Friday, February 02, 2007

Home Again

Me outside my house

Seeing the family again.

Well there's a nice long list of things that I'd missed by being away for so long. The top 3 are easy:
- Playing my Piano (the keyboard at Halley was NOT a substitute)
- Wondering in the Garden (I adore wondering about the garden while I eat my breakfast deciding what I might tackle later that day)
- Freedom (Just being able to hop in a car, bus, train or plane and go where you like)

Things like being able to see family and friends again and actually have a social life beyond 15 other people are obvious but there were a few ones that caught me by suprise:
-Planes stay up in the air, are everywhere but don't have an obvious means of propulsion. (I know I'm close to heathrow airport, but this number of planes is just silly - give me clear skies anyday).
-Sky plus and digibox technology. I love it - I'm sure it's been around for a while, but it's new to my world. You can pause, rewind and best of all fast forward without having to bother with video tapes. Lovely invention.

So that's the plus points. Truth being it's great being back, I appriciate lots of things that little bit more (salad etc), but there's things we can do without...
- so many people!!!! where are they all from?
- so much choice. The food we had at Halley was great. The food out of Halley isn't always great. The food in the real world costs money, and there's so much decision making involved in choosing a simple meal. Why is there so much choice? Can we not just have say, 4 options. That would suit 95% of people.
-mobile phones - yes I've now got an old one of my mum's and a pay as you go, but I don't like phones so don't be offended if I don't phone or text you. I'm just not that into it.

The Falkland Islands

The ship docked into Stanley Harbour (FIPASS) early on the 15th of January. It was my first step into civilisation for around 27 months.


Saunders Island

Sunday, January 14, 2007

R.R.S Ernest Shackleton and Signy Research Station

A grand title for two fascinating places. I spent two months on the Ship on my way South to Halley originally in 2004. I learnt then that I loved being at sea and I'd gladly call the Shack my home (be it a temporary home). I found myself on it 2 years later and nothing much had changed. The crew has more familiar than unfamiliar faces, the layout and setup the same. The daily routine is much the same, but as outgoing FIDS the expectancy of us to do as much around the ship is lower - which is just as well since we're not half as keen as we were when we were brought in. The ship's crew of 23 people generally work 4 months on, 4 months off working 7 days a week while they're on the ship. They're a jolly bunch who enjoy taking the mickey out of us, but work hard and deserve to be left alone most of the time. So we do, and that means it's a quiet ship.

So that's it, Anto, Me, Vicki and Charlotte are the only passengers on the ship until we get to Signy. I was expecting the journey to take a lot longer, but with the delays in the ice when the ship came in to Halley, the Captain ordered that both engines be put on as we make a quick dash to the Falkland Islands with a brief stop in Signy to pick up two more passengers.

First we had to break through the ice again. Not too much trouble for this ice-strengthened ship; we had 2 days of sailing through glassy waters with a bit of ice in the way. We only had a couple of hard nights sleeping through the noise of ice on hull, the noise from the smallest bergy bit seemed to reverberate around my cabin. I was, as usual, bouncing about the ship not knowing which way to point my (many) cameras, and am pretty chuffed to have seen so many penguins and seals as they slowly realized that the Ship was bigger than them and so they'd better move out the way - fast. It's the number of birds that surprised me. We don't get that many birds at Halley - it's too far away from the sea. But on the ship there's millions and I'm afraid I don't know many of their names... (alright Jeff, how's it going Bert?)
The ship ramming the ice, creating a small crack, waiting for it to get bigger and then sailing through the gap.

A couple of Crabeater Seals discussing which way they should head.

A couple of Adelie Penguins porpoising.

We arrived at Signy after a couple of days of 'finding my sea legs'. Signy Research Station is a small summer-only base. There's a Base Commander, a Generator Mechanic and the rest are Biological Scientists (please write in with corrections). They live in a very small building, but with what seems a lot of storage space spread around the base. The base is surrounded by huge icebergs, towering mountains and glaciers. It's what Antarctica is supposed to look like. Magnificent.

Signy Research Station, on Signy Island which is one of the smaller islands in the South Orkneys.

Me braving standing near sleepy Elephant Seals round the back of the accommodation building.

Rocks, mountains, icebergs and the Shackleton.

At Signy we picked up two summer scientists who were there for 6 weeks. We picked up a bit of cargo as well but it didn't take long and us tourists had to get back on the ship again.

We're now just over 12 hours sail from Stanley, Falkland Islands.
Civilisation here I come!