View from the bow of the Aurora
View from the bow of the Aurora

By Bianca

More than a week after the estimated arrival time we are still fighting our way through Antarctica’s very thick sea ice.

With ice conditions as tough as it can get (10 out of 10) our progress was more than slow and the outlook of arrival had been uncertain for a long time. New rumours started to spread daily, including that we would have to turn around and go back. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and by now we are close to Davis and actually just got told that we are likely to arrive tonight.

We have now been aboard the Aurora for three weeks and everyone is doing well. We kept ourselves busy by organising events such as Halloween, Melbourne Cup, Trivia Nights, dart competitions and other games or just watching movies and tv series.

A curious penguin checking out the Aurora. Picture: Dean Lewins / AAP
A curious penguin checking out the Aurora. Picture: Dean Lewins / AAP

Thanks to fantastic weather conditions in the past two days (for the first time on our journey) we could watch some amazing sunsets and took way too many pictures. The bridge has been the preferred spot to spend most of our time, watching our fight through the ice, being impressed by ice conditions and every now and then spy some seals and penguins. The penguins are just too cute and they are very curious creatures, sometimes they follow us for miles. Having said all that, we did start to get a bit bored and we also start to worry about our project as our time is running short, with over one week already lost due to our extended stay on the Aurora.

Sea ice extent around Antarctica for October 2013.
Sea ice extent around Antarctica for October 2013.

This year’s sea ice conditions have just been insane, with changing ice conditions so quickly that things have been unpredictable (apparently the ice moves around 600m a day). In the past week we had many nights where we just parked at one point and turned off the engines, as visibility and ice conditions were too dangerous to proceed. Just a couple of days ago we stopped again over night and 24 hours later we were still at the same position, still fighting our way through the ice. And we had plenty more of these days, sometimes with progress as little as 4 miles within 24 hours. We went back and forth, one day we sailed west, the next day east again, and sometimes even north to find an easier way than the one we had been on, often we even did circles (watching the map of our vessel track has been always fun).

Thanks to the good weather in the last few days we could undertake daily ice surveys with the helicopters and our progress has been a lot better, with the prospect of arriving tonight.

Bianca's progress so far. Image from AAD.
Bianca’s progress so far. Image from AAD.

Please note: Unfortunately, due to email size restrictions, Bianca hasn’t been able to send through any of her own photos to go with her posts. She is certainly taking them though, and we will make sure to put them up once she returns to Australia.