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On the other side - 2 February 2008

Saturday 2 February 2008
Bright with some clouds
Approx +1 deg C outside

The sea is calmer now. We have crossed the convergence between the Southern ocean and the Atlantic and are now on the other side – the Antarctic side, sailing through the Southern ocean to the Weddell Sea.

Getting to this point and crossing the convergence to me was like something from the last chapter of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, where the Nautilus dives headlong without control into a whirlpool and no one is sure if there is anything on the other side. It feels like we have crossed the most significant barrier and are now heading towards an entirely different world, largely alien to human understanding. We have been promised some good weather for the remainder of the journey. Maybe it’s time to stop taking the sea sickness drugs. If I do, with a more level head, I’ll probably re-read my blogs and think what a load of nonsense!

In the Southern Ocean, on the approach to this alien world there are more and more icebergs appearing on the horizon and its getting colder outside. There have been sightings of birds (mostly albatrosses) whales and dolphins. I saw some dolphins too (or at least I think I did). I had been up to the wheelhouse to get some idea of our position, when the Captain and third mate were looking out of the windows on the starboard side. They said there were dolphins approximately 100m from the ship. I looked and couldn’t see them. The Captain pointed and said ‘there’. I still could not see. He pointed again. I could see the slight breaking of the water’s surface but still was not sure if I had the right spot. I took up my camera to try to take a snap when the Captain said ‘but that bloody thing away man and use your EYES’

I guess when you spend a lot of time working at a computer screen (at work) and are unfamiliar with new environments around you, you are not quite as sensitive to what goes on as you should be. It must be to do with what you are used to. For example walking round the engine rooms with the Chief Engineer this morning, he told us in detail how the services of the ship operate. At one point he pointed at the bulkhead in the aft hold, describing what a particular component did. I was buggered if I could distinguish it from the box next to it, of visually track where all the pipes and cables went, in the spaghetti on the wall. He knew what every part of the mechanical and electrical services did on the ship. Everybody must see the ship differently and have a different mental model of what it is, based on what is important to them. After all, although it is just one ship, it is an incredibly complicated machine. I don’t believe I am an exception to this hypothesis. I found out where the mess room was instantly, where to make a cup of tea, and found the gym. Job done.

Well not entirely. I’ll be keeping a watch out for whales, dolphins, sea birds, icebergs, sea ice, the ice shelf, changes in the sea’s behaviour and changes in the temperature. I need to become sensitised to this because this is not an environment that you can experience every day and in fact I’m very lucky to experience it once in my life time. I don’t want to miss it.

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