Personal: December 22 2002

Okay, I’m bundled up to the nines (?!*$!), feel like the Michelin man, look

like the Michelin Man, look like everyone else on this ship. Identikit.

Purple reversible fleecy jacket thing, huge overalls and coat with reflecty

strips, beige steel toecapped fur lined boots (nice), green heavy duty

moleskin trousers, thermals under all of this when it gets colder,gloves,

scarf and hat are still my own in a vague attempt to retain some

individuality. Won’t last though I’m sure. And for recreational gear? We’re

all wearing Ernest Shackleton polo shirts and jeans. A far flung cry from

the world of New York that occupies most of this website I’m sure. Back to

the days of not thinking at all before getting dressed in the morning.

Morning, afternoon, well, whenever you wake up really. Midday today I think

it was. But then, we were partying hard last night. Cabins small, bag

explosion, pity my cabin mates (those of you who know me, know). Random

socks in random pockets. Names written on every piece of clothing. Apple

pie and custard. Bad eighties music. This is school.

Just so you know it’s not all a deep spiritual journey into the last unexplored

wilderness. I mean it is, but it can’t be the whole time. It could be I guess,

but that would actually physically blow my mind into too many pieces to be healthy.

Still recovering from South Georgia I think. We left land

a week ago and boarded the ship a month ago. It’s been great. Yesterday, we

finally crossed the Antarctic Circle. Amazing. A great thick red line painted

across the icebergs with "Welcome to Antarctica" embellished in the

walls. We’ve crossed a ‘polynya’ too which deserves a mention because it truly

is a wonderful word. Affectionately called Pollyanna by those who know her.

A polynya is a huge area of open water that is surrounded by sea ice. So munch,

munch, munch, through the ice for days and suddenly, it’s like being in the

open sea again. Bizarre. Rocky ship, no ice for as far as the eye can see. The

occasional berg ofcourse though. Like being sent back to two weeks ago! We’ve

been probing the sea here too..throwing ‘XBTs’ off the back of the ship to get

temperature/depth profiles. Think there might be a few pics on the latest Shackleton

diary page

so have a look at them, makes it look like I’ve been ever so busy on the ship…there’s

even a pic of us circuit training on the after deck!

So what have I been seeing lately? Ice, ice, ice. Floating ice. Ice

floating. Bergs, ice, thick viscous ocean with ice floes floating on it.

It’s magnificent. Not too much wildlife..this will probably increase again

as we approach more solid land/semi- permanent ice. Did I say we saw a

whale after leaving S Georgia? Two of them. Seems like months ago!

The nights are also like day now, there is a vague darkish period around

9pm but the sun hasn’t been seen setting for a while. Magnificent long,

long (hours long) sunsets are a thing of previous latitudes. And next to

come…Halley. Due on christmas day I think but that’ll depend how

difficult it is to crunch through the next lot of ice. Have been having

lots of training sessions on the ship too: first aid, manual handling,

cargo logistics, vehicles (how to start a skidoo), clothes etc. And we’ve

been allocated jobs for the relief when we get to base. That was an

immediate morale booster in the bar. People have a purpose again. Night

shift? Day shift? Driving the snowcat? Tallying boxes? Seaice relief? In

the kitchen? Operating cranes? You could taste excitement in the air. A

24-hour relief operation is about to begin that may take two weeks. We’ll

all be exhausted and very cold. What a change from the luxury of the ship.

Our bodies won’t know what hit them! Back to the sauna now I think…I must

enjoy every luxury while they last!

Happy Christmas to all, especially those in Trafalgar Road. I’ll be

thinking of you, wherever and whatever our operations are that day.xx

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3 Responses to Personal: December 22 2002

  1. Michelle says:

    Sounds truly out of this world. You make me feel like I’m the fly on the wall of your adventure, thank you! Keep writing… sounds like you will be working like crazy once you have landed and that it’s been a debotch party on the boat. Am I wrong? You trendy scientists live the sleek and fashionista lifestyles, what with the beige steel toecapped fur lined boots… didn’t Felix and I see them in Marc Jacobs just this past month? Wicked!~

    Hangin’ in Brixton yo, and visiting the cousins tomorrow. Chris Salmon for lunch and Dr. Hugh for dinner (my cos). Off to Cambridge w/ granny on Tues. Met Val! What a nutter (to use your English phrase) – god she is fabulous. No need to say a word, just let Val do all the entertaining.

    Need to bullet… we’ll write you a grande Christmas email laters. Be semi-warm if poss.

    Meeshe.

  2. Veronique says:

    Hey Rhian,

    seems you’re having fun out there in the wild. Even seen some pictures of you presenting work (or was that a montage?). Happy to see you are resisting the cold, the sea-sickness, the boredom (well, looks pretty lively from the postings :) ) … back in brouwn land, things are moving slowly as well. Just thought to drop you a word and say have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – Hope you have a bit of Champagne to celebrate (although there does seem to be any shortage of alcohol, I only saw beer in that cooler :) )

    Have fun, Vero (and Sabine and David)

  3. Erika says:

    Bag explosion, right, only now? Usually that happens within two minutes of your arrival. Remember, time to stuff the bag again, don’t leave too much behind in the cabin corners. Great pictures in all the diary entries.

    Hope the teach-in was not after dinner (I spot red cheeks). And inspite of regulation purple jackets: just look for the hair. I guess one of these days even that will be hidden, then you’ll be able to fool us all.

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