Thursday 16 January. Day 40. Homeward Bound

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16 01 14 - 12:35

We left Casey lunchtime yesterday. Pulled out in glorious sunshine, waved good bye to Newcomb Bay and the views of Casey, the islands, the white slopes and grey gnarled rocks of the headlands, the observatory dome of the abandoned Wilkes station and made our way through a glittering sea.

We’d got to know the scene rather well over the previous three days as we stayed on ship and watched the barge plough backwards and forwards taking containers and other cargo to and fro, with inflatable boats in support. The Navy boat, the Wyatt Earp had also provided interest as it traversed backwards and forwards undertaking a detailed sonar survey of the bottom of the bay.

I sat in the sun on the wooden bench on the starboard side, talking politics with Greg and science with Tracey, as we made our way through a sea strewn with white wads of ice of all dimensions. Smallest were the misshapen eroded lumps and contorted shapes less than a metre across, then flat slabs just metres wide; sometimes a temporary resting place for penguins who would come to life as the ship approached, usually waddling to the edge and throwing themselves off as we watched. Larger were the hilly mounds of pack ice which had become uplifted by being smashed against each other, then eroded by water and wind, and the lumpy remains of icebergs, sculptured and contorted, still with their continental shelf glowing under the surface, the water above taking on a beautiful aqua hue. And then the iceberg sentinels – huge and impressive, some freshly carved, some rounded, upturned, some swept smooth, others crevassed and turretted

The night before we experienced a magic sunset – I wrote a poem about it which I’ve included below, as my contribution to our Antarctic Writers Festival part 2 which was held today. We’ve held three writing workshops over the last week in the lead up to the festival which I have really enjoyed.

But sadly I didn’t get to contribute my poem to the festival today. We have now left the ice, and are in open sea with a 4m swell this afternoon which has knocked me about. I’ve spent the afternoon and evening on my bunk, coping with seasickness. Hopefully my sealegs will appear tomorrow!

Sunset

Serrated rows of pink blossom
Orange streaks precision painted
Rose blurs on navy ripples
Moving, changing, shifting, flowing

Stark crosses and Casey’s low square corners strive for significance
The eye is drawn to the ethereal light
The smooth white slopes and grey gnarled rock dividing sea and sky
Far bergs on the horizon
Sinuous glowing paths on the cusp of ice and
Wads of white strewn randomly across the dark

Then to hold us in awe
The full moon appears from the clouds
Startling in its lustre
Its glory reflected in the textured sea below

We gather to celebrate this mandala
To watch time and space merge and flow
And are exulted, uplifted, as one
Connected and in love.

And we, strangers just yesterday
Are bonded, connected too
Tonight is a culmination of our journey
A woven fabric of us and the Antarctic cosmos
With meaning beyond us, transcending beauty.

Tomorrow we recede
Head home to mundane realities
I will hold this memory dear as
A sacred touchstone in a distant dream


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