By Anton Bowring, on-board the SA Agulhas.
The lavatory in my cabin exploded this evening. At the time I was minding my own business and, having minded it, I pulled the lever – not hard, mind you. Well, I was terrified, the thing erupted with a belching noise, half gurgle and half woosh! Great clumps of water leapt into the air and crashed on the floor increasing in size until I was pressed to the wall and wondering whether or not to run for it. I didn’t. It carried on and I became mesmerised. The water slowly turned dark and big, menacing bubbles filled the bowl. More eruptions and I started to wonder what I was looking at. It bore little resemblance to anything that I fully understood and the colour was indicative of something rather sinister. The trouble was that this unpleasantness was about to engulf me and it was supper time. I resolved to remain motionless against the wall in the hope that, whatever it was, it might not notice me and move on to another cabin. In time, I think it did. And I went to supper less hungry than I had been and shaking slightly.
Today the sea has picked up from yesterday’s calm. The wind is following us but there is a swell coming at us from the west. The effect is to make us roll and twist in a corkscrew motion which is guaranteed to make the sensitive ones among us queasy. It doesn’t really bother me and I’ve been impressed that this ship is reasonably comfortable even in a heavy sea. However, for a second day, there is little evidence of life on board. We are all taking it easy reflecting on the effort we put into our work at Crown Bay, and commending ourselves with another rest day by way of a treat. Having said that, Duncan and I went down into number two and number three ‘tweendeck holds to inspect our cargo and measure the items we need to put into the container. Also, ‘Snowflake’ will need to be shipped home. In addition to our antique Tucker Snow Cat we have two four meter ramps, the spreader beams, drum lifting frame, plywood, rope, sledge sides, and various small items including the ‘Oil Spill Kit’ (which we didn’t use). The good news is that it should all fit, with my two, wooden packing crates into a 20ft container. With the dimensions and an estimate of the weight, I emailed the agents in Cape Town and our generous sponsors Transglobal Express in Bromborough (UK) with the manifest. I also notified Paul at Revells Removals that he could expect the container and Snowflake to arrive in a few weeks time.
I heard from a friend in New Zealand today. She had read an earlier blog and sent greetings. I also heard from Virginia, USA, and the Black Forest. It is strange how, in this very remote place, folk from around the world are able to follow our expedition. On Facebook today I see that we have attracted over 7,100 ‘likes’. As I understand it this is probably a very modest proportion of the number of people who actually follow the expedition story. I am pleased that in the main we have attracted no derogatory comments or messages. Indeed, our supporters are wonderfully generous with their words and I’m sure that I am not alone in feeling deep gratitude and encouragement from them. This is not to say that we haven’t got critics – of course we have but, fortunately, they have kept their distance.
As I type, the sea is continuing to build up. So are reports from around the ship about the plumbing. I am concerned that, if everyone flushes at once (and there are 55 lavatories on board – I counted them), the ship will go down in seconds with all hands. I reported my misgivings to Cap’n Dave at supper. We were all given fish nuggets, spare ribs and macaroni cheese. Cap’n Dave had a nice big piece of fish and fluffy mashed potatoes. We had chocolate ice cream – he had vanilla. Anyway, I mentioned the eruption and its distinctive colour just as he was popping a morsel of fish into his mouth. Like a car carefully backing out of a garage, the fish was withdrawn on the fork untouched and he turned to me with a look that was only half inquisitive. We agreed to discuss the matter later owing to the movement of the ship on the increasingly turbulent sea. I noticed that quite a few of my colleagues were forking their nuggets et al to the side of the plate. I’m not convinced either way. It could be the movement of the ship but, just as easily, it could be the combination of fish, ribs and macaroni – not necessarily the best assemblage in this weather I fear.
After supper, Cap’n Dave and I stood solemnly around my lavatory bowl. Cap’n Dave took the plunge and flushed. With a mighty roar and a belch the entire installation took off like a rocket and water as previously described threatened to engulf us. “That’s not right” said Cap’n Dave as the monster finally settled down. “Best tell Chippy”. He went off shaking his head looking forlorn and dejected.
It is now an hour later. My colleagues are watching a film in the Officers’ Lounge. I am at my desk. Cap’n Dave just phoned. He seemed relieved. “Everything is OK now” he told me. “A junior engineer was a bit enthusiastic with his spanner earlier and the water pressure built up”. I thanked him and tried a flush at arm’s length by leaning through the doorway – just in case. Everything was fine – a perfectly normal flush. Clear water.
I’m now looking out of the porthole in my cabin. It is getting dark and there’s a large iceberg about quarter of a mile on our starboard beam. But I’m intrigued. Is it my imagination or is the sea quietening down too?