By 6:30 this morning most of the cast and crew of the Aurora Australis were on deck and getting ready for the day’s heli ops; helicopter operations for those who haven’t been as fortunate to have been involved in such an exercise. I was not one of the lucky few to experience Mawson’s Hut; I was running the cattery again. The weather here changes incredibly quickly so when a window arises you move like a penguin with an orca on your tail. After everyone running around with their hands waving in the air for a little longer than necessary, we finally got everyone onshore. This gave the rest of us the opportunity to get back out on the ice again.
While the landscape changes each day as ice bergs move across the horizon, it is the lighting that makes the most outstanding difference. Today we had gorgeous sunshine. And for the fourth day in a row I have been humbled by my spectacular surroundings. Not enough to stop talking mind you, the audio from my video will HAVE to be removed for public viewing, but then again I could talk through nuclear weapons testing so please don’t think the scenery is anything less than awe inspiring. In particular we were able to appreciate the enormity of Big Berg (aka the iceberg B9B) that stretches as far as the eye can see. With the new light, the palette changes, as does the appearance of our feathered friends. Today’s inane discussion revolved around the appearance of the breast feathers, ‘opalescent’ was considered to flowery a term so I stuck to my guns with ‘pearlescent’. I thought ‘shiny’ wasn’t descriptive enough, it just doesn’t describe the sheen when the feathers catch the light, so we are going with ‘sheeny’ instead. Yes the future leaders of Australian science who are clearly no penguin biologists, proto Dr Strzepek and Dr Shadwick, are reporting ‘sheeny’ penguins on the ice today. We are also hearing reports that penguins sneeze, another little known fact that was observed this afternoon.
The weather held for long enough to get all bar four members back on the ship. The AAD’s new director, the illustrious Tony Fleming is one of the party left on the ice for the evening. Considering the hardship his grandfather went through when forced to overwinter, we figured that he could never show his face at a family BBQ if he came back to the ship early because he was cold……Truth be known I think he was a little bit disappointed that he wasn’t part of the team that were left at the hut for the past 2 days. It would appear the Antarctic exploration is in his genes. The centennial ceremony was apparently a roaring success, the media are desperately trying to get the footage out for tonight (which may be last night by the time this is posted) and we all hope to get a viewing before the evening’s end. But first, we are trying to organize betting out on the zodiacs, for those who didn’t get to the hut. As a marine scientist, I know which I’d prefer.