Friday 27 January 2023
After much needed sleep all round we wake to find that the ship has now exited McMurdo Sound and we are out into the Ross Sea. I contemplate how much we have experienced in the last few days: we have visited all of the Heroic Era Huts in Antarctica and learnt so much about the various explorers, their journeys and how they interacted with their crews and the conditions they faced.
I watch a documentary of Shackleton’s ill-fated Endurance expedition as described in the book South that was entirely illustrated by expedition photographer Frank Hurley’s stunning original footage and in many cases Hurley’s pictures are more eloquent than words – a poignant record of their epic experience.
I am struck again by Shackleton’s amazing leadership in getting his whole Transantarctic Expedition crew through such an unimaginable experience as being stuck in ice over the winter, the sinking of the ship and having to camp on the ice but in relatively good spirits, and then onto unparalleled boat and land journeys to get everyone to safety. And wonder again why the predominant history I have heard about the Heroic Era polar explorations is so focused on Scott when many others achieved at least as much if not more and (to my mind at least) in a much better way. When I questioned expedition crew about it, the comments that stuck in my mind were that I should look to their wives particularly. Scott, for all his other failings, was an extremely good writer and his ambitious wife Kathleen was an extremely good PR advocate for her husband, or more likely her son who she wanted to ‘be the son of a famous explorer’. I will definitely be looking out for some of the biographies of the ‘women of the Antarctic’ – the wives and mothers who weren’t able to go on the actual expeditions but played vital roles in them (before and afterwards).
We have an afternoon siesta after another lunchtime eating event. Then the afternoon’s lecture is from Richard talking about his time 50 years ago as a custodian of the Antarctic Huts and then as a founder of the Antarctic Heritage Trust. During his time down there, they were tasks with basic repairs and primarily cleaning up the ‘historic debris’ around the sites. It is fascinating to see his photos of before the restoration occurred, together with some earlier photos. It is also good to see some of the photos with the context of what exactly it is we are looking at. Although our time in the huts was amazing, it was so short often to comprehend the significance (if not the identity) of what we were looking at in places, even though we had studied the booklet before going to each of them.
Our recap/briefing was very entertaining tonight with the expedition crew having somewhat recovered their sleep but still a bit crazy on all the excitement of the last 36 hours. Ian introduced things with a slide entitled ‘the longest day ever’ – and there was a shout out to all the staff (expedition, ship crew and hotel staff) for looking after us so well to make these amazing experiences a reality for us. There were certificates for the hardy (or foolhardy) few who undertook the polar plunge in -1C waters with a 50 knot southerly, with a special mention for Douglas who actually swam around the zodiac. Matt told us about a day in the glamourous life of a guide: when he was soaked through, freezing cold, had goodness knows what blown all over him (sticking to the wet gear) and as the last straw having a penguin come up to him, squawk and then turn around and shoot poop all up his leg!
Bryan told us all about the geology (of course) including the lovely examples of ‘erratic rocks’ and a type of volcanic rock called Kenyite that is only found in Antarctica and Mt Tanzania in Africa, and the various volcanoes in the area including Crater Hill that stands behind McMurdo Station. Vincent share a hilarious analysis of Shackleton’s secret message: the rare old highland malt whisky that was found under his hut (3 bottles under the floor inside and 25 crates outside. One of the 3 bottles was sent to the original distillery (MacKinklay’s Distillery in Scotland) for analysis. Presented in a very humorous way he takes us through the research paper that was written that showed that the whisky was always above freezing point, had been aged in oak barrels (that had been used for sherry previously), that caramel had been added for colouring) and that traces of heavy metal had been found. The sensory description was “pear, apple, pineapple, cinnamon, and , in retro-olfaction, peat”. The whisky has been recreated and is available for sale with proceeds going to the Antarctica Historic Trust. I will buy some when I get home!
Aaron shows us a webcam image that was sourced from McMurdo station that shows our ship in position yesterday by Hut Point. And he shows us an ice image that shows the clear channel that we were able to use to reach McMurdo sound even though there was still heavy ice everywhere else. Unfortunately we have also completely used up our time buffer for the Antarctic area and are now having to steam directly north (once we had got through the ice). We are hoping then to have a bit of a buffer should conditions affect our Southern Ocean crossing (fingers crossed it is plain sailing). We now expect 4 more days at sea before we reach Campbell Island.
Tonight we have Filipino night in the restaurant and get to try all sorts of traditional dishes. I try the pork asado siopao (steamed buns) with hoisin sauce, vegetable ginger broth with glass noodles, chicken and vegetable chop suey, and finish with a taste of both desserts (Filipino Egg Custard Cake and Maha Blanka (sweetcorn, coconut milk and roasted peanuts).
There is no movie tonight but rather an early night for most.
Day 1-2: Meeting and Departure
Day 3: The Snares
Day 4: Auckland Islands – Enderby Island
Day 5: At Sea
Day 6: Macquarie Island
Day 7: Macquarie Island
Day 8: At Sea
Day 9: At Sea
Day 10: At Sea
Day 11: At Sea
Day 12: Cape Adare, Antarctica
Day 13: Possession Islands
Day 14: At Sea, Coulman Island
Day 15: At Sea
Day 16: At Sea
Day 17: At Sea, Ross Ice Shelf
Day 18: Cape Bird/McMurdo Sound
Day 19: Cape Bird/McMurdo Sound
Day 20: Cape Evans/Cape Royds
Day 21: At Sea
Day 22: At Sea
Day 23: At Sea
Day 24: At Sea
Day 25: At Sea
Day 26: At Sea/Campbell Island
Day 27: Final Day at Sea