60º

December 13, 2015 – shortly after lunch, the GPS on the bridge showed finally 60º latitude. We were officially in the Antarctic Polar circle. Out there the differences were subtle; maybe the ice was a bit more compact than usual, but that was something that had been happening gradually for a while now. As for critters out there, just a few. But no wonder since we are still far away from the main continent. I’ve seen my first emperor penguins but only two crab eater seals so far.

DSC005250003

DSC003590001

I’m curious to see all the animals that are able to make a life in these temperatures, but at the same time, staring at ice floes for hours for just a glimpse of a penguins bottom is pretty boring. Besides, after a few minutes in the cold and my nose starts immediately dripping and I always forget to bring an handkerchief with me when I go outside…

Yet I think I can make my first whale watch official. I was looking at a piece of floating ice that reminded me of a sad Obama when I noticed a jet of water in the corner of my eye. Turning to it and I was able to see clearly a dorsal fin going underwater. It was small but it was a whale for sure. There are no dolphins around this parts…I think… It may even been an orca but it was probably a Minke whale which are common around here. Unfortunately my finger wasn’t fast enough for a photo…

Curiously, after seeing the biggest iceberg right on the first day on ice, the days after it were strangely deprived from these structures. But now that we are getting closer and closer from the Brunt Ice Shelf we always get around 6 to 10 icebergs on the horizon. I never been so close to one as on that first day but it is still early in the journey. But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If I was the captain of a ship and I had seen Titanic before, even if forced by an annoying girlfriend, it would be wise to steer clear from these things as much as possible.

December 15, 2015 – Sea ice is getting thicker and close around us every day. Ever since we found our first ice floe, the Shackleton is criss crossing around the ocean. In the bridge, officers use radar and good old eye navigation to stay away from the surrounding ice as much as possible. Why? Well…

  • The ship was freshly painted just a few months before, really. Even though they used a special type of paint that minimizes friction with sea ice, which saves fuel on the long run, each bump with this flows may chip the paint job. You don’t drive through bushes with your new car on purpose do you?
  • Each bump slows the ship, which means more fuel consumption to regain the previous speed.
  • Breaking through a large ice floe instead of going around it is a bad option. You end up using more fuel and breaking the ice is way slower than regular sea travel so its a lose-lose situation.

The method which the Shackleton breaks the ice is quite curious. Its a ship made in Norway and as such is ready made for this type of climates, but unlike other ice breakers that ram the ice hull first, the Shackleton uses its own weight for that. As an obese mexican wrestler, the Shackleton cracks the ice by climbing first on top of it and letting is weight do the damage. The hull is shallow in the bottom and kinda ramps down from the point where it normally hits the ice. With enough speed, it can climb the bigger ice floes for a good couple of meters and then let gravity finish the job. Down in the holds is possible to detect this process. First you get the initial bump into a harder ice floe, which is when the people below are thrown into the walls. Like someone around here said once, “It’s like being on a car accident every 15 minutes”. Then you hear the unmistakable sound of metal scrapping on ice,followed by an elevation of a couple of degrees, which makes drinking liquids and riding bicycles quite a challenge. Finally the drop along with a sound “crack” of a more than a meter thick piece of ice breaking.

DSC004090004

Since the beginning of this week that we are living under constant daylight. In other words, I watched my last sunset of the year somewhere around last weekend. Its hard to be sure of it since I haven’t seen the big ball of fire for more than a week now. The sky has been completely overcast since then and the best we got so far was a small patch of light cloud the other day that gave us a couple of minutes of direct light and a few good photos. Otherwise is just this gray clarity all day long.

DSC003860002

Strangely I was expecting getting more affected by the lack of proper night than I was. Truth is, after closing the hatch in my quarters, voilà, instant night. The constant hour changes could also be messing up with my careful routine of sleeping, eating and relaxing but since we are gaining time, that is, we are delaying our clocks one hour every two or three days, its actually convenient having an extra hour to sleep every once in a while. I should explain: we left Cape Town under GMT +2 and we are going to Halley, which is working on GMT -3 around now. This means that we need to get 5 hours in the next two weeks of travel. Even though Halley is somewhat lined up with South Africa, during the Summer Halley works under the same hour as Rothera to make the flight logistics between bases easier. Rothera is longitudinally lined up with most of South America and, as such, is three hours behind GMT.

Which means that I have to do serious head math every time that I want call home…

 

Português faz favôre!

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s