A Fid's Christmas in Antarctica
Although Christmas dinner was postponed to allow the galley more time to prepare, a special treat was arranged in form of a wander on a nearby ice-floe. After the GAs* had confirmed it strong enough, we cambered awkwardly down the rope-ladder to the FRC and took a step closer to real Antarctica. The ice was either rock solid underfoot, or had a crunchy crust with dry powdery crystals beneath. Either way, it worked better for rugby than football and we played about for nearly an hour before heading back to give the others their turn. Back on the bridge for the afternoon’s weather observation, things seemed to be improving with the wind turning to a more favourable direction.
Boxing day was again, bright and still, but the wind had shifted off-shore and the ice begun to open up. The night shift had found a lead through to the fast ice (sea ice bonded to the ice shelf) and moored the Shackleton alongside. Eager for another wander, we peeled the spuds in record time, kitted up in our giant Mukluk snow boots and waited to board the Geordie man-hoist. Crewman Martin kept the brief simple – feet here, arms through here, hold tight – and held a tensioning line as Charlie craned us smoothly onto the ice. This was more like what I’d hoped for: soft, flat powder. A gentle breeze was perfect for Matt’s kite, although as a beginner I decided not to risk my first lesson so close to the sea!
Back on the ship, I bodged together a music round for Izzy’s excellent pub quiz in which our team did spectacularly badly despite conferring with others. Tomorrow is Christmas dinner.
Click here for stunning sea-ice photos.
*GA – General Assistant. Usually a mountain guide with significant glacier experience. Employed to oversee safe travel on the ice.