We have been keeping an eye on the ice chart for days with quite some excitiment. What appears like some colourful square centimetres on paper is hundreds of miles of drift ice in real life, covering much of the Ross Sea. Yellow is not vitamin-rich lemon, but half open water. Purple is not blueberry, but a very dense pack ice cover, tougher than a cherry stone and absolutely inedible.
In the arctic, the sea ice is shrinking rapidly. In the Antarctic, it is breaking records. There is a lot of ice in the Ross Sea this year.
The ice is the focus of everybodies attention here on Ortelius. We are all regularly examining the icechart, following the development, discussing what all the colours may mean for us. The degree of experience that goes into these discussions is variable, and so is the patience that Shackleton identified as a polar traveller’s most important quality. These ice charts are always rough and sometimes amazingly misleading, and even the satellites don’t know what will happen over the next days.
Talking about Shackleton. It was on 20th January 1914 that the Endurance got stuck in the ice of the Weddell Sea. That is 100 years ago today.
So we are eagerly awaiting the development over the next days. The first ice floes are drifting around the ship. A beautiful view in the sunshine.
18th-20th January 2015 – As Shackleton said, the most important character feature for every polar explorer is patience. Now we are not talking about spending a long antarctic winter together in a little hut, squeezed around a far too small table with permanent darkness and long blizzards outside. But some days at sea are enough to make the inner clock turn a bit slower. Some may have difficulties with it, but I think, most of us are actually enjoying it. At home we are always on to something, always online, 24/7 workloads, permanent stress. How often do you have the luxury to watch waves for hours on end, waiting for the occasional Cape or Giant storm petrel – they have become a bit rare these days – passing by? One of these days, even a mighty Wandering albatross was seen during the early morning hours. Far south of the convergence, but there is no way too long for these eternal riders of the southern winds.
Still, every day is different. One day, the wind was strong enough to be disagreeable for some, one day was grey, the outside world hidden behind a curtain of snow. One day, it was after leaving Peter I Island, we had pods of Orcas several times, and today early morning, there were Minke whale backs breaking through the waves, catching some rays of the rising sun.
Of course we are having a series of lectures and films. Michael has explained the various subtypes of Orcas, and Victoria is telling the stories from the earlier years of exploration. Stories? Heroic adventures! These are only a few examples, we have got quite a range of stuff between us. But I have to rave on a little bit about Victoria Salem’s history talks. They should become a TV series. I am not a TV junkie, but I would turn it on. High frequency rhetorical artistry, every seemingly casual sentence a punch line with high-grade history flavour. 40 minutes that feel like at least one well-researched history book. Looking forward to more 🙂