Five weeks on board ships. And another week and a half or so to go.
But my mood and I suspect that of others has shifted today.
It’s all action at Casey, as the Aurora Australis personnel resume the resupply that was so rudely interrupted by their journey east to rescue us from the ice, some three and a half weeks ago.
It’s a still, warm (ie 2 degrees) day, and snowing gently, the flakes drifting gently down, fluffy spots, that punctuate the sky white then melt on landing.
The wind, as forecast , died down overnight after four days of frustrating waiting time since we arrived on Tuesday night. It’s worth mentioning the weather forecasting down here – I am incredibly impressed by how accurate it has been. Big kudos to the Bureau of Meteorology Antarctic forecasters! Knowing what the weather is going to do is critical to any expedition’s operations, so the accuracy really needs to be acknowledged in any Antarctic achievements.
The huge crane on board the Aurora Australia has been in full swing unloading containers, half containers and smaller boxes onto the barge which transports them almost 2km to the Casey wharf.
The barge is currently occupied with the most testing and time consuming part of the resupply – rolling out the fuel line through which all the fuel for the station for the winter gets pumped. All the time consuming processes in laying out the line and tending to it are to avoid the devastating consequences of a fuel spill. Once the line is laid it is constantly patrolled by boat to make sure no ice gets near which could potentially damage it. At the moment in Newcombe Bay ice is pretty scarce, so that’s not too hard.
I don’t know what the penguins think of the line and all the activity– as I watched a little while ago there was a squad of about seven of them swimming nearby. As Casey natives they will have seen it all before.
Once the fuel starts flowing in about an hour’s time they won’t stop till it’s done, pending the weather. If all goes to plan and low wind conditions continue that means they will be pumping overnight and right through until tomorrow evening – then we can be on our way home!
I’ve thought a lot over the past four days, and of course during our 10 days being beset about how being in indefinite limbo challenges ones mental state. Even though there has been absolutely no risk to my health and physical wellbeing, even though I’ve been surrounded by friendly helpful people, with plenty to do, plenty to eat, plenty of cups of tea to drink, and most importantly even though I know that within weeks I will be back home with my family and friends it has been a challenge to stay upbeat and positive.
I’ve thought about Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. In particular I think about refugees in indefinite detention on Nauru and Papua New Guinea and in detention centres in Australia.
My experience is not a smidgen of a whisper of a skerrick of theirs. But I’ve had a tiny insight into what they must endure, being so far away from family and loved ones, with no prospects of release, no hope of thinking positively about beginning a new life, no future to latch onto and to set one’s mind towards. It’s out and out cruelty to people who have already suffered so much, who have fled their homelands in order to survive.
In contrast our good fortune is that if all goes to plan ( and being aware of not counting chickens before they hatch J )… the resupply will be finished by Tuesday morning and we will be on our way home. The journey from here takes on average 8 days, can be as much as 10, occasionally in excellent conditions has been done in as few as 6. Here’s to our arrival in Hobart! Time for another cup of tea just to celebrate the thought!