Sunday, November 3, 2013

Déjà vu

1rst of November - 65°S 75°E

In embarking for Antarctica, one can never be sure how long it will take. Four years of experience, and six months at sea, including two months becalmed in sea ice has taught me this. Even when I change ships from the Astrolabe to the much bigger Super Ice Breaker Aurora Australis the results are the same.

For the past week our progression to Davis has been severely delayed with a band of sea ice encircling the station in a radius of two hundred nautical miles. Using MODIS satellite imagery we are attempting to play a game of strategy that will see us through a complex labyrinth of ice. Up to now three tentative attempts to find a way through have all ended in failure. But we play on with the tools at our disposal including radar, satellites and other gizmos. Some work better than others.

The two helicopters on board are unable to reconnaissance our path forward due to the low visibility and we rely on a Basler aircraft being sent out from Davis. It flew over our position in an attempt to break the ‘glace’ and orient the ship through the ‘issue de secours’ (emergency exit). After eighteen days of the ship playing checkers versus the ice, the morale of the expeditioners was lifted by the sight of the aircraft and the potential of a breakthrough.

 Basler flying over the ship

However this morning something has changed. The westerly winds that kept the floes of ice interlocked have calmed down. The weather that has been so grey and overcast since we left on our voyage is also changing and we can see sunshine on the horizon. This has meant the ice floes have begun to separate and we are seeing more and more of the ocean.

Crabies seal family

Over the last few hours we are now on a direct route heading South to Davis. On the Bridge, hundreds of eyes are transfixed on the horizon, where our destination awaits and an end to this journey can be envisaged.

Quote of the day :

« On balance the wait (weight) is increasing » by Dr. Judy

Davis, (still) 200 miles to go !

Thanks to John Kelly who took some time to improve the english version.

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