The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Day 12 – A birthday in Antarctica

Posted by Ian - 19 December 2013

My birthday. I am 73 today on the Antarctic icecap. We are pulled up to the fast ice in the entrance of Commonwealth Bay just a little north of the huge iceberg B09B still blocking the entrance. Today the recce team set out, after a few problems with the Argos in the soft snow, to find a way to Mawson’s  Hut and reported back about midday that they had made it! We hope to be able to follow. In the meanwhile we took to the Zodiacs cruising around the pack ice looking for

Leopard Seals. On the way we went up close and personal to a very nice iceberg beautifully sculptured and shaped with blue caves and grottos.

Yesterday Chris held a Google Hangout on the ice and, as he began the broadcast, an Emperor penguin joined us along with his court and a little later, as he discussed the bird life with Kerry-Jayne, a Orca surfaced and blew just behind him. It was beautifully stage managed and I suspect that it was Ziggy dressed in a whale suit, on cue.

This afternoon we climbed down a ladder on the afterdeck and met the same Emperor penguin surrounded by his loyal subjects greeting us on the ice. As we trudged through the treacherous snow towards a distant iceberg hundreds of Adelie penguins trotted and tobogganed on their bellies to check out what we were doing.

The fast ice, the frozen ocean attached to the distant land, is rapidly breaking up and as we walk, cracks appear and occasionally we sink down to our knees to the ice below or, sometimes, to water. The surface we were walking on yesterday is now floating out to sea as pack ice and there is a danger that we could float out with it.

We were promised high winds, below freezing temperatures and Antarctic conditions from the “Home of the Blizzard”. Instead the last few days have been 2, 3, 5 degrees and the blizzard has been a gentle breeze. The sun has been shining and the sky is blue. This probably accounts for the soft snow and the rapid ice breakup but it makes for an idyllic birthday setting on this magnificent roof (or basement) of the world.