ICE!

by Guest Blogger

February 6, 2007

Last night at around 11pm, the ship’s engines were turned off to avoid having to navigate through ice at night. We spent the night quietly rocking back and forth, and as a result, I had my best night of sleep since leaving Auckland. I didn’t wake up or move all night long, as evidenced by the neatness of the bedding when I woke up in the morning. I don’t think I moved at all, which was a lovely change from the tossing, turning and rolling around in my bunk that usually takes place.

pack ice in southern oceanThis morning when I got up, I could see the ice edge about half a mile from the ship. For me, that’s better than coffee or anything else for jump starting a morning. Nothing (except for an ice sheet or a high latitude glacier) can beat the polar pack ice. I’ve been obsessed with it (and all things Arctic) since my first trip to the Alaskan arctic on the Arctic Sunrise in 1997. Since then I’ve buried my nose in books, research papers, news articles and just about anything I can find about the Arctic, as well as the people who have explored both poles in the past few centuries. It’s fascinating stuff, and it can capture my imagination like nothing else. Up until now my obsession has focused on the Arctic since I’d traveled there, worked there and had a first hand "relationship" with it. I never thought I’d ever make it to this part of the world. Now I can feel my obsession shifting to include all things Antarctic, which means a trip to the book store when I get home and another pile of polar books amassing next to the bed.

A little while after I woke up, the ship entered the pack ice. I didn’t have to look out the porthole, I could tell by the change in the ship’s movement and the crunching sound of the ship’s bow pushing large chunks of ice out of its path. The brash ice had formed a solid surface on the water that was punctuated by a mish mash of small and large pieces of ice, some flat, some more than 6m/20ft high, with slush-like ice forming a sort of mortar between the pieces of ice. The best part is watching this seemingly solid layer of ice move with the swell of the ocean…it’s positively amazing, and very psychedelic. We saw penguins on the ice, which really drove home the fact that we’re in the Antarctic. We also saw a few seals lazing around on ice floes, but I have no idea what kind they were. Yet another thing to learn about this part of the world…

It was tough to rip myself away from the bridge but I did just that since an important part of every morning is cleaning, and the showers were waiting for me. It was probably the happiest I’ve ever been while scrubbing down a shower stall, the ice buzz will be with me for quite a while. My face already hurts from smiling so much.

And today is Karli’s birthday. So far I’m sure it’s been a pretty good birthday given the pack ice and all. Now, if we can only find the whaling fleet today… that would be the best birthday gift of all.

– Melanie

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