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Breaking the silence

Monday, July 20th, 2009

As is so readily apparent, I have been very silent since returning from Antactica.  For this I apologise.

Life moved swiftly on; I still have had precious time to dwell on the experience and what it means to have been and returned.  I think of Frank Hurley’s words after the epic adventure he endured with Shackleton: “After the vastness of Antarctica, civilisation seemed somewhat empty“.  I miss the ice, and look forward to returning, but life is not empty by any means.  On my return I was offered and accepted a fantastic job in anesthetics and critical care at a great trauma and emergency hospital; I’m back to flying my glider at every opportunity; the mountains and sea are just where I left them and begging for attention.  Life is good.

I will be trying to continue writing and photographing and putting it up for perusal on another blog – – until I amhead south for the summer.  Yes, I’m going back (more briefly, mom!).  Details to follow…

Ross is Back!

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Ross docked at roughly 9am this morning (2nd), he should put up a post soon. At the moment he’s taking time to listen to birds and stare at trees… Here is a photo that i didn’t upload with the previous post.

A beautiful view of the Akademik Federov

A beautiful view of the Akademik Federov


Through the ‘berg belt

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

S54 49 W0

Pitching in a sea of total blackness, I could feel the waves rolling
around me.  The rhythmic creaking of my tired body ebbed and flowed with
the waters, sounds far distant on the surface above.  Light appeared,
deep blue, impossibly far but approaching at inconceivable speed, and
then fresh cold air billowed upon me and I sucked it deep into my
starved lungs.  Eyes opening, curtain of the bunk blowing open; the wind
had shifted and the pre-dawn light was blowing snow and air at 1.5
degrees through the open porthole.  We had come through the night, and
although the new day was still deep blue and grey it was filled with
fresh promise.

The ice-berg belt did not disappoint; rather, it has been kind.  This
morning when I had showered and made my tour of the outdoor decks on my
way to the bridge there was a garden of ice-bergs to be seen around us,
passing slowly as we continue inexorably northward.  The sea was more
friendly than anticipated, with only 3m swells through the day.  Still,
this was enough to make a few more passengers green around the gills,
and the morning clinic was quite busy.  Between diagnoses of
motion-sickness I managed to fit in two ENT cases, surgical excision of
an irritating skin lesion, a few of the usual back and limb aches that
plague the ship’s crew, and do some good dental work including a
filling.  By the time this was all completed and my notes written, it
was already time for lunch, and then I succumbed to my postprandial
somnolence with a brief nap.  It’s a hard life, aboard ship 😉

In the mid-afternoon a watery beam of sunlight tried valiantly to warm
the ship, but on the monkey-deck I was still subjected to blowing
snowflakes through which Wandering and Sooty Albatrosses skimmed over
the waves.  Retreating with my laptop to a sunny corner of the bridge, I
tried to work on the final  expedition reports, but the cheerful banter
of the chief mate and both captains (we have both a Master and an Ice
Pilot aboard on this voyage, both of whom have captained the vessel on
many occasions) was not very successful in getting work done.  Around
1600 the mate announced in her cheerful manner from the radar display
that an ice-berg dead ahead was bearing down southward on our course at
15 knots.  Ice-bergs, of course, are not well known to manage this type
of speed, and we quickly identified the signal to come from another
Antarctic ship, the  Akademik Federov.  We learnt over the radio that
she is en-route to Antarctica with a cargo of supplies for Troll and
Novolazarevskaya, hurrying south before the ice closes in.  Similar in
build and capability to the Agulhas (although slightly larger and
faster), she cut an impressive profile passing a mile abeam against a
backdrop of ice-bergs lit in the afternoon light.

My afternoon clinic was no less busy than the morning, including chronic
disease follow-up and even an antenatal visit.  In total, I devote about
4 hours a day to clinical work, and a little more to other medical work
for the ship – stock-taking, checking equipment, ordering new supplies,
and training the crew – the idea being to take advantage of the times
that a doctor is onboard.  It is hardly demanding, but rather pleasantly
stimulating and certainly helps to prevent the boredom I see setting in
amongst my team-mates who have now caught up on sleep and are finding
the days long and empty.

Tomorrow is forecast to be a little rougher – 4-5m swells and 40 knot
winds – but then it should improve again.  Very tentatively, if the
weather continues to be so kind, we may arrive in Cape Town ahead of
schedule… but the rest of the Fifties and all of the Forties lie
ahead, and such predictions are an open invitation to Nature to reminds
us of her supremacy,