“First Night Ashore” – by Brian Newham
As followers will know, the Ice Team spent their first night ashore in their new home last night. To be honest, the caboose assembly wasn’t quite ready for this move but it did give us the opportunity to keep pushing the work forward without worrying about retreating to the ship every night or worrying about the ice which has invaded the bay sporadically over the last few days and caused the ship to head for the safety of more open water beyond the headlands.
So, the six of us moved into our new home and worked late into the night. Inevitably, there have been teething problems so it’s been a case of working through them and coming up with solutions. The skills for this are wide and varied: electrics, plumbing, fuel systems, carpentry, communications and a lot more besides. Last night was a bit chaotic as we were still surrounded by piles of boxes and equipment but we were able to squeeze to our bunks and all enjoyed a good night’s sleep. It was great to be away from the background hum of life on board ship and to enjoy the total silence of the Antarctic landscape. We have arrived.
This morning was a bit of a struggle. Everyone is tired and it was a bit of a reality check. Life has been easy on board ship and we have been very well looked after. Suddenly we have to look after ourselves and the domestic side of life needs attention. It’s time-consuming in itself and there are a few extra twists to life back in the ‘real world’. Power doesn’t just arrive at the flick of a switch – we need to get a generator running and that needs fuel, water doesn’t just come out of a tap when you turn it on – we need to melt snow and that requires power etc, etc. It’s a very different life on the ice.
Our decision to move ashore yesterday turned out to be a good one. Overnight the weather had deteriorated and this morning it was overcast with occasional very light snow. The wind had turned to a north-easterly and had blown a lot of ice into the bay where it pushed up against the shelf ice. It’s not a good place for the ship to be as she could get pinned against the coast with ice piling up behind her so she has been unable to get to us all day. We have watched her slowly creeping up and down the coast all day but the ice has not eased enough to let her approach. So, it’s just been the six of us working away today. Progress has been good and many of the initial teething problems have been sorted. Most of the systems are now up and running and we are getting things organised and stowed away. As I write, Ian is still busy tensioning the insulated cover on the Science Caboose, Rob is scratching his head with 24-volt electrical circuits which need modifying, Spencer is sorting Cat vehicle spares in the workshop, Ran is shovelling snow into the melt-water tank, Richmond has just started cooking dinner (Chicken Pesto Pasta and Syrup Sponge Pudding) and I’m hitting the keyboard.
This evening our home is starting to look more organised. Things are stowed away and we are beginning to learn some of the simple things about living together – whose mug is what colour, who takes sugar in tea and a host of other small details which will soon become part of our daily lives.
Tomorrow will be another day. The weather chart that we have suggests that the wind should ease and hopefully become easterly and maybe south-easterly so if we are lucky the sea-ice will move back off the coast and allow the ship to come back alongside. If she does we will be reunited with the rest of the team and it will also mean a gang of helpful labour, wider skills and the rest of the outstanding cargo. We will have to see how the day unfolds.
In the meantime we will enjoy our second night on the ice.