Saturday 28 January 2023
After yesterday’s stormy seas and snow we wake this morning to clear sunny skies -3C and flat seas. We have almost left the Ross Sea and our Antarctic Adventures.
We are also back to our familiar routine of meals and lectures. This morning Richard will tell us about ‘Early Conservation of the Cape Evans Hut – LB Quartermain’s party 1960-61. Richard has interviewed members of this party too and has photos from when the hut was filled with ice and surrounded by debris. The early conservation work was much needed.
Brian tells us about ‘The Antarctic Treaty, Mining and Environmental Protection’. Despite potentially being a very dry topic, it is fascinating to hear about the history of different countries making claims to Antarctica and then the various treaties that were put in place. NZ is one of the original 1959 Treaty Signatories. A further Treaty was signed in 2002 with 54 Signatories (29 Consultative Parties and 25 Non-consultative parties). The intent is that Antarctica be preserved forever for peace and science. Further aspects have been agreed along the way such as measures for protection of flora and fauna, conservation of Antarctic seals, conservation of marine living resources, fishing, mineral resources, and an Environmental Protocol. Bryan believes the main pressures on the Antarctic come from pollution, human disturbance, non-native species introduction, fisheries.
During lunch comes the announcement that they have now filled the swimming pool with sea water so those who were unable to do the Polar Plunge at Hut Point can have a second chance – Anne is keen. Just in time as we can see the last of the Transantarctic Mountains and Cape Adare 200km out to the west – we are bidding farewell to the Antarctic part of our expedition. One thing I won’t be sad to leave behind is the dry Antarctic air that gives me a static shock every time I touch a door handle or railing.
In the afternoon, John talks about ‘Race to the Pole – Part 1’. He describes the background of the various participants, their voyage to Antarctica (including the fact that Amundsen kept it a secret, only telling the crew once they reached Madeira), establishment of camps, use of dogs/ponies/motor sleds as appropriate and their setting up of depots in preparation for their journeys next season. It is very well done, telling the stories in parallel and alternating between the two so that we get a good idea of the timelines.
At our evening briefing we recall the snow petrels and arctic petrels that have been following the boat and people are asked whether they have photos of the birds with food in their beaks. Samuel tells us about the discovery of the South Polar Skua described by Dr Howard Saunders a naturalist on one of the early expeditions in 1841 after a colleague Robert McCormack. There is a diary entry that he shot a specimen and Samuel shows us a photo of that original specimen complete with the tag saying it was shot in Victoria Land Jan 12 1841.
He tells us more about their lifecycle with pictures of eggs and chicks, including one photo of a skua holding a juvenile penguin (penguins can fly!). Some of his work included banding and tagging skua so that they could trace their migration patterns up to Japan in the winter. He also tells an amusing story of trying to tag the skua using a piece of meat and a rope noose. The first season was very successful with most of the birds tagged but when they tried to retrieve the trackers the next season, the skuas had learned their trick and moved the rope before eating the meat.
Julia tells us more about snow and the formation of the different ice types and shapes we have been seeing. John says that most people now go to the South Pole to do science and tells us about ozone hole research (a positive story as the reduction in ozone depleting substances seems to be reversing the depletion. He also tells us about microwave telescopes and Project Ice Cube, and the Aurora Australis.
We have headed west since passing Cape Adare and out of the Ross Sea, heading to the edge of the sea ice so that we have got more room to adjust our direction to prevailing winds and sea conditions as we make our way North. Unfortunately we found ourselves in an embayment and have to come back out east again.
After dinner we have episode 5 of the movie – upstairs this time because the theatre is flooded. We can only assume this has something to do with the hot water issues we’ve had over the last few days.
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