By Jill Bowring.

There has been a strange shifting of feelings aboard over the last few days.

Things had been going well with unloading continuing throughout the long sun-drenched days surrounded by sparkling seas and snow. Admittedly there were problems that came to light, but they were being solved or at least being put into a suitable (sometimes questioned) place on the priority list. Each evening after work the Capt. would take the ship out of Crown Bay into clearer waters; it was quieter and less risky. Eventually the accommodation caboose was deemed liveable in and the Ice Team spent their first night ashore.

During the sleeping hours (one can hardly say ‘night’ as the sun is still pouring down), pack ice piled into the bay and the ship couldn’t return, but we heard that the Ice Team had had a good night and were getting on with things ashore. The next day it was a heavy swell that prevented our return and again for most of the third day. Mid-afternoon, we received a call from our helpful Belgian (and yes, they did have some gorgeous chocolates) neighbours enquiring when we would be back as the ice was clearing. The ship edged its way through pack ice to the mouth of the little bay from where we could see chunks of the ice cliff falling into the sea. In a matter of moments the area where we had all been working a couple of days before was gone. It was very sobering; it was so easy to be blasé about the always present underlying risks of offloading onto an ice shelf when things are sunny, bright and moving apace.

The following day there was a brief visit to the reduced ice shelf for the Capt. to check the new edge, and a shout across to the Team (who were keeping their distance) with a promise of a return the next day.

During these days in limbo, neither being able to finish the last little bits of unloading nor being free to return to Cape Town, there was a subtle change. Initially the reaction was that some individuals of our ‘gang’ were ashore, they were all fine and no need to worry but we felt their absence. As the days extended, the idea that these men were a group in their own right strengthened. We were now two teams – we were the support and support was not so necessary. After months (in some cases years) of planning and investment, both emotional and material, by many, many people, it now felt that the Ice Team were very nearly self-sufficient and confident enough with their own collective abilities, experience and equipment to start their daunting task. It is a feeling that many parents can equate to as their offspring launch themselves into the big wide world.

All that is required now is to tidy up, checking that all is where it should be and then we should go.

Tonight it is hoped, weather and offloading permitting, that there will a farewell party. This ‘parent’ will certainly have her heart in her mouth as she says goodbye to the individuals of the Ice Team and will have to be content with watching along with everyone else from afar as they journey from shore to shore of this beautiful dangerous empty place.