Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04

   

   
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Saturday, December 13, 2003

This morning, the captain decided to try another direction. Yesterday’s effort didn’t get us very far, the ice bring quite thick. So after a recon flight, he found a breach a few kilometers down from where we were. We backtracked out of the ice and followed the ice shelf toward the west. We got to a location where the ice was nice and soft. We could even see the station in the horizon with a pair of binoculars. On the continent I could also see the traverse and the point called DC10 where I’ll be catching my plane in three days.

I spent all day doing what all the remaining passengers did, that is, following the ice breaking from the deck. Since this is all that went on today, let me give you the first lecture of icebreaking 101. With a small ship like the Astrolabe it is not possible to simply run right through the ice like a fat kid through ice cream. Instead, you have to drive through the ice until the ship comes to a complete stop. On average we were able to break about a boat’s length of ice per run. Then, you keep the propellers going in order to create a current behind the boat that flushes the broken ice away. If you don’t do this, the ice would accumulate right behind the boat leaving us eventually trapped. So after about 5 minutes of flushing, the ship backs up about 100 meters in order to get enough momentum for its next break. The method is of course very slow, we got told we traveled about half a mile today. At this pace, there is no way we’ll make it to the station but apparently, every meter gained is enough to save a lot of fuel to the helicopter when it will have to get all the cargo to the station.

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