The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Day 22 – An Antarctic birthday

Posted by Mary - 29 December 2013

What a wonderful day! Visiting Antarctica had been my long-held dream and not only am I actually here, but I’m celebrating my birthday in this wonderland of snow and ice. I try each day but cannot adequately capture in my journal the colours, sounds, sights and scenes of this beautiful, mysterious and serene land and the breathtaking moments I’ve experienced. This is truly a unique birthday.

I awoke to our now familiar landscape of dense pack ice, a combination of softly sculpted meringue, icebergs near and far, and the majestic dome of the Antarctic continent on the horizon. A quiet walk around the deck in the crisp air allowed me my first Adelie penguin sighting of the day, and a snow petrel winging over the bow, both enchanting. A great start to the morning!

Our ship continues to be ‘beset’ a romantic term for being held fast by the ice, or less romantically….stuck.

Big news at our morning briefing: if Xue Long (Snow Dragon) and Aurora Australis (AA) cannot free us from the pack, we will be evacuated by helicopter onto the AA. We would then journey to Casey base to continue a resupply operation before proceeding to Hobart, with ETA towards the end of January. This news was received with a mixture of excitement and consternation across our team, knowing a decision will not be possible until the AA gets closer and the captains can assess the situation. It was amazing to witness a fly-over by the giant Russian helicopter from the Snow Dragon.  As one of our colleagues said, this was the first sign of human life we had seen for 3 weeks, and today’s ship-side penguins were similarly impressed, racing off with their flippers waving madly. Sadly we found out later that conditions didn’t allow an adequate assessment of the ice, but it was great to see action. Here’s hoping for a good resolution and some more adventures in the coming days.

The current events have many of us turning our thoughts to home and family and more than ever we are reminded of the power of nature, and unpredictability of Antarctica, termed the ‘A Factor’ by those in the know. There have been many parallels on this trip with the challenges of the early explorers and scientists, however we continue to be cosy and entertained on the Shokalskyi.

My fellow expeditioners – scientists, us passengers as science assistants, and the crew – have been key to my enjoyment of the trip, with an amazing diversity of backgrounds, all with a similar passion for Antarctica. Daily we work together, have fun, share interesting stories and laughs, and debate important questions such as ‘how many penguin photos are enough?’ The answer: there are never enough! As an ‘Antarctic nerd’ it is wonderful to be in like-minded company!

I have already been heard to say ’..on my next trip to Antarctica…..’  That says it all!