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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Crossing the Southern Ocean - by Horse

Icy Cargo on the foredeck
Finding Open Streams Close to Bergs
Nothing Keeps a Good Photographer Below Deck
I haven't sailed on many of the oceans of the world, in fact technically only three. Those being the Pacific, Indian and the Southern Ocean.For me, the Southern Ocean is as wild and unhospitable a place that any sailor could venture. It offers you beauty and splendor in the wildlife that follow you, the majesty of icebergs that you pass, and the full voracity of mother natures wind and sea.   The Southern Ocean was only defined as recent as the year 2000 as that stretch of ocean below 60° S that surrounds the continent of Antarctica and does not come into contact with my home continent of Australia. Anyway, regardless of the exact geographical locality of the ocean that stretch between Australia and Antarctica is "bloody" rough and once your past the 60°S mark, cold. This year I traveled down as usual on RSV Aurora Australis. The trip took a more southerly route this time to avoid a low that was driving strong winds and seas directly into our normal path. So we headed pretty much due south towards Antarctica rather than sloping off to the west soon after leaving Tasmania. The seas weren't too bad this year compared with other years (A Voyage to Antarctica by Horse) a maximum of 6m this year. The main difference this year was how quickly we came into sea ice, and how tightly packed it was around the 60°S mark. With overcast  days we were not able to launch our helicopters early to direct us to open "streams" (open water between ice packs) thereby allowing us to maintain good speed. On a few days we were only able to put 1 or 2 Nm(nautical miles) behind us.This in turn put us a week behind schedule in making it to Davis Station

Up Close and Personal with Ice Bergs
Ice Closing in Behind  Showing Little of Where We've Come From
The ice did however allow for some spectacular sights and the cold never keeps keen photographers below decks for long. Ice this year was they tell me some 6m thick  in places which is just amazing given this is yearly ice and not ice that has built up over a number of years like the Northern hemisphere. The RSV Aurora Australis is only a baby icebreaker and while it is a capable ship, she lacks horse power and size to handle that thickness of ice. Of course that is only my opinion as any old salts with years of maritime experience might care to disagree.With the weather not being on the side of photographers this year with cloudy conditions for the most part, my personal endeavours were limited as I find my images appear flat and not to my taste. The weather also limited the number of birds we saw. However, there were many whale sitings this year and crab-eater seals were abundant. Photographing whales from the ship and in those water a little uninteresting with my images looking like those of a slug on a board. Whales don't get up close and personal with ice breaking ships for long.

A Horse on the Helideck during one of our routine musters to explore our fashion sense on the Southern Ocean.Hey I don't pick the colour or style. The water was 1 to 3°C at this time opposed to -1.3°C when we got into the ice.What I have on here would be only good for 5 min. in the ice water before I went into shock. The yellow goretex outfit here is only good for windy days as an outter shell on land or on a helideck.

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