Dec 5, 2008
We’re here! We survived the Drake Passage, which was a pretty rocky experience (no seasickness but it’s a bit hard to try to sleep when you’re being violently thrown from side to side to such an extent that part of the ceiling in our cabin fell in… and I was on the top bunk) and we reached the ice floes on Monday. It was a pretty dramatic shift because one minute we were just passing through open water and then BAM! ICEICEICEICEICE everywhere. The first day had blue skies, which is rare for Antarctica, so I took the opportunity to snap a lot of pictures while I still had the ability to see sky. Now we’re at the point where the sky is white all the time so it’s tough to tell where the horizon is, because the ‘ground’ is ice and the sky is white and it all seems to lead on into an infinite stretch of brightness. It’s not necessarily because the sun is so powerful that you need sunglasses, but because everything is so overpoweringly white and the sun’s rays reflect off the sea ice back into the sky that you need them to get a better sense of contrast in your vision. When you walk back inside the ship your vision is blurred for a while in the darker atmosphere of your cabin until your eyes readjust to what normal contrast should be. It’s like having a flashlight shone in your face and then needing a few seconds to readjust after seeing everything so much brighter than usual.
View of the sea ice (Bear with the video, it gets clearer!)
A closer look at the ice and currents
I had my Antarctic initiation on Wednesday, a little while after we crossed the Antarctic circle, which was a lot of fun. We can’t pack a lot of extra stuff on board but the people involved put on some pretty creative costumes made out of materials we already had on board. They held all the ‘blue noses’ (new people) in a room to await their turn and then took us one by one for our ceremony, which consisted of having to go through a bit of an obstacle course and ending with a ‘baptism’ into icewater, dunking us into a freezing bucket to welcome us to the culture of Antarctic seafaring. Everyone who has been through the ceremony before in previous years is allowed to participate in initiating the new people, so since I was the only new person in my particular lab group, it was definitely interesting to see my PhD advisor and lab partner dressed up as sea creatures, excited to throw me into a vat of ice.