Little to report. We are still racing south by southwest through unruffled seas at a highly respectable 16.7 knots.
Our days have become fairly routine. We self-test for Covid before breakfast at 07.30. At 08.00 the expedition management team meets to discuss progress and any issues that have arisen. We are nine in all. Apart for John Shears and myself there is Nico Vincent (Subsea), J.C. Caillens (Back Deck), Carl Elinkgton (Ice Camps), Natalie Hewit (Media), Lucy Coulter (Medical), Lasse Rabenstein (Science) and Michael Swanepoel (Helicopters).
After this meeting, there is time for a quick coffee and then John Shears, Nico Vincent and myself head up to Level 8 to meet with Captain Knowledge in his office for the ‘Captain’s meeting’. He briefs us on what’s happening on the ship and all our matters are passed by him for approval. At 09.30 we head for the Ice meeting to see the latest satellite data which is presented by Chief Scientist, Lasse Rabenstein. He then hands over to the Chief Meteorologist, Marc de Vos, to find out what the weather is doing, and then we turn to the Ice Pilot, Captain Freddie Ligthelm, for his views on how best we should navigate the ice fields given the current nature of the pack. This meeting can run to almost 10.30, by which time we have only one hour to head back to our cabins to attend to paperwork and emails.
At 11.30 we all converge on Deck Level 4 for lunch, which we gobble down fast because there are only two sittings, each of 30 minutes. Our afternoons are equally full. The last meeting of the day is between John and I in my day-room at about 10 pm. It isn’t a meeting in the formal sense, it is just something we fell into, a moment to relax and put on the travel kettle I brought with me. We go over the events of the last sixteen hours, have a laugh, reminisce, talk about family, etc. We tend not to discuss the next day because that is going to be up and at us in just a few hours. It’s a kind of an unwinding thing, it reminds me a bit of the amen cadence that you get at the end of a hymn.
At this morning’s Ice meeting we learned that there are three weather systems ahead of us and we will not be able to dodge them all. Once we pass the South Sandwich Islands and are into the Scotia Sea, we expect to take a biffing. Ice conditions, however, are looking good over the site, we still have a corridor into the pack, and the floes within the search area are still reasonably loose and dynamic, but of course they may yet consolidate.
In the afternoon there was a talk by the head of the White Desert team, Carl Elinkgton, on what to expect when we are on the ice. He discussed ship-to-ice radio communications, what we might expect to find in the tents his team will be erecting, the clothing that must be worn and how messing will be arranged. Our drinking water he tells us will be melted snow. Sunscreen and dark-glasses are at all times essential. Everybody, of course, wanted to know about the toilet arrangements, which will be basic. There will be procedures that must be followed. Guys, for instance ‘must pee into the blue bucket.’ And when it is all over, everything, but I mean everthing, must go back on the ship.
Mensun Bound (Director of Exploration)