Friday, January 4, 2008

From the Fifties to the Sixties

So much for the Antarctic convergence zone leading to calmer waters (see previous post). We are now nearing the end of the Howling Fifties in great southern ocean style: white-topped waves as far as the eye can see.

There are two sets of waves coming from different directions, leading to a very disorganized sea. The Astrolabe rolls and pitches in an unpredictable manner. This motion is called cork-screwing. It feels like we are ping pong balls in a washing machine.

The sea is beautiful to watch, dark blue fringed with white crests, and dotted with ice-blue patches where waves have broken. There are albatros and other birds circling our ship, but there have been no whale sightings (the sea is too rough for us to distinguish much).

The rumours of us hitting sea ice before long have been confirmed. Apparently the ice pack is still well formed around Dumont d'Urville. Our instructions are to stay out of the navigator's way once we reach the pack, as they will have a lot of manouvering to do.

I'm looking forward to reaching ice, firstly beacause I have never seen an ice-pack for real, much less navigated through one, and secondly because ice-pack equals calm water, and we haven't had any of that since we left Hobart 4 days ago.

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