6 Jan 2007

Farewell Antarctica

Yesterday, it took all day to load the cargo backon board and get ready for sea. Finally, with a blast on the horn at 8:30 pm we were off. In a sudden snow shower, the remaining Casey expeditioners waved goodbye on a hilltop as a orange flare was let off at the station, signalling our departure.

Now (warm inside my bunk on the Aurora) my face still burns as I think about my time in Antarctica. In the early hours of my last morning on Antarctic soil, I walked outside into the bright light and gazed down at the harbour beyond the sparkling white ground that lay under a technicolour sky of yellow, blue and mauve. I remember thinking what a fantasy land this is. The Aurora, anchored in the harbour and waiting to take me home, was also part of this view. It was a reminder that like most humans, I would not be here for long. This is not a place where you live.

At 5.00 am this morning, I jumped out of my bunk to peer from my cabin window. Some people said that we could be in the ice for the next couple of days. Others were confident that we would hit the open ocean by morning… and we did. Apart from occasional icebergs, there was no ice to be seen. Edward Wilson, one of the explorers on Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic expedition in 1911, described the movement of swell in pack ice as constant and gentle — ‘like breathing in sleep’. I could not agree more. I will really miss this.

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