Time to head out to sea! After the whole group had assembled in the lobby of the Kelvin Hotel in Invercargill for a brief safety check we piled into a bus for the quick trip down to Bluff and the our new home for the next 11 days!
As we arrived at the port, we were greeted by the M.S. Akademik Shokalskiy. A New Zealand flag flies from the bridge and Russian flag from the stern. Although outwardly a little rough around the edges, she is a well-appointed vessel, and we quickly set to establishing ourselves in the cabins, and exploring the various levels of the ship. The Shokalskiy herself seems to be an interesting combination of functionality and modern comforts. We are reminded of the ships origins by occasional Russian outbursts blared over the PA system by the crew.
There was some last minute loading of science gear including the underwater robot (ROV), which arrived just in time, much to our relief! We received a warm send-off from Tim Shadbolt, the mayor of Bluff, as well as reporters from the Southland Times. And then we were off!
Our first order of business was an introduction to the crew and the general inner-workings of the ship as well as an efficient lifeboat drill. Quite early on we realized the importance of having ‚Äúone hand for the ship‚Äù which generally means hanging on to something at all times as we rock and roll in the Southern Ocean.
After making a right-hand turn out of Bluff we nosed into Foveaux Strait, and caught a hint of the brisk southeasterly wind and the accompanying swell that served as our introduction to the Southern Ocean. In light of this swell coming from the southeast the crew decided it would best to make for the leeward side of Stewart Island. All of the passengers very much appreciated the relitavely calm sea and clear sky for our send off.
The science has already begun, with members of the team identifying interesting birdlife including albatros, gulls and penguins, as we sail down the western side of Stewart Island. Our 4 Zodiac boats are stacked on the back deck ready to be put to good use soon. The Argos (all terrain, amphibious vehicals) are also stowed below-decks, ready and waiting to forge across the ice to Commonwealth Bay.
Time to go out on deck to catch a last glimpse of the setting sun as we sail unhindered towards the South!