Friday, December 12, 2003
Today was a lot of fun. We progressed 500m! The ice is now thick and our small vessel simply cannot handle it. We are officially 12 km from the station and yet we never felt so far from it. However, this situation made for an excellent day of sight seeing. We saw colonies of Emperor and Adelie penguins passing our boat all day long. They also have to traverse the ice shelf to go between their nests at DDU and the ocean. In fact, they like to hang around the boat, not only because they are in awe in front of my shinny parka but because the amount of ice broken by the Astrolabe is that much less for them to walk. You’d know what I mean if you saw them walking without crutches.
The day was also great to take photos. It was our first sunny day and all the passengers had a ball gazing to what was for most of them their first view of the Antarctic continent (that sentence makes me sound so senior…). After lunch, the captain decided to start taking some of the passengers to DDU by helicopter. It took about five trips but eventually all the technical staff we carried found a new home at the station. Unfortunately all the scientists and I are kept on the boat as our use at DDU does not justify the expensive trip. I also found out that my plane has been delayed to the 16th, another reason to keep me on board. It was decided that the boat would keep trying to get through, slowly breaking 200m of ice per hour. It might take a while but it is still cheaper than getting all the freight to the station by helicopter. In fact they are also using the "squirrel B-3" in recon missions to try to find a breach in the ice for the Astrolabe to pass or more easily break through.
At the end of the day, the remaining passengers were treated to a special dinner for the close-arrival of the Astrolabe to its destination. I now have a room all to myself. The only major catastrophe of the day was that my stash of candies ran out and I must now survive on the 500 boxes of tim-tam left on board until I touch the land.