One of the more bizarre commutes to work

October 23, 2007 at 12:49 pm | Posted in Dreams and imagination, Journey, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment


18th October

More recruits for this morning’s run. Slightly tippier and quite a buffet rounding the prow. Ooh invigorating! End up astern doing sun salutations – we could run a class. First Aid refresher after breakfast. Recreating scenarios of chest pains and deep wounds on the bar carpet…soon realise that where the manual advises calling 999, we’re on our own. Need to practise my ‘ice-side manner’ that’s for sure. Already queasy. Marco, one of the expedition staff, shows us recent ice reports on the peninsula. The thing is folks, it seems as though the ice is thicker than thick this year, temperatures are unseasonably low and there has been little wind. There’s a chance that this ship and us and our six hundred boxes may not be able to access Port Lockroy on 30th October as planned. So we may have to try again next trip, via Ushuaia. Rick is relaxed but I don’t like not knowing. The weather conditions can change over night and blow the ice away, but at the moment, it’s nine tenths – one grade short of fast ice…. Quick elevenses then down to the hold. Our boxes are stacked on pallets wound round with cling film, all numbered. Impressively, the top stow (our personal gear) is exactly where we expected it to be. Helen opens her kit box full of warm goodies from Tog 24 (our thermal sponsors!) exclaiming with Christmas morning delight as she pulls out the contents. Source some t-shirts for portable advance advertising – the Port Lockroy Post Office/shop will open onboard the Nordnorge once we’ve left South Georgia. So nauseous now; stagger outside and find a life-jacket bench in the sun, snooze the quease away and end up with a red neck. Not too indisposed for lunch mind you. Salmon salad and a chat about CO2 levels through history…. Back outside, on a different deckchair, still report reading, whilst other passengers are in the hot tub! This has got to be one of the more bizarre commutes to work. Move to front lounge, really sunburnt now, heaving towards the horizon. Read and doze and read and doze. By six, very dazed and incapable of making decisions. Eat first sitting with Helen; discuss why we think we are single – not an easy topic – and living with people and how these five months might change our lives. Outside to see the sunset and then the boys, sitting on bar stools, drinking cocktails again. Hurtigruten have produced a cognac that’s been aged pole to pole on this ship; don’t try it. Feel worse and worse. Take sea-sickness pills. Bring them up again. Make it to cabin. Sick again. Succumb to hardcore drug patch and sleep, with lavender on the pillow….

17th October

Talked in my sleep and woke Helen up. We surfaced again about five am (normal time on the other side of the world) all hot. Six thirty found us running round and round deck 5 in the bright blue morning. Still in mouth of wide wide river so not too much swell, although sometimes the weight shifts as the ship rolls grandly. A fellow runner, delighted to see us, from Oslo, sports a Hash House Harrier t-shirt. Really would like to sign up when I get back – they have such a good attitude – a worldwide drinking club with a running problem.  There is a chapter in Antarctica, but maybe we should set one up at Port Lockroy? (Despite the challenge of only having a small rocky island to run round at low tide.) Speedy shower then breakfast – a queue outside the dining room! as service starts at seven thirty – table joined by three others, all Scots. Mr McAllister from Arran had read article about Wide White Page exhibition (at the Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh) in the Herald. All very happy to talk about paper icebergs and how to get their postcards stamped. One lady asked if I was going to exhibit my work on board…mmm…that’s not what I’m here for, but it’s tempting (…to repeat the Private View of an Iceberg Library in my cabin, as on the Royal Clipper in August.) More sun on deck; no land in sight. First black browed albatross joins us. Mandatory safety briefing and life boat drill. Start writing this blog and immediately realise the ethical conundrums of writing about other people and a historic monument. Need to ask Rick, Helen and Tudor’s permission to mention them (they all say yes!) Then what about the details of work at Port Lockroy, if I chose to describe the politically suspect or damaging? And will these words be of interest to many anyway? It doesn’t help that the computer is on desk in front of mirror – hard to compose verve and wit with such pallid reflection. First proper Port Lockroy meeting after lunch; filling in gaps in the ops manual, raising concerns, fears and shortcomings. Handed wads of paperwork to read. Enjoy first lecture – “Jewels in a crown” – all about the southern ocean islands we’re visiting. Good to get some biophysical context eh? Take report on Historic British Huts on the Antarctic Peninsula out onto the bright and windy sundeck. Find a shaded spot, snuggle down into a deck chair and feel like a convalescent prescribed an ocean voyage. The report is humbling. It’s awesome to be following in such footsteps – not of famous explorers, but significant contributors to the first International Geophysical Year (1957, fifty years ago this year!) etc. What does the fabric of their future hold? What legacy can we leave intact? Dine in sittings tonight, too late for me. Rick and Tudor partook of Cocktail of the Day, hence providing a jolly foil to our general daze. Retire to bed with Ranulph Fiennes instead of watching Life in the Freezer again.

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