, however they appeared to be struggling to find any chicks or eggs of a size suitable to prey on. Most things here are putting on a winter coat!
The ice around here is a living work of ever-changing art. The array of blues in the ‘bergs, the glaciers, and just covering the land, is quite astonishing. I’ll never tire of this place. There’s a lot of good whisky ice floating around out there, but don’t worry, it’s safe from our glasses! The life in the water here is on another level. Of course, we think immediately of penguins, seals, and whales, but then there’s the other end of the size scale. At first the water looked murky, but on closer inspection it is just absolutely teeming with life. Visible krill, phytoplankton, and seaweed everywhere! This is such a pristine ecosystem and it is a privilege to be here to witness it.
Thank you to everyone involved in making this experience a reality, from the Station Leader, to the coxswains and boat crews, to the rest of the station team that shuffled workloads and shifts to accommodate the voyages of Casey Cruise Lines…
I am a lucky man.
- Bruce Denning, BoM Technician.