Pop goes the weaselBertie
13/11/2013, 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.
British biscuits for British bases.Bertie
12/11/2013, 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy
Being British, and currently residing at a British Antarctic base, lets first address the important matter of talking about the weather. Today, the sun is out again, great for filming, but unfortunately it is not one of the perfectly still Antarctic days we relish, and a light NE force 4 is interfering with Ruth's sound equipment. Pesky wind. On the boat we're not complaining though, force 4 is an improvement on last night, which it must be said was rather blustery. With the breeze dead on the nose Pelagic spent the night tacking on the spot. The Skipper's dulcet snoring was accompanied by the sporadic dull thud, and a slight rig shake, as the bow of the boat nudged the ice on one side, and then the other. We'd played with our lines before bed, but only managed to slow the process, not stop it completely, so we just had to put up with the noise. The skipper's dulcet snoring was rather reassuring though, as we all agreed that there was no need to worry until the thud became l oud enough to wake him. Our icy mooring boulders seem to be holding, for now at least. We're hoping we might get another day or two out of them before the pack ice blows out of the back bay and we can tie onto the fast ice. We shall see.
11/11/2013, 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy
I am writing this from an eerily quiet Pelagic. All you can hear is the sounds of ice melting and bubbling away outside the hull, the occasional bump as a piece dislodges and makes it way down the side of the hull, and the dulcet tones of penguins coming back from fishing. Andrew and Ruth are ashore, busy as beavers. Today is not the first day of filming either. Working down here is not as easy as simply stepping off the boat with a Peli-case, setting up the camera and pressing record though. With Pelagic still beset in ice Andrew and Ruth, led by Tudor, had to perform the tricky traverse across the pack ice on snow shoes, how to get the film equipment ashore was another challenge though. Not wanting to carry heavy camera equipment across the ice of varying thicknesses, Tudor and Dave spent a fun afternoon banging stakes into the snow ashore and setting up a zip-wire running from the boom across to the shore. It works surprisingly well, however despite Ruth's insistence that she would be happy to try it out, we stuck to luggage on the zip-wire and people on snow shoes. The breeze has finally come North and so temperatures are noticeably warmer, yesterday the mercury even rose above 0"C. The sun was out, and during the morning there was almost no wind. Dave and I sunbathed on the foredeck in our picnic chairs (a wise investment made in Stanley, paid for themselves by now) drinking tea, watching penguins, putting the world to rights, and trying not to ruin Andrew and Ruth's shots. It's a tough life... Although today is not sunbathing weather, grey and a bit blustery, the northerlies continue and so everything around us melting away. No more traversing the perilous pack ice, it's getting a bit slushy in places, Dave has however managed to clear a lane of water to the shore and so we can now use the zodiac to reach the penguins. Andrew and Ruth seem to be getting on okay, yesterday's rushes look great to the untrained eye and they both seem happy. Helen and Tudor have pretty much moved off the boat and into the Nissen hut at Port Lockroy. Apparently they managed to burn the shoulder of lamb we gave them for dinner last night so we're hoping we might be able to tempt them back with food at some point.
Seals with laser gunsBertie
10/11/2013, 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy
When we first wedged Pelagic into the little ice gap that has become her home for the last few days we were delighted to see seals swimming around the boat. The debate still wages as to whether they were Leopard Seals or Weddell Seals, with Tudor claiming that the seal that was spy-hopping in the ice was a Weddell, and the rest of us rest of thinking that it was a Leopard. Since he was standing on the ice at the time, as the seal was eyeing a tasty meal, we suspect his certainty that it was a Weddell may have been wishful thinking. But then he is the only one of us with a Polar medal, so he probably knows a thing or two about these things. Since then, we've had definite identifications of both types, the cutest being a mother and her pup, still weaning, at the base of the sea ice below Goudier Island. All this seal talk leads me on to the strange noises we've been hearing on the boat.
Fifty Shades of WhiteRuth from the film crew
07/11/2013, 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy
Another glorious day at Port Lockroy. Shame we are still trapped in sea ice though - unable to move at all now, or access Goudier Island. The sea ice has completely filled the bay and is blocking the channel, encasing giant icebergs (as well as Pelagic) in its path. Quite a spectacle, even if a little frustrating! Still, the team are making good use of the time; cleared the deck of A LOT of ice and snow after this shot was taken... and fixed a few weather-beaten things around the yacht. The film crew filled the saloon with their kit as they took the still and calm opportunity below deck to sort out cameras and sound gear. Should be good to see the filming progress - they are certainly keen to get out and see the penguins! Up at 4am this morning to check up on sea ice status and watched all the penguins in the area march to the only bit of rock accessible to water. A hungry leopard seal waited below them but sadly we didn't see any predation. Shitehawks (aka sheathbills) are living up to their nick-name, discolouring the deck as usual, and even having a go at our lambs - cheeky birds! We have had to cover them up to protect them and prevent waste. Dinner soon - Bertie's special sausage stew. You can't say we don't eat well on this yacht!! Crossing our fingers for a peaceful night and freedom from the sea ice in the morning. Please do the same for us!
At what temperature does sea water freeze?Pelagic
06/11/2013, 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy
How cold does it have to be for sea spray to freeze on a boat? We're not actually sure as our thermometer gave up the ghost around -6C and that was a good few days ago when it was still practically tropical. Frozen sea spray on all the guard wires, shrouds, lines and just about everything does make for some impressive photos, even if it does make boat maneuvers a bit time consuming, what with having to chip ice off and dig out any lines, winches, cleats you might need. It's also not so fun when the frozen sea spray is on your face, or any other part of you, for that matter. Our first experience of seawater freezing happened overnight in the Drake, about 50Nm North of Smith Island. Caution being the better part of valour we decided to hove to through the night rather than push on through to try and find shelter. Pelagic then stoically rode out a storm which saw gusts as high as 60kts. True southern ocean conditions saw gigantic waves and icy seas. The crew, now almost all over their seasickness, seemed to take it all in their stride. 36 hours later when the storm had completely abated, there was a valiant de-icing operation as we motored down the Bransfield in flat water. It felt as though we were almost there, pushing our way through broken sea ice in the Northern Gerlache. Little did we know that our epic wasn't over and we had to spend once last night battling 40kts from the southwest. Luckily skipper Dave managed to find us an ice free spot in which to shelter in the entrance to Dallmann Bay just before night fall, but with no safe anchorage the crew spent a restless night holding station in the lee of The Wiafs, taking hour long turns in the freezing cold, holding the boat steady and shining the spot light on stray bits of ice. It was a great team effort, with those not on deck at any given time making sure that those who were on deck were kept supplied with dry-ish gloves, hand warmers and cups of tea at the ready. Thankfully we caught a break for our last run in to Port Lockroy, and enjoyed clear blue skies and decreasing wind all the way. The storm had filled the bay with even more ice than normal and so we are currently tied-in about half a mile from the huts, wedged into the sea ice with two lines onto some stray (grounded) glacial ice and one onto an old whaler's chain ashore, an operation not made any easier by the sudden heavy snow flurry. It was rather magical though, Pelagic, surrounded with ice, tied onto ice, with big fat snow flakes landing all around. I think its safe to say we all slept rather well last night.
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