Explorer down

December 17, 2007 at 8:35 am | Posted in The Practicalities of Everyday Life Out Here | Leave a comment

23rd November

I can hear a hum! Outside in pjs to see Ocean Nova in the back bay. They invite us aboard for breakfast, what a treat. We weren’t expecting them til later, but last night, a camping expedition had to be evacuated as ice packed in round their ship, and they sought a safe harbour with us.

Just before Rick starts his introductory talk we learn that another Antarctic Cruise ship, the Explorer has hit ice, been holed and is sinking. This terrible news distracts from the business at hand.

Throughout the day we hear updated reports via e-mail. Quite apart from the obvious tragedies, I am gutted to realise that our first sack of incoming mail was on board; another loss. (*The bag was dispatched from Stanley on 15th November, so any mail reaching there after that date may hopefully arrive with us on 17th December, the next scheduled delivery. Thank-you to everyone who has sent special presents… I don’t know what to say.)

Ocean Nova’s visit is hectic because the weather is so wild, drifting snow and strong wind. Jougla point landing is cancelled, busy busy in the shop and museum. Rick’s book ‘Of Dogs and Men’ is selling out – passengers wait for more copies to be retrieved from the boatshed.

Once pax departed, assess stock and pause for tea…but all hungry.

Quick cheesy potato soup. Down to the boatshed passing small black penguin packages lying submerged in snow that has drifted over their backs. The repercussions of Explorer’s demise – she has been abandoned, we don’t know if she has sunk – will take sometime to percolate through.

The next few days are uncertain – she was due to visit us on several occasions through this season, and the ships who went to her rescue may be forced to alter their itineraries. Rick and Helen, suffering slightly from last night’s dram, benefit from small opportunist window to lie down and sleep. First moment of reflection in ages. Maybe the poetry will come retrospectively. This is the longest I have gone without sitting alone and thinking, and making. Cancel the few postcards in the box from Ocean Nova. Enjoy second tap dancing lesson from H. Polar Pioneer radios her arrival as we’re savouring tea and birthday cake.

Just fifty pax, along with Dave Birkett, a Port Lockroy veteran. Sure is blowing a blizzard. Recognise a passenger from 2004 semi-circumnavigation – hello Edgar! One of the cooks delivers sticky toffee pudding with dulce de leche sauce – what an angel. The snow has gusted through cracks in the porch and lies in corners. Cancel mail and leave to dry (which is a long wait in these temperatures.) Rick treats us to crunchy bean, pepper and ginger starter yum – to raise our spirits from today’s flattening news. Then fried potato patties, bacon and egg – just dandy! Time to catch up on some personal e-mails, typing as fast as possible. The gentoos are crashed out all over the place, on their bellies or standing with their beaks tucked over into neck. Wearying to be in that bluster. Have you guessed what Helen is knitting? A penguin!

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