January 9th – Day 1 – 8:35 am
The boat has left the shore and we are now upon what mild adventure may be in store for us. The crew seam an experienced lot, having obviously done this trip many times. This is no voyage to be tal ked about in the coming years of their lives, though I myself feel expectant. A mild excitement courses though my body which gives me an energetic step while greeting the day and I think of things to come with glee.
The day is slightly mired by not knowing the fate of my cat, Alice. I left her with Dad so I could travel on this voyage and she disappeared not long after being let loose inside his house. It has been a day and a night and still no sign of her. I hope they find Alice soon and that she is simply hiding in some nook of the house for she is such a beautiful cat.
Mum has been a delight to travel with so far, we have always gotten on so well, once I out grew my adolescent coarseness. I think she misses Dad, especially when we were meeting the other passengers at dinner. Dad is a gifted social lubricant in such situations and my own tart personality coupled with hers leads us to really appreciate how much Dad affects the mood of a group around h im with is well meaning and friendly banter.
January 9th – Day 1 – 8:46 pm
So the first day is coming to a close and I sit with a mild bemusement from the fact that I’ll be stuck on this ship for another month. I worry that there might be problem with entertainment on this journey. Thus this diary itself. Already I have read over 150 pages of Ilium, and due to the sea sickness tablets slept for hours. I think the tablets themselves make you feel queasy, while if you are in fact sea sick this mild feeling is a improvement, though if you are not sea sick at all; you just feel nauseous. I plan to not partake in any more unless I absolutely need to.
The lunch meal was an atrocious mushroom soup, though at dinner I had a nice chicken curry. This was a great relief to myself and mother. As based on the performance of the cook’s lunch we were very worried about our future meals. If the food is of this quality for the rest of the trip I w ill be pleased, though Mum remains unconvinced. She feels further experimental tests are needed before a conclusion can be reached.
The entire ships crew are Russian and I’m learning a few words here and there like please and thank you. They do not speak much if any English and feel stand offish to the passengers. While the heritage expedition crew are friendly and approachable, the Russians seam to not wish to interact at all. They remind me of hotel staff, cleaning and doing chores about the place like appendages to the ship itself, part of the ship rather than travellers within it.
Tomorrow is the first big day. We will be taking a fancy dinghy called a Zodiac to a island chain called the Snares. It is a protected natural reserve and no one is allowed upon the soil so we will just be boating around the island and be peering from a distance. We hope to see a colony of crested penguins and two types of albatross that will be in egg laying season.
Breakfast is at 7am, departure soon after.
January 10th 2:25pm
We are now in the southern ocean. The ship is rocking so much no one can stand up and the entire ships compliment is hiding out in their beds waiting for calmer waters. During the night we learnt the meaning of the phrase “baton down”. Anything that was not secured in our room went flying and after a time the room looked like it was ransacked. It was impossible to sleep and once daylight came though our portal Mum saw the mess and switched into pick up mode. I was upset at her as I felt it was an unnecessary risk to move around while the ship was rocking so much. Only moments before I had been hurled into a wall on the other side of the cabin and I was scared such a fall would not go well for her. Still she stubbornly refused to take my advise and soon the room was stowed away. I still think it was a reckless risk for little gain. A gain that cost her two falls, a bruised ear and a scraped elbow, though I think that came from a trip to the loo.
It is hard to explain the rocking motion. I simply was not prepared for the force of it, impossible to stand up without bracing and there is a g-force on your body similar to a carnival ride. The entire ship is lined with hand rails down every corridor and you have to use them. You simply can hardly stand. I saw a Russian crew member making his way down a hall during the storm and he was nearly running using his own momentum to forestall the ships, each step timed to the rock and crashing shoulder first into each wall, left then right and off down the hall.
When lying in bed the rocking isn’t as bothersome as you are not fighting for your own balance so instead you rocking against the boat, you rock with it; as a cup on a table. Only on the occasional huge wave will you slide down the bed. The boat was set to a new course to reduce the rocking for breakfast and instead of eating I took the opportunity to grab a few hours, and finally fell asleep.
Obviously the boat ride around the island was cancelled. Mum went up top in the morning to look at the island from afar but I was as I said, asleep. They plan to come home via this place and see if the waters are calmer.
The Capitan just announced a course change to try and find smoother sea for lunch, but we can only hold it for an hour. Then it is back into the waves until around 3am when we will be in the calm of Port Ross.
January 11th 9:30pm
Spirits are high, among the entire expedition, though especially in me. Dad sent an email through to us via the company organising the trip to inform me that my cat, Alice has been found and is comfortably sleeping her little pussy cat self in the secured comfort. This is a huge weight of my mind and I feel extremely happy and light hearted for the first time since she disappeared.
We are now in Port Ross, known as Sarah’s Bosom. A nick name given to the place by various sailors as a way to describe coming to this sheltered port after the tumbling seas that thrashed their boats on the journey. The ship is anchored and the violent rocking is behind us, for now. While I never got sick and Mum only got a little queasy, many of the passengers were violently ill for the last few days. Also many had tumbles us included, but only one person needed medical attention. Still most people fell at least once and no one got any real sleep. It is hard to sleep when you are literally sliding up and down the bed.
