“What a swell parting this is!” – by Anton Bowring
My report this evening is short. Although it was yet another beautiful day, first the sea ice and then a low but effective swell kept us out of Crown Bay for most of the day. There was nothing to do except prowl up and down peering, when possible, through binoculars at the black dots which were our colleagues on the remains of the ice shelf. Although it didn’t seem risky to nose into the head of the bay, the fact is that our crane is unusable when the ship is rolling. Cap’n Dave has 11 seasons’ experience of navigating these waters and he clearly understands what is and isn’t possible. Later in the afternoon we boldly steamed right up to what remained of our old berth. It was disconcerting to see the changes that the collapse of the ice shelf had made. The whole area looked distinctly unstable. The swell had our bows rising and falling and the hull rolling in such a way that it was, for all to see, impossible to unload without unnecessary danger.
The orange clad (except for Ran) Ice Group came as close to the edge as they dared and shouted conversations were conducted from the bow to the shore party. All agreed that there was no merit in the ship staying there. So, after a few essentials were passed by rope from the ship to the small group, we gently pulled back, turned and headed out to continue our slow circuits a mile or two offshore.
We are now two distinct groups. It was delightful to see our colleagues standing a short distance from our bows. Like old friends we waved and called greetings followed by waved farewells. The umbilical is now cut. But despite this, the mothership still has a role to play in nurturing and supporting our progeny until they are self-sufficient and able to continue on their way without us.
A word about the Belgians: They are wonderful and have helped us generously. They have a packed science programme and yet their leader, Alain Hubert, spared manpower and time to help us. Their base, Princess Elisabeth, is 200 kms away which takes around 14 hours to cover across virgin whiteness in their nimble Prinolth tracked vehicles. Since we have been here they have been back and forth, always willing to help and full of wisdom. You can learn about their remarkable ‘ zero-emissions’ station and the people that man it at: www.antarcticstation.org.
Tomorrow we’ll try again to get alongside the ice shelf so that we can unload the last of our stores. It requires the qualities that all seafarers, climbers, and travellers understand – a balance of patience and persistence.