Life in Antarctica

29 Jan

I have been writing my book on William Speirs Bruce for years (and years).For the past nine months I have been joined by a co=author John Dudeney.
John is in the Antarctic at present and I asked him to send me a short piece about his life there.

This is it:

I am sitting in my cabin on the Akademik Vavilov and outside my porthole is the Gerlache Strait, with the snow covered mountains and glaciers of the Northern Antarctic Peninsula towering over the ship. I have been fortunate enough to have had a career spanning 40 years living and working in and about the Antarctic, followed by a further ten years visiting every year as a guide/lecturer. So this trip is rather special to me, being 50 years since I first encountered, fell in love with Antarctica, and spent two years living here as a scientist and a Base Commander.
Today the sea is calm and the wind light. Flocks of Cape Petrels with their characteristic black and white wing markings are swooping over the sea alongside the ship. The sea is continually being marked by the blows of humpback whales Port and Starboard of the ship, often “fluking” (diving and showing their tails as they do so) to feed on the rich harvest of krill. Sometimes we are thrilled by the sight on one of them “breaching” – leaping right out of the water – a fantastic sight with the majestic mountain landscape as a backdrop. Giant Petrels soar imperiously in the breeze alongside the ship, while their diminutive cousins –the Wilson Storm Petrels – dance over the sea surface, flitting to and fro as they feed on Krill. Occasionally groups of penguins will come porpoising by, busily going about their duties of collecting food for their chicks. And icefloes will have small groups of Crabeater seals lazing away in the sunshine.
Icebergs surround the ship in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Everyone is unique and their shapes make the imagination run wild. Their colours range from sparkling white to deem iridescent blue and green, and occasionally they are marked with lines of soil and ru bble which has come from the grinding of the glaciers as they slowly, so slowly, push their way to the sea.
Over the next few days, as the ship steams south we will have opportunities to land on the continent to hike and to just sit and contemplate penguins in their thousands in their colonies as they go about their business of rearing their young – defending them (mostly successfully) from the prowling predators – Skuas, Giant Petrels and Sheathbills.
What could be better? It certainly beats sitting at home with the barrage of Brexit and Trump news, non-news and speculation!

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