By Kelly Strzepek (originally posted 11th January 2012)

Penguins sighted from the boat.

There are two things that people can always tell you about their first trip to the frozen continent: the first time they see ice and the first time they see penguins. If you are lucky it happens on the same day and then you are delirious. I’m totally exhausted from running between decks, tyring to remember to come inside once in a while or I will lose my nose to frost bite. The ice floes are getting thicker and if you stand on the bridge and look over the side you can watch the bow tear the ice apart revealing brine channels full of algae. It looks a little like honeycomb, but without the honey. The bees swarm on deck, well at least it looks that way as the 2012 Ant. Div. Summer Collection consists of a yellow and black uniform.

I understand why we have so much clothing, even inside the ship I have thermals underneath my fleece (yes I am actually wearing fleece. I am below 60 south and so feel no shame). At the first holler of penguins I grabbed my bumblebee jacket and headed for the deck. The poor things didn’t know what to do. This is understandable as it is likely their first sighting of the Aurora, and I too would waddle around in a panic if an enormous orange boat (full of bees!) was bearing down on me.

Another highlight of today was the talk given by Tony Fleming, the newly appointed Director of the Antarctic Division. I had no idea he had such a pedigree. His grandfather and two great uncles were significant figures during the golden age of Antarctic exploration, being expeditioners along side both Scott and Shakleton. His presentation included audio excerpts from his grandfather, Raymond Priestly, describing some of his more memorable Antarctic experiences. This ice prevented their return ship from reaching them, forcing all six men to survive over winter. Provisions were almost negligible, and they survived by digging a 9ft X 12ft X 5’6″ ice cave. The only light source came from the ‘blubber’ candle that subsequently covered them, and their hovel, in sooty grease.

Speaking of sooty, we also have Light Mantled Sooty Albatross following the boat, with a few Black Browed Albatross, Cape Petrels and Antarctic Petrels. This voyage is truly amazing. If I got up in the morning and there were unicorns dancing on the heli-deck I wouldn’t be surprised, perhaps a little alarmed, but not at all surprised.