I stood out on the monkey deck tonight just before sunset, riding the waves. We were surfing home. A stiff south westerly was blowing, whitecaps were cresting the 2m swell, and the ship was surging up and down riding the waves with aplomb.
Ten or so of us were out on deck, savouring our last evening of the Southern Ocean. The sun was breaking through the cumulus to the south, at times a faint rainbow appeared, and the soft light lit up people’s faces, matching our smiles and mood. Home tomorrow!
There’s a tiny bit of sadness at the journey coming to an end. The camaraderie which has built over six weeks amongst us AAE expeditioners has been special. We’ve been through such a lot together. And I’ve met some fabulous people on the Aurora Australis who I’m keen to stay in touch with. Salt of the earth scientists and Antarctic enthusiasts, passionate about the natural world – especially the far southern ice covered bits. But there’s no doubt that the number one thing which is making people’s hearts sing is the prospect of arriving home.
It has been an amazing journey. I’ve been incredibly grounded in my love and connection with nature. I’ve felt alive, been infused with energy and spirit from just being in the far expanses of ice and wide wild seas and being with wonderful penguins and experiencing the delight of a whale surfacing and breaching just beside the ship one sunny afternoon. I’ve learnt a lot about myself, how I cope with things not going to plan, dealing with feeling alone and being a long way from home. I’ve been constantly aware of how much I love my family and friends.
I’ve made resolutions about coming back to Antarctica with Penny, and visiting the sub Antarctic islands which we sadly missed out on on this trip. I want to re-establish going cross country skiing in winter. I’ve rekindled my science-ey nerdy side ( not that it has ever completely gone away), and also realised how important being creative is to my wellbeing. I’ve enjoyed the discipline of regularly writing this blog, and loved the creative writing I did in our four writing workshops. I’ve made some great friends and have been amazed at how much people can get to know each other after just six weeks together.
And I’m incredibly grateful and thankful to everyone who made this trip and our homecoming possible: Chris Turney, Greg Mortimer, Chris Fogwill and all the scientists and crew of the Australasian Antarctic Expeditions and Adventure Associates; the crew and personnel of the Aurora Australia and the Australian Antarctic Division who came to our rescue in our hour of need, and who we have shared a wonderful fortnight with – thanks Murray, Leanne, Mark and everyone; the Xue Long who helicoptered us out; Igor and the crew of the Akademik Shokalskiy. We have all learnt so much about the A factor, Antarctica’s wild unpredictable nature, and the essence of ‘Hurry up and wait!’. It’s been fabulous, humbling and very very special.