Happy Christmas to the world from the Australasian Antarctic Expedition! We are celebrating Christmas in an amazing place- 66˚41’ S, 144˚18’ E to be precise. We’ve been here or hereabouts for over a day now, drifting with the pack ice, officially ‘beset’. Our ship the Shokalskiy is ice strengthened, not an ice breaker and the ice around us is currently beyond us.
All around is a sea of white; jumbled, jagged, scrambled ice mounds, shallow frozen pools, craggy hills, and in the distance the white dome of the Antarctic mainland and the archipelago of the rocky peaks of the Hodgemans Islets we visited two days ago. Icebergs loom, both on the horizon and closer by – some are phantom ships on the move passing by over a period of hours, eerily changing position in the landscape, not noticeably moving.
Standing out on the bow this morning I was moved by the expanse, the space, the desolation, the wildness. Adelie penguins in ones or twos are dots in the landscape, the occasional snow petrel and Antarctic fulmar fly by infrequently. Life is scarce.
Things are going to evolve for us in one of two ways over the next few days. The wind may turn to the south or south west, shifting the ice enough for us to be able to break through to the open water just a few kilometres away. Or an ice breaker comes to our aid. We have requested help if necessary, and there are a number of potential options not too far away. All will be clearer over the next day.
Meanwhile everyone is in high spirits. The party continues. A huge pile of presents lie under the Christmas tree to be opened this afternoon. Christmas Eve last night went off, and the festivities are continuing, in classic Santa hat-Christmas bauble earing -coloured lights style. Dancing has just broken out in the bar, and the bubbly drinking has begun. Eggs benedict, apricot Danish and fresh fruit was a fabulous brunch after a big night last night; I hear there are gingerbread biscuits and who knows what other treats for afternoon tea, then it’s the grand finale of the Christmas feast this evening!