I feel for the expeditioners who are trying to make it to Mawson’s hut. Due to the low cloud it was just not possible to fly them to Cape Dennison today. We are in Commonwealth Bay, approximately 20km from the continent parked in fast ice. It looks more like we have rammed into fast ice, but that’s just semantics, we’ve stopped is the point. This morning I flung open my curtain to be blinded by the white light. It is SO bright even without the sunshine. The mood on the ship is positively electric as they lowered the brow this morning and after lunch we were allowed off the ship. I don’t know what you were doing today but I’ve been playing with penguins. No really, I’ve been lying on an ice floe with penguins waddling to within metres of my camera and I.
The penguins only have predators in the water, on the ice they do not know to fear people. No wonder the first explorers could pick them off like they did. Dr Donna and I have for the 5th time appeared in the ABC footage set to air this evening. It’s gotten to the point that Ben the producer comes to find us so that we can make our cameo.
If you are watching the news you will see two slug-like figures lying in the back ground, rolling around laughing at one point as they attempt to do David Attenborough impersonations. Our commentary is along the lines of “here in the frozen wonderland, we remain quiet in the hope that the indigenous wildlife, the penguins and the journalists, may put on a display…..”. Oh and didn’t they just, the penguins that is not the journalists. It was another surreal moment, blue icebergs in the back ground and Adelie penguins EVERWHERE! They would stop the cricket match going on in the centre of the floe (which is strange enough in itself) as they marched across the pitch, they belly flopped, squawked and checked us out as much as we did them. There were snowmen being built and even a snow penguin.
Actually the funniest thing I saw today was a penguin trying to jump on top of a 3 ft snow penguin. It was clearly outsized so the poor little guy kept bouncing off the chest of his icy doppelgänger. And all the while, the 100 m bright red Aurora Australis dominated the scene parked up on the frozen seawater, the ocean bottom some 450 m beneath our feet.
Now I don’t want anyone to think that this trip is not enhancing my PhD experience. I forgot to mention yesterday that once I had washed the potato out of my hair I got to see a lecture by Steve Rintoul himself. For those who are not oceanographers, seeing Dr Rinotul speak is like seeing Wayne Gretsky play ice hockey, okay that is not the best analogy unless you are Canadian, but it means he is a REALLY impressive scientist. The man is a brain on a hockey stick. So I am up to date with what is going on with Southern Ocean research and I have played with the penguins. I wonder which I will remember more……