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.


First words from Rachel – and she’s off…

October 18, 2007 at 8:03 am | Posted in Dreams and imagination, Journey, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment


 16th October (Happy Birthday Annabel!)

Arrive at San Paulo 5:30am. Not allowed off during refuelling so the cleaners valiantly work around us. All stand and stretch, facing the open door hatch like wilted sunflowers. Hot n’ humid. Bad news: fluffy penguin order didn’t make the freight, so HMS Endurance will bring them in January – too late for Christmas. A shame indeed. North of Buenos Aires peering directly down on to a grid lined settlement looking like the tesserae mosaic you see in fancy ladies magazines…Hey all of our luggage arrived! Even the Christmas tree! Semi-hysterical taxi ride, all jammed into a Berlingo playing salsa, to the port. Recognise bits from four years ago. Our ship for the journey South is Hurtigruten’s splendid Nordnorge- all our supplies for Port Lockroy are in the hold. Much kerfuffle and harrumphing of baggage, sorting of paperwork and issuing of electronic passes, then here we are, me and Helen sharing cabin 340! Many of the crew and staff recognise Rick from previous seasons and are full of welcome for all of us. Sit quite gormless, sipping tea listening to a conversation about dried/salted cod (this is a Norwegian ship after all.) We discuss what work we need to cover. Fetid travelling clothes suddenly require immediate removal. Quick shower and a little gentle unpacking – the mountains of thermals redundant in this heat – stowed away in all the shipshape places. V promising lunch (for a protein addict) – scallops, prawns, crayfish, dried meats followed by the merest morsel of chocolate mousse. Well fuelled for initial exploration of ship; bars, library, café, lecture theatres, decks (fine skipping potential) and the HOT TUBS. Yey heh! Nothing for it but shorts and sunglasses on the sundeck for most of the afternoon, with occasional forays for iced water. Mosquitoes are huge and vicious! Fully conscious to soak up this memory of heat for the cold times ahead. So much to take on board and we haven’t even left Buenos Aires yet. The docks all around us are piled with building blocks of freight containers; vast numbers stacked eight high and cranes moving to and fro industriously. Very good lying around getting to know each other, knowing we have time to get there. Two egrets have flown over, which look like herons and remind me of my mummy. The Captain, his crew and expedition staff introduce themselves, briefly. Feeling somewhat pale and deranged now. Eat early and head out to the stern for departure. A ship leaving port is such a solemn thing. The last thick ropes flung from the quay with such finality. And waving. And the lights of the pilot boats and the city and the stars emerging. We’re all witty and together and tired and ok. Early bed, sinking down to lie straight out flat.

15th October

After ‘the last haircut’, ‘the last phone call’, ‘the last sleep in my own bed’ etc. it’s Monday. Eight o’clock run through Leith to swim in the outdoor pool. Lucky. No-one else there, just the blue sky and morning light and little clouds encroaching. Then a few hours of calm; pottering round, eventually packing, washing sheets. All very ordinary. Barbie and Charlie drive me, five months of kit and a Christmas tree through thick drizzly rain to the airport. Me and Barbs in the back whizzing from subject to abbreviated subject. Helen (The Post Mistress) bounds up – we’ve never met – and I know we’re going to be alright. Rick (Maintenance, Comms….Base Manager; the boss!) follows with rucksack laden trolley. Between us we’re 31 kilos over our baggage allowance. Ouch. That’s expensive!

Rick is anxious. Helen is bouncing. And I’m slightly suspended. Send forty-odd farewell text messages and am touched to receive a barrage of luck and love at the last minute. Fly to Frankfurt. There’s nowhere to do cartwheels. Just time for peppermint tea. Tudor (A young Antarctic old hand, coming to set up ‘robust operational procedure’) is at the departure gate. We have four seats of a middle row; horrid! Helen reads Rick’s book out loud as his glasses are in the overhead locker. Bodes well for literary bonding at least. Started reading Life Class by Pat Barker on the first hop, finish it as we touch down in Argentina. It’s just wrong sitting up all night.

Dreams and aspirations. Rachel’s Food Wish List.

October 18, 2007 at 7:57 am | Posted in Dreams and imagination, Observations in Antarctica, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

Twinings peppermint tea bags. Eight boxes of twenty.
Twinings camomile tea bags. Eight boxes of twenty.
Twinings earl grey tea bags. Three boxes of fifty.
Clippers organic white tea bags. Four boxes of twenty.
Rooiboos/Redbush tea (Celestial Seasonings, with Vanilla if available!). Four boxes of twenty.
Celestial Seasonings lemon zinger. Four boxes of twenty.
Green and Black’s Hot Chocolate Powder. One jar.Jordan’s strawberry crunch. Two boxes
Dorset cereal. (with the nice leafy packaging)Two boxes (choose one with lots of nuts in please)
Oat cakes
Runny honey, in squeezy bottle. Two.
Gherkins or cornichons. Four jars.
Maille dijon mustard. One large jar.
Artichoke hearts.
Extra virgin olive oil (as opposed to sunflower) esp for salads
General herbs…
Mango chutney
Lime pickle
Thai green curry paste
Coconut milk
Bonne Maman Strawberry jam
Tins of:
Herring mops
Pate: Crab, Chicken liver etc
Salami – possible to get whole sausages to slice?
Brown rice
(all pref to pasta, but will eat pasta too of course)
For snacks:
Pine nuts
Hazel nuts
Brazil nuts
Pumpkin seeds
Sesame seeds
Ingredients for flapjacks!
Green and Black’s chocolate. Anything with nuts in. Two large bars a week…

Rachel Hazell moves to Antarctica…

August 23, 2007 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Blogroll, Book art, Dreams and imagination, Journey, Life in the snow, Observations in Antarctica, Penguins, Photos, Rachel Hazell | 7 Comments

Rachel Hazell will set sail in under two months time to the beautiful world of ice-white Antarctica. Rachel’s new job will be Post Assistant and Penguin Monitor where she will stamp over 20,000 postcards in the time she will be there. In between handling all that card and ink, Rachel will step outside and very quietly and gently tip toe around the sleeping penguins, counting them and their eggs and recording the data for the international penguin monitoring programme. Rachel said, “I am thrilled to be finally living my dream as Post Mistress for Antarctica. I’ve lived on one of Her Majesty’s Navy ships, teaching sailors to make small books, but this has to be my biggest life long ambition.” This will be the site for Rachel’s diary while she is away, so come back often for updates from abroad.

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