Still this is behind us and we are now at anchor in a little bay and the boat is hardly rocking at all. We all got outside and did some bush walking and saw a lot of wild life. Everything is so unafraid of humans here. We walked right though hundreds of seal lions basking in the sun and barely got looked at apart form the occasional bark coming from a male now and then. We walked a small wooden path across the island and saw Albatross nesting, taking off and soaring with the strong winds. Not for the first time I wished I had brought my zoom lens. It saddens me that so much of what I see will not make it into decent photos.
The island had a terrific assortment of flora from lichen mounds to a small forest. It was terribly interesting walking across the island, up and over it to the cliffs on the other side which faced the Southern Ocean. The wind picked up and up as we ascended the hill and the vegetation got lower and lower to the ground. Seals gave way to nesting birds and finally we were faced with the ocean itself. A wild undulating mass of water that looked angry and to witch I now had a mild understanding. I feel a mild trepidation form knowing our coarse will take us in that direction once again. Only a few kilometres in the opposite direction, on the other side of the island nestled snugly in the bosom, the sea was like gla ss in comparison.
The day was rather hot, in fact it was about 10 degrees. This lead to the myriad of small disasters for me. One, I got sunburnt. Two, I was so hot I removed my water proof jacket, and then on the ride home in the Zodiac I got drenched with freezing cold sea water and who knows how long it will take to for my warmest top to dry in the dark cabin. Then there is three. It turned out I forgot to pack a belt for my water proof pants, witch incidentally fall down to my ankles almost immediately with out one. I made a make shift belt form the camera case cord but it only lasted the day before it broke. Now I am using a glad wrap belt to hold up my pants. I have tried this before and twisted glad wrap is pretty strong, though tomorrow will tell. Then finally, four; I lost the lens cap to my camera. This could be a real problem, as now there is no way to protect the camera lens during the wet dinghy rides for the case itself is not water proof.
Ev en so it was great to get off the ship and walk about looking at the animals and plants. Everyone is in a happy mood, talking and chatting away about the things they saw and the experience of the storm we all shared.
We stay at anchor tonight so we are all looking forward to a full nights sleep and thinking of our loved ones whom are not with us.
January 12th 3:53pm
Today was very uneventful for me. I spent most of the day with a terrible headache and stayed in bed until lunch. This was just in time for us to eat and for me to witness us leave the comfort of Sara’s Bosom and head into the deep sea and our next destination. I really should start paying attention to the scheduled so I can give you the proper names. Still as I have slept so much today I feel that being awake all night during the the coming turmoil will not be as much of a problem as it usually is.
I have stowed away all the items in out cabin in prepar ation and as I write in the bar area the rocking is starting to get more and more and I think of what I missed today.
It was wet and cloudy. The planned rock climbing team to get to the albatross nesting on the cliffs was cancelled and that only left a Zodiac ride around the island. I felt my headache was in a winning position over a boat ride in the rain but as the day went on it cleared up and the Zodiac did go ashore. So I regret not going on it, as it would have been nice to walk about the island.
My sunburnt nose is red and angry, as well as my cheeks. Thankfully I have a very full beard at the moment so the rest of my face was protected. Yet another tick in the “beards are awesome” check list.
Mum and I are starting to relax more among the other passengers, lingering longer after lunch or in the bar area to chat and discuss the day or its coming. The conversations are rather superficial at the moment. The main topics are about th e rough seas and how each coped and why they are here in the fist place. Still the trip is young and I expect things to loosen up further as we go.
January 14th 10:46pm
Today was a very busy day. We had cruised though the ocean for a day and a bit to land at these Macquarie Islands. This is our last landing before the long leg through the southern ocean to Antarctica. The general consensus from the staff was that we had a blessed voyage to the islands with nearly flat seas the entire way. So apart from the occasional dip the ride was effortless and easy to sleep through as we passed over the great southern plateau, one of the deepest parts of the ocean floor.
The Islands is a rather spectacular place, apparently it is one of only three locations in the world where the crust of the ocean floor is pushed to the surface. So unlike a continent or a land mass “created” though volcanic activity, we are literally looking at the floor of the ocean, rocks as old as the earth itself.
Remembering my list of errors in my last landing I rugged up in full gear. Sporting a nice new belt made for me by one of the sailors from some red rope he had about the place, thermal underwear, sun screen, water proof coat; the works. I still had one error of note though. When you get on the Zodiac you are supposed to swing your feet in by moving towards the ocean, I did so towards the shore and clonked the guide lady on the head. She yelled at me. I think maybe as she is Russian and they have such a direct language she comes off much ruder than she means to, even Mum has had her problems with her being yelled at, for being late to a briefing witch are of course not compulsory.
