The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Day 10 – A feast for the eyes

Posted by Sean - 17 December 2013

The morning started a little sullen, which suited our situation as we were making headway through the last of pack ice but soon this opened up into a Coastal Polynya - this amazing expanse of water that opened up as a result of wind moving the ice away. Crowning this was stupendous sunshine, such glorious weather appropriately reflecting the renewed enthusiasm our intrepid leaders had displayed at this news on the previous night. It also set the perfect backdrop for the unfolding drama that lay ahead of us. Icebergs in the dozens looming large and majestic on the horizon as we steamed south, one could not help but be struck speechless as they streamed past on both sides of our suddenly dwarfed vessel. The shear proliferation of them was a visual overload, a veritable feast for the eyes stunning in both size and form. Their crumbling facades and beautiful blue hues mirrored the calm sapphire waters, humbling us yet all the while fanning our ebullience.

And the icebergs kept appearing, we just basked in the sun surrounded by these grand denizens of the ocean yet the best was yet to come for rising up before us was our destination – Antarctica and the fast ice edge. With the clear blue skies we could behold the dome - some 1500 metres in height above sea level even from 10’s of kilometres off, with the B09B iceberg - this monstrously huge wall of ice barring the left (eastern) flank across our visage. It was immense! We approached the fast ice sailing along its edge westward accompanied by rafts of Adelie’s porposing in the water or diving to or from the edge with natural ease it was beautiful beyond belief.

We reached a point when the ship veered suddenly to port aiming directly at the ice sheet. Just like that we ploughed into the fast ice in an effort to ‘park’ the ship so we could disembark. As we were rattled and shook by the manoeuvre it seemed crazy and bizarre yet it was not enough. We did not penetrate too far and instead of wedging in tight it instead cracked off several floes of ice. It took 12 goes before we had a suitable ‘berth’. By this time the temperature was a balmy 1.5°C. But now we had arrived and the Argos and quads and sledges were unloaded and the gangway deployed so we could unload and explore! The Adelie’s were there in force and greeted us with characteristic charm.

We scampered around for several hours, watching penguins and even a Weddell Seal with the extraordinary vista capped by the sunlight illuminating three ice locked bergs several kilometres to the south so they glowed like glistening crystals. A truly mesmerising and magical day I will never forget.