8 weeks 2 days
“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold….
Submitted by James Bendle on Fri, 01/15/2010 - 07:54
… and many goodly states and kingdoms seen”
In my last blog a storm was headed our way. The ship took an evasive course to avoid the worst of it, but we still got to rock and roll, as you can see from the photo above (taken by Christina Riesselman a scientist onboard from Stanford). This expedition has five contingency days built in for adverse weather/ice. So, we can lose some time and still go to all the drilling sites we are hoping to. Well, we used up some of that time in the last few days. Rough weather in the roaring 40’s and screaming 50’s is expected, as I blogged previously, the winds whip the seas into a perpetual swirl of storms around the Antarctic. As the storm built and the combined swell and waves built to 12 meters the captain decided to “heave to”. This is when a ship ceases attempting to make headway towards its destination and turns to face the wind and just maintain position, to better to ride out the storm.
Of course, no one wants to lose time, or see the ship in any danger (don’t worry, it was a long way from that extreme) but it was exhilating. Firstly, we had to contend with securing the labs, the pitching and rolling built in intensity quite quickly and stuff starting sliding around on the bench tops, a drying oven went crashing over, some computers and books in other parts on the ship. We scrambled about with the technicians, stowing stuff away, lashing or adding extra bungy chords to stuff that could not be stowed. No apparent damage to people or equipment. Having made safe the labs, in the evening a handful of us went out on to the upper decks to appreciate the raw power of the sea. Out of the long swells there came, periodically, much larger waves, the ship would sometimes ride up them smoothly and then slide queasily down into the troughs. Sometimes, the big waves would come in gangs, so whilst the ship was still trying to come level from a trough she’d be hit again by a following wave, which would make a huge slap and break white water over the bow. The storm and a huge albatross were captured beautifully by Prof. Dunbar, one of the co-chief scientists on board.
At some point the setting sun broke through and cast the waters in reds, purples and golds. It silloeted the distant waves on the horizon, so that I could pick out the real monsters that occasionally piled up. The ocean looked like the surface of another planet, maybe Jupiter and its giant storms. I thought of the famous Keats line at the top of the blog. Then I thought of one of Steve Pekar’s (one of the scientists onboard, read his blog it’s awesome), favourite memes that studying geology is like traveling to strange new worlds (he’s a big Star Trek fan). In a way that is what we are trying to do, to drill down and travel to the strange planet Eocene, where most (maybe all) of the Antarctic was lush temperate rain forest… yet it would still like today have been dark for half the year. What were the strange nocturnal creatures like that evolved to live in such an environment (did they hibernate for six months when the sun came).
- What’s the food like?: The Mexican theme continues, Fahjitas – thank you Alex (Alex is the “camp boss” – the head of catering).
- What’s on in the movie room – the Big Lebowski (The Dude abides).