Once ashore we were faced with literally thousands of Penguins from two different species. The King and the Royal. The King Penguin has the famous patterning that I believe most people see when imagining penguins. The fat bowling pin shape w ith the black coat, the long beak and yellowish orange trim witch can be seen as a bow tie. The Royals are are much smaller creature with a much darker black upon their back feathers and sporting spiffy long yellow feathers which give the appearance of eyebrows. I can not stress the numbers of these creatures, there was with out hyperbole many thousands of them. The colonies would stretch so far that I couldn’t focus on individuals any more and they became a white and black blob of noise. Small teams would split from the main colony and play follow the leader, walking about the island in little lines usually heading to the sea for a swim or back to the main colony, many others where spread out for no discernible reason. They were also extremely friendly and if you sat still would come up and poke at you with there beaks, not in a aggressive way, but in a obviously inquisitive investigation that seams charming to my eyes.
As well as the Penguins there were the elephant se als. Huge blubbery masses flopped at random all over the place. These creatures are massive. They are comprised from a collection of components that are traditionally ugly but they somehow look cute and friendly. It seams to be in the way they loll about looking so relaxed. They have very dewy brown eyes, large and limpet that reminded me of a friendly dog. They would peer at us, using what seamed a colossal effort to poke there head up to look across the other cigar like shapes towards us before sighing at the exhausting effort and dropping back down to doze. The seals just seamed so harmless and minding of their own lives that they became endearing. The occasional male would push at another and now and then you would hear a strange call sounding much like burbling expulsion of air, but apart from that they seamed even more placid than the penguins.
January 17th 8:34pm
We have been crossing the southern ocean for the last few days with little to d o on ship, so there has been little to write down. Today though we saw our first iceberg surrounded by two whales. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was nearly on the horizon line I would have been more excited. I do hope we will see many more icebergs much closer to the ship in the near future.
The passengers seam to be passing there time with various activities organised by the crew. Two sometimes three lectures a day on various topics form animal life to the history of the region are given in the “lecture hall”, a small room at the bottom of the ship containing a projector and a few rows of seats. They have also started showing a seven part documentary series that is the dramatisation of some famous explorer. I guess we will see a new episode each day. I haven’t attended many of these events myself.
Mum spends her time on the bridge gazing out at the sea and chatting to the people she finds there. She also attends the lectures as well as goes for walks out on deck for fresh air. For me though as I dislike the company of others have spent nearly every second apart from when dinner is called in the cabin. Mum also spends a lot of time sleeping, but she like the other passengers are starting to tire of their cabins and the bar is getting fuller earlier and the crowed getting more and more loud. I’m rather interested in how they will be in the long trip home.
Today marks around the mid point of the holiday and soon we will be in site of Antarctica itself and then the days will change into a flurry of activity. For now though I spend nearly the entire day in my cabin reading my books. So far I have read Ilium a insanely convoluted space opera by Dan Simmons (615 pages), Name of the wind, book one of the Kingslayer Chronicles, a rather good fantasy book that follows the classic boy looses his family and fall on all sorts of bad luck but has a spark in him witch lands him enrolment in the wizard university (715 pages) , and Dreaming of the Void book one of the void trilogy by Peter F Hamilton, another crazy, imagination of steroids, space fantasy (518 pages). I would like to finish the void trilogy and read the squeal to ilium before the trip is done, and I have little worry that I’ll do this. I got about half way though the second Kingslasyer book but found it little boring after a while. Yeah, three days of reading for over 18 hours gets you though books fast.
So for me the trip hasn’t changed my lifestyle much at all. I’m still sitting in my room reading my books. I find it quite relaxing the swaying of the boat and the complete lack of pressure to do anything.
Anyway we expect to be in site of land in the next day or so. Then all that is going to change.
January 18th – 5:30pm
We are moving at a snails pace. The ship lumbering though cold waters at a lowly 3-5 knots, that is around 6-10 kilometres an hour. We are still heading t owards the landmass but the sea itself is starting to hinder us in the form of hundreds of broken ice blocks, witch the ship is now slowly pushing through. They are not what I imagine when I think of icebergs. Not like the one we saw yesterday which seemed so large, a seemingly massive frozen rock protruding from the water. A thing of postcards. These are more like broken bits from a continual ice sheet. They are little more than a few meters apart, almost flat and spaced out generously across the span. Here and there the occasional larger peace of ice breaks the pattern and in spite of all this, much of the ocean is still visible in testament to its vast size.
The sky is a deep, neutral grey enhanced by a fog witch seams to have settled across the entire ocean obscuring the horizon line behind a dense, white, impenetrable haze. The sea itself is reflecting this grey-white sky but the black of the deep pulls the colour down into a slightly deeper hue and of course the re is the dotting of pure white from the ice itself. The sea looks cold. It is a vision of cold, an archetypal view that all images of cold are drawn from, felt in our bones though our eyes and across our base animal nature. Just looking at it makes me shiver and be glad for my modern cave, warm and comfortable. This is the Antarctic, the one we saw in all the nature documentaries, the reason why we are here.