Once captive on the ship we were briefed that it would be a slow journey home. Following the broken refrozen chunks to the fast ice edge a few miles away was easy enough. The journey through the open polynya was very pleasant, with stretches of open water, pancake ice bobbing up and down in the breeze, and young grey sea ice rippling in the wake of the ship as we weaved through majestic icebergs, on the trawl deck drinking our first beers since before resupply.
Today, Sunday 3rd February 2013, is a little sad and anticlimatic – the ship has sailed, leaving seventeen of us to man the station until next summer. Note the choice of words (man the station) and don’t worry, the bad jokes and innuendo are rife already. This is the first year since 1993 that Davis winterers been all been male. In fact there are no women on any of the Australian bases this winter for the first time since 1986. [Post script: these facts are incorrect, see comments] If the ship arrives on time, normally late October or early November, we will be on our own for around 9 months. I’m not sure whether I should have mentioned that book I read about island strandings due to shipwrecks and mutinies. Especially in a time of budget cuts and a ship at the end of it’s life (please, pay your taxes!)
How did I get here? Well, after the training was completed we came down by ship. Whilst on the ship I almost started a blog… in fact, I wrote the passage below in a brief creative outburst before going back to playing lots of cards (Five hundred, of course!).
“Are you on drugs?”
“No, but I get asked that a lot”, I replied to Jen, one of the Aircraft Ground Safety officers (AGSO’s), on the second day on the ship bound for Davis station, Antarctica. I’d just told her I felt great, as we stood on the back helideck of the Aurora Australis, rocking from side to side, with a couple of expeditioners hugging the deck nearby, one holding a plastic bag containing stomach bile. Meanwhile Jen was talking about some ideas she had of isolated places to visit after this trip. She made the point that it’s a good way to find out about yourself.
For me there are several reasons why I thought this gig down south would be a good idea.