It's taken over a week to sneak, hop and bash our way through the ice, but thanks to the Captain and crew’s patients and perseverance, we finally docked at 17:00 yesterday. For the next week or so, we will remain fastened to the edge of the ice shelf, working round the clock in 12 hour shifts to move 500 tons of cargo up to the base, some 60km away. We started work after dinner, un-lashing the vehicles on deck, finishing up in time to have a drink in the bar. The new-year was greeted in a traditional ship’s fashion with the oldest member of crew ringing out the year on the ship’s bell and the youngest ringing it in.
This morning brought perfectly clear weather allowing senior staff from Halley to fly down for hand-over meetings. Others will follow in Snow-cats and we will start loading cargo after lunch. I'll be working as a cargo-hand and driver's mate, loading seldges and moving them away from the ship to a rendez-vous point. After a long period of not doing much, I'm looking forwards to getting started.
The voyage has taken nine weeks, to the day, and it's been an incredible experience. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of it, especially the interesting people with fascinating tales. It’s been a relaxed environment, but also a strict one. The Captain is always
addressed as ‘Captain’ and we are bound by contract, and law, to follow orders. But, as the Shackleton is a Norwegian built ship, her design doesn’t follow the outmoded British ‘class’ system of a different deck for officers, supernumeries and ratings. Everyone sits down for the same meal in the same mess and enjoys a drink in the same bar. If Blair really wants a ‘respect agenda’ for the country’s troubled youth, he could do a lot worse than take a look to sea.
Things will be flat-out for the next week or so, so until the next bit – Happy New Year!Photos of N9