Against a backdrop of smoke-filled air and concern for family and friends in the Sydney bush, we spent last week packing our shipping container with scientific gear for Antarctica. The last month has been a scramble, with Chris and I ordering and receiving ever more equipment, talking to the media, negotiating with various officials – or trying to – and drawing up lists of supplies still to be bought. It’s incredible how quickly time has gone. We leave in just five weeks! In that time we have to get the equipment to the Invercargill port of Bluff, clear customs and be ready to load our vessel, the MV Shokalskiy, when we take ownership at one minute past midnight on the 27 November. Somehow we appear to be on schedule.
Not a lot has changed over the last century. Preparation for expeditions has and always will be a manic affair. When getting ready for the original Australasian Antarctic Expedition, Mawson’s diary for November 1911 is essentially blank; left clear by the amount of work that he and his team had to cram into a short period of time. The only diary entry for that month remarked that ‘the Aurora [the expedition ship] arrived Hobart and much fitting and arrangements had to be effected.’ No time to write anything else. I know where he was coming from. Mawson later reflected on this part of the expedition and wrote in his book The Home of the Blizzard that ‘the exertion of it was just what was wanted to make us fit, and prepared for the sudden and arduous work of discharging cargo at the various bases.’ No doubt true but all I can think of at the moment is sleep!