Curiously street-like lamps, night caps and laughing

November 19, 2007 at 5:56 pm | Posted in Dreams and imagination, Journey, Life in the snow, Penguins, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

October 28th

We are in Admiralty Bay on King George Island, a place familiar to me from surveying up and down these coasts on Endurance last year. Say fond hello to the Florence Nunatak. It’s calm, so have to run, although deck crunchy with fresh snow and populated with many passengers sporting cameras and binoculars, aghast at us in shorts. Straight ahead is Arctowski, a Polish base where we are due to visit. But the sea ice pack is too jammed for the tender boats. There’s a fur seal (unusual), a weddell and a leopard seal in the distance, a multitude of dots – ­ an adelie penguin colony. Shame we don’t get to wake the Poles. Plan B; seek permission to land at the Brazilian base, Commandante Ferrez, instead. They are snowed in. Their living room has (colour saturated) photographs of sandy beaches, and quietly staring men. A felt-tipped list by the door outlines “irritating things” ­ – only twenty items, not bad for a whole winter. Outside, up the hill, past curiously street-like lamps, stand wooden crosses, some of them in memory of FIDS men at Base G (Lockroy  is Base A.) Hey, I’m cheery today, wearing pink salopettes and contact lenses! Back to ship and to blog. Small diversion to pick up an American penguin researcher from Copacabana Base, tragically her house in Arizona had burnt down, and we are the first ship that can take her part of the way home. What a shock. Franz, the Expedition Leader, gives a lecture on Antarctic Stations, including many photos and tricky tales. Land at Half Moon, a large leopard seal prowling; up snow path to see chinstrap penguins up close, loved up, amongst beautiful lichened rock-stacks. Top of the hill for optimum nesting because that’s where the snow melts first. Divine light on distant bergs, a subtle spectrum of silver-greys. Last chance to hot tub! So we all meet up on deck six when Tudor’s finished helping with landing duties, but water’s cold ­ no! ­ so resort to cocktails instead. Double round for me as, I don’t seem to have been in the bar much (an anomaly). Cocktail of the Day: Bend Over, v good, lead to low tone of dinner conversation. Night caps. Laughing.

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On trying to memorise prices

November 19, 2007 at 5:52 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Dreams and imagination, Journey | Leave a comment

October 27th

Late lie, but still run. Helen and Tudor stayed up til one thirty am; missed your own party they said! Indulge in particularly luxurious breakfast of hot waffles, sitting at a window in the grand part of dining room, with views aft. Uli gives a lecture on Antarctic geology.

Not sure I could repeat the substance, but truly enjoyed his impression of particle compression in the earth’s crust ­waving arms and bobbing up and down. Lie on cabin sofa and don’t move until lunchtime (well, only to breathe.) Down to the hold to pull out boxes of stock for the onboard shop, which we think will open for business on Monday night.

Trolley twelve or so cartons up to a spare cabin for seeing what’s what.

Christmas like discoveries. Try to memorize prices. Helen’s turn to feel queasy. Reward ourselves with tea +  biscuits. We’re nearly at Elephant Island, ­ the computer screen maps show ship virtually upon it ­ but can see nothing through thick fog. Suddenly we are at Cape Wild, where twenty-two members of Shackleton’s crew were infamously marooned for four and a half months. Out on the prow, we can just make out shapes of rock, swirling white and the bronze bust of Capt Pardo, who eventually rescued the men, standing incongruous. The places resonates with feeling, deadened by snowflakes. Briefed for landing on South Shetland Islands. Late sitting for dinner; all rather sober tonight. Stop and talk with Mairi (from the Western Isles) who is always affirming. She says how strange it will be without the Port Lockroy team aboard ­ only two more days, three more nights in a warm comfy bed. I’m getting scared.

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