Sunday, December 16, 2012

Update from Sea

Update from the RRS Shackleton, on limited bandwidth (so no pictures, sorry!)

Making good time over relatively calm seas these past couple days, probably averaging a bit less than 10 knots overall.  Our position is currently 49 degrees  43.7' S and 8 degrees 20.5' E, and we're on a course to intercept the Prime Meridian near 60 degrees South (I think).

Somebody spotted whales off in the distance on Thursday, which led to the rest of us camping out on deck for the next two hours.  Quite the show, as we encountered at least a half-dozen groups (of approximately a dozen individuals each).  The majority of these groups were breaching in the distance, and visible only from their waterspouts, but a couple were closer, and one group came within 150 meters or so of the ship. Spectacular! 

As if that weren't enough, Thursday also saw clear skies at night, for an excellent viewing of the Geminids meteor shower.  Ships lights are dimmed at night, and there was no moon, so we had very decent viewing from the monkey deck (atop the bridge).  Counted a respectable number of meteors, among which perhaps 4 or 5 produced long trails spanning half the night sky.  Very impressive.

Life aboard ship is a little slow, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner being the highlights of my day.  We each take a turn helping out with ship chores-- Nick and I were on Gash* duty Friday morning, washing dishes and peeling a mountain of potatoes.  I think it's Robyn's turn today.  Air and water temperatures are gradually getting cooler, probably a good thing if we ever expect to hit the icepack.  Should be another couple days before we see an iceberg though, and many more days as we weave our way through to Halley.

And speaking of icepacks and arrivals, we heard from Brett and John aboard the SA Agulhas II yesterday-- they've essentially arrived already!!  They're due to begin unloading the ship today, and expect to be on base (at SANAE) as early as Tuesday.  That's FAR ahead of schedule, and with any luck, gives us a chance of having a first flight before Christmas.  Exciting!

Breakfast time, so I'm off.  Cheers!