Pop goes the weasel
13 November 2013 | 64 49.4'S:063 29.7'W, In the fast ice, back bay Port Lockroy
The good ship Pelagic awoke to a strange sound this morning. The VHF radio crackled into life around 7.30 and we heard a foreign voice over the radio. Not that foreign, I think the accent was American, but foreign to our little group, who for the last two weeks has heard only the sound of the same 6 people and the penguins. Ioffe, the first cruise ship to make it into Lockroy this season had arrived, bringing with it the 3 new members of Port Lockroy staff and a boat load of cruise ship tourists. It must be a relief for Helen that the rest of her gang has arrived safely but from our point of view I think we had all become rather used to having the place to ourselves.
The arrival of the cruise ships is in fact the second drastic change to the landscape. Yesterday the ice finally cleared, and when it happened, it happened quickly. Really quickly. Knowing that the ice was getting soft and that our bergy mooring boulders would soon be on the move, Dave and I had broken the golden rule of always leaving one person on the boat and nipped ashore to climb the hill, get some height and try and scout out a new spot. As I mentioned to Dave that you could almost see the ice breaking up as you looked at it, it did just that, a large ice boulder on our starboard bow dislodged, briefly hooked the mooring line making the boat heel over suddenly and headed out to sea at speed. As if a plug had been pulled, all along the shore a fast flowing river opened up, pulling ice of varying sizes with it. The ice sheet in the middle of the bay, including our bergs, appeared to still be intact but there was a bit of a mad scramble to lift the mooring lines over some of the larger chunks of ice getting caught on them. Time to think about moving. By this stage it was now quite breezy and so we upped sticks, pulled in the lines and before heading out tried to dislodge a bit more ice to hasten the process. I think Dave just likes crashing in to things sometimes. Andrew and Ruth were keen to help us find a new spot, and so whilst Dave held us steady by gently driving into the remaining ice sheet, which still stretched as far as the eye could see, I picked the guys up by zodiac. It was as we were planning our next move that we noticed that the ice we were using to steady ourselves was in fact moving. The entire thing was drifting out as one. We made a hasty getaway, sidestepping into the Peltier Channel to allow this massive ice floe past, laving the bay completely bare for us to drive into. Ruth and I scouted out a few rocks we could put wire strops around and managed to find one good one on the western tip of Jougla point. The boys then too k their turn and after a few attempts managed to hammer a large stake into snow just east of our strop. Although it still wasn't actually dark, by now it was now almost midnight and driving snow was making it bitterly cold. We used each mooring point as a bow line and with a steady 30knts blowing form the northeast, we spent a rather peaceful night literally hanging here.
Unfortunately, with nothing to hold us off the land apart from the wind, for once it was actually not a relief when the breeze dropped in the morning. Dave and I watching in slow motion as the wind direction did a complete 180* and we suddenly found ourselves heading into shallow water. Once again we threw off the lines and hasty retreat. It is rather strange to be motoring around open water that just a few days we were trekking across on snow shoes.
All this ice movement has cleared out the back bay right up to the sea ice, so that is our current spot, looking out the starboard side windows towards the base. Once again Dave Ã"made a gap' and for now at least the ice around us is holding. Nice to have a change of scenery after almost a week hanging off icebergs in Lecuyer Point.
Our final bit of news in this rather extended report (it has been an eventful 24hrs) is that Dave didn't sink when he went for his swim yesterday. In fact, that was part of the problem. In his new drysuit we were struggling to put enough lead in his pockets to get him under. I offered to feed him up but he tells me that wouldn't really help as fat floats. Make of that what you will. We eventually got him to sink enough that he could reach the rudder and reattach the line. There was only one slight panic when his regulator froze but luckily it chose to piss air out continuously rather than stop air coming out completely. Once safely back onboard, after a cigarette, changing out of his dry suit and a cup of tea (in that order) Dave admitted that he rather enjoyed the whole experience. Now we just have to stop the water tricking in his neck seal, and obtain a regulator that doesn't freeze in cold weather.