Monday, December 17, 2012

50 - Before the trip and beginning of season no 4.

Hello friends,

Its been a while I know, and yes im a little behind schedule as to where I thought I would be by now, but i'll get to that. So I am back in Antarctica, number 4 bit of a tragic now I know but each time I am here this great white nothingness offers something different but again i'll get to that. Firstly for the off season rundown!

I left the last blog kind of hanging there didn't I. We  were picked up from Davis slight detour to get within fly off for an expeditionar to get to Mawson then another quick stop at Casey to pick up the summers and sail home. Was a quick trip really or it might have been I was so tiered but I seemed quick. We started making our way up the Derwant River in Hobart late afternoon only to find that we would be anchoring on a dry ship only a short dingy ride to real coffee and coke, well need that to go with the bourbon!! So we sat going insane, well more than normal for the night knowing our love ones were there waiting for us. Mobiles going mad and internet dongles on every porthole seeking the best reception places.

Well I arrived in Hobart to be greeted by my father waiting for me as I disembarked off the ship Mum would have been there but wasn't well enough to travel as at that time she was fighting her first bout of secondary breast cancer. But even with Dad there it was a very nice way to arrival home, having those that you love waiting for you. I also meet for the first time Rowdys Mum and they were exactly what I had pictured in my mind, much nicer than he is.....LOL yea i know ill keep wont I.......

Dad and myself went over to Salamanca for a bite to eat, now I haven't normally experienced the next bit when arriving home. Last season was the longest season i have been down for, also my first at Davis. Now that might not mean alot to you but down here that meant that Davis rarely gets much of a changeover in personal from when we get dropped off till when we get picked up. Casey on the other hand has a large changeover in people due to the runway (Wilkins). So back to the story we head into a nice pizza/coffee shop there i knew then as we walked a little closer i remembered it was Saturday meaning the markets were on.

People everywhere but we pushed our way through which is when I felt it. People, all these strangers were making me feel almost claustrophobic. Then after almost getting cleaned up by a car that seemed to me like it was doing 200kph, remembering the fastest I have driven anything in 6 months is 30kph anything more might as well be breaking the sound barrier, we finally made it to the restaurant. I made sure I got the table I wanted. Now I had a couple specifics when choosing the table well one in particular, I needed to have my back to a wall so I could see everything that was happening in front of me. Yea I know I'm strange its funny the different things other seasoned expeditionars miss. For me usually its my mommy and daddy and nice fresh coffee with real milk rather than powered. Others say they can smell the trees as we get close, one thing that hits us all very quickly is colour and the speed of everything. All that we have seen is white so all the colours, advertisements, TV, radio, street signs ect ect ext.

Digressing a little here, as I do, I'm sure I have mentioned it before that when I am south I rarely indulge in anything thats happening in the real world other than the big things on the front page. I mean not much into reading the newspapers in depth as we do have them printed and on the tables, obviously no radio or TV other than that that we bring and broadcast over our own little radio station. Its a very uncomplicated existence, when I get home its amazing how much negativity and clutter there is on the news and life in general. As much as its nice being connected, being surrounded with negativity and some of the BS the media has been know to get its teeth into well makes me sick. Not so ironic that you need to go to the ends of the earth to really understand what the sound of silence REALLY is and its more than a physical sense but with that comes complete contempt and simple our lives really can be.

Rant over, now on the ship on the way into Davis last season you might remember a fella called Snoozy. Now Snoozy and myself both did our first seasons together at Casey 09-10 and below is a pic of me and Snoozy from that season.

Pic: Michael Goldstein

Anyway on the way down he mentioned to me about a cruise that he thought I might be interested in. Well I, thru Snoozys father, was invited to the League of Ancient Mariners. Having received my Coxswains and always been involved in boating all my life so talking to some of the old salty seadogs, captains of war ships, freighters, ferries, tugs (like Snoozies father) was right up my alley. Even Muzz the Captain of the Aurora Australis who is one of the masters and was our Ships Master on our way home was there.

Now this is where the story gets a little colluded..........from that day I meet a guy called Bob and to be honest he was the main reason I went to this event. Bob is mates with Snoozys old man and has he has also done many voyages south driving LARC's for the resupply of the stations both with the AAD and P&O who operate the ships down here. Snoozy knew how much I wanted to go to Macquarie Island mainly due to the name calling every time I looked at his pics with him I think. I remember thinking how the hell can I go to Macca and Snoozy said "well I know how, go as a LARC operator." How can I get the experience to do that I remember you get where Bob comes in.

Thats not the end of it, very interesting conversation took place over several hundred beers at what I have to say is one of the most scenic places in all of Shitney, HMAS Watson which is located South Head near Watsons Bay. The view from the dinning room was looking over the Sydney Harbour to the bridge and opera house was out of this world. Anyway back to the story so after talking to Bob for a little while I asked him how do I learn how to drive the LARC's with the Div (Division or AAD). To which was he said something like "it just so happens that there is a guy who did his apprenticeship with me who is now the operations manager for Aquaduck on the Gold Coast, they run LARC 5's, give me a call and ill pass on his phone number.

