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Antarctica! - 5 February 2008

Tuesday 5 February 2008
Bright with cloudy patches
-6 deg C

Today we reached the coast of Antarctica and are now heading west skirting the Fimbulisen ice shelf, home of the German base Neumayer. It was a shock to finally reach this stage, to finally see on the port side of the ship an ice shelf on the horizon.

It was stunning and I think we were all hit by the realisation of what was right in front of us – Antarctica!

After taking a lot of photos of something that still was too far away to make sense of with a camera, I decided to go back inside because the temperature had dropped significantly from the previous days. It was now around -6 degrees, which by Antarctic standards is nothing, but you feel it. I tried wearing different sets of the thermal and warm clothes I have but in the end decided that the best policy will be to wear everything – and take the duvet as well.

I now understand why I have two orange boiler suits of different sizes. The bigger one fits over the not so bigger one. Very clever.

Another change from yesterday is the sea. It is still quite calm, but the icebergs are becoming more and more frequent. At the moment the Shackleton is happily crunching over them. Every few seconds there is a crunch, scrape, splash and the ship shudders in the process. This will probably go on until we get to Halley. No one is expecting to get much sleep but I don’t think there are many complaints. The sun is only down for a couple of hours at night and the scenery is just stunning. There seems to be a competition to spot the most wildlife. Penguins and Leopard Seals have been spotted so far, and a few distant whales.

The Captain has posted a projected arrival time at Halley. About 1:40 am on Friday (if I am reading his handwriting correctly). This assumes we can maintain 10 Knots. Not many of the crew are convinced. Our route takes us past Stancomb-Wills, a bottle neck of ice shelf and sea ice. This might slow us up a bit but it promises to be beautiful.

Then on to Halley. I’ve got to say I’m excited and apprehensive. There is a lot to deal with and in a short space of time, but the best approach would be to roll my sleeves up (well one layer maybe) and get on with the job.

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