Almost there

We’re through most of the first year pack ice at this point. Yesterday we had to crunch through some pack where the ship will go through as much of a crack lead as it can, get stuck, reverse, then full speed ahead on both engines as it kind of beaches itself on the ice, using the weight of the front of the ship to break through the ice and push it to the sides. For particularly tough spots the ship can go forwards, back, forwards, back; many times until it finally crunches its way through.

Right now we’re cruising through a polyna – a large open body of mostly ice-free water kept unfrozen due to local currents and wind conditions. It’s a beautiful sunny day outside with calm winds, making going up to the front forecastle of the ship a real highlight of the voyage. The open water should continue today and we could reach the fast ice edge overnight if all goes to plan.

Wildlife is everywhere with many petrel, seal, and adelie sightings. I even saw my first emperor yesterday.

With the ship no longer rolling there’s been a number of ship tours organised. I was very fortunate to get picked to go down and check out the engine room yesterday, and see the massive V16 and V12 engines that drive the ship. This evening I’ll also be heading up to the monkey deck (the roof of the ship above the bridge) to get a tour of the MARCUS and ARM scientific instruments which have been running throughout the voyage. The team running those projects have had many long, tough days up top, so we appreciate them taking the time to show us around.

Planning and briefings continue for resupply. Yesterday we had training and a visit to the heli hangar to learn about the two squirrel helicopters we have onboard. I’m not scheduled to fly on one as they will be based at Davis for the summer, but it’s good to know just in case I need to fly at some point this season. For the Mawson fixed-wing flight which I’ll be on there’s no scheduled date yet – it’s highly dependent on how the ship goes breaking through the fast ice to Davis, and how the plane goes with its current flight schedule and weather windows.

Today I received my iceberg sweepstakes winnings at the morning meeting. Too bad there’s not much use for money for the next few months down here.