Well I got the number a couple days later and after arriving back on the Gold Coast I called Frank and I don't think his life has been the same since. Frank put me onto Vic who ultimately after getting my bus endorsement on my heavy ridged let me drive his machines, with 32 paying passengers.

Pic from the Aquaduck facebook page

So this is a LARC 5, a highly modified one but still one. These machines have had a little bit of lyposuction and had 500mm cut off them width ways, the motor moved from the back to the middle, seats added just to name a few things but basically they are as original and incredible to think they are from the late 50's, they don't make them like they use to do they. Take a look HERE if you want to find out more. Below is a promotional video quite interesting!!

Video: Youtube

Now driving the LARC's was way too much fun basically i was being paid to ensure everyone had a good time and fill them in on a little of the Gold Coasts History. My first days training I wasn't driving at this stage other than the water legs, Frank was driving the roads bits still feeling me out as to how good i was. I was listening to the commentary when something quite funny was said. We had traveled under the Gold Coast Bridge and there was Paradice waters coming up on our Port Bow (well its a nautical story might as well use nautical terms) there is a house with a slopping roof, the tour guide says, this house is rumoured to be Jackie Chan's house. Well I knew exactly who's house it was and it wasn't his house, never was but made me giggle anyway. Well it was a good rumour and I continued the story on even making a slight detour to go past the house waving at my families friends when they were about!

So it was  lots of fun and not so much work. Life was very busy with that and having finally being able to say i have someone else in my life thats pretty special even if it did take 4+ years. So its been a very different lead up to the season. Including the training this year, this involved 2 weeks in late September which was one week of Dogmans course, directing a crane in Hobart with a couple guys that I had been down with before also going to Davis. Then another week in Melbourne doing a Shot Firers course with my old mate Johan the crazy man himself. Johan and myself summered at Casey 10-11 and was going back but we both had been give new roles. We had both been made Senior Plant Operators myself at Davis and Johan the more senior of the two of us Casey.

Back home for 5-6 weeks before I was to be back in Hobart for pre-departure of a week. Well long story short one week turned into 3 weeks. After arriving on the 1st to start work at the Div on the 2nd our original departure date of the 7th October quickly turned into the 9th then 10th ultimately ending up being the 19th October. The delay in our departure was caused by the late return of the previous voyage SIPEX II below are a couple videos about that voyage and what they were doing.........

Video Youtube

Video Youtube

Video Youtube

Then while the guys were stuck in the ice this is what they got up to..............don't you just love Youtube..... CLICK HERE TO GO TO

So the season was running a tad late and here is a little video from the Div about whats happening this season on all Antarctic Stations.

Video Youtube

So the Ship finally made it back, i did hear a rumour that they ran out of toilet paper but that could have been started by a expeditioner waiting on the ships return to go to Davis well at least I hope so as being stuck on the ship with no toilet paper docent sound too nice. 

Now on this trip I decided that i wouldn't do as much videoing and photographing as it was almost getting in the road of absorbing all thats around you at times so here I am relying on the other expeditioners to pick up my slack. Namely in this case with the video below a new mate by the name of Patrick Davey. Patrick is a Dieso and little dose he know how busy im going to keep him. Anyway here is his video great time laps of departing Selfs Point this time not the usual Mac 4 wharf as they needed to onload fuel from there so this meant we got to go under the bridge.

Video Patrick Davey

Also this season I have Horse or Davis Barringhaus one of the better photographers and he took some amazing pics of the birds on the way sooooo I though I would add them for you.

Antarctic Petrel
Pic David Barringhaus
Black-browed Albatross
 Pic David Barringhaus
Giant Southern Petrel and Snow Petrel (Bloody Big Bird)
Pic David Barringhaus
Giant Southern Petrel
Pic David Barringhaus
Sooty Albatross

Pic David Barringhaus
Royal Albatross
Pic David Barringhaus
Royal Albatross
Pic David Barringhaus

Well as you might have guessed by all this I'm actually here now, we arrived on the 1st not getting off till the 2nd of December. Resupply this year was a little different mainly as it was so late that the ice was unusable. All cargo had to be flown off by chopper meaning that all cage pallets, boxes and cargo could not exceed 800kg, the max weight the the choppers could lift. Resupply started shortly after I arrived and after 3 and a half days it was done and the orange taxi was slowly departing. Couple days of sorting cargo out and it was the weekend again only this is when i started feeling sick. One of the guys on the ship had the flu and well yep I got it and got it good. Haven't felt that bad in a long time, even had to take 3 days off work which I've never done down here.

Well im going to leave it there today, think I've got more then enough for you guys to mull over and keep some for next entry. Next entry expect to see some interesting fish as we have a crew doing some science on fish this year. 

Hope everyone is fit and well.


P.S.                  If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo.
                        Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the  
                        only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it. 
                                                                                                                               Andrew Denton