city of cats…

**I just reread this and realised how lazily it’s written… might have to edit this at some stage . Sorry about that – jmc**

Has it really been a month already? Sorry about that – I’ve been busy doing and not writing about doing for a change.

Lets catch up. Hows life with you? Great to hear!

Me? I’m currently in Istanbul, Turkey taking the long way home via Turkey and Nepal before heading back down to Antarctica in late October for the summer season. Yepo, so that’s definitely happening – more on that later.

So why Turkey you say? A fellow traveler in Romania planted the seed of a visit to Istanbul on my long, meandering trip homewards (cheaper to get home via Istanbul/Nepal than a direct flight from Bucharest). and so far its been on of those completely unplanned pleasures that makes wandering this planet so much fun.

Although nearing the end of week 3 now in Istanbul alone, I’ve only just started to settle in and really see the historic heart and troubled soul of this incredibly complex city.

Istanbul is just so breathtakingly beautiful at times you have to pinch yourself to remind yourself its real.

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where real men fish… (off Galata bridge)…

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and the street cats rule…

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…but first things first.

Last time we chatted I was in Romania, and I flew from Bucharest to Istanbul late last month.

The flight was cheap and uneventful – it was a little sad to leave Romania but it was finally time to move on I guess before I got too comfortable.

Flying TAROM Air, Romania’s national budget carrier – everything went smoothly despite all the negative reviews they get, and I arrived at Istanbul’s Attaturk Airport (on the Asian side) late in the evening.

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The airport wasn’t particularly busy, but it was stifling hot and stuffy. Immigration was a breeze and the lines moved fairly quickly but I was a sweaty mess by the time I got to the barrier (never a good thing), but I guess everyone is here so they just stamped my passport and waved me through.

I’m glad I printed out my E-Visa and had it handy though – some people with an electronic version had trouble at Immigration.

Right. I’m in. So far so good!

First stop at the Attaturk Airport (once done running the Duty Free gauntlet) was to get some local cash from an ATM (easy peasy) and then find a local phone sim. I’d decided to just stay with Vodaphone (sheer laziness) instead of the recommended TurkCell. It was late and the Vodaphone reseller was the first shop I came to.

The language barrier became apparent as soon as I landed as I had done NO prep for the Turkish language at all. The Vodaphone sales rep gave me the whole sales pitch in stilted English as I tried unsuccessfully to keep up using Google Translate. In the end I gave up and just went with his recommendation.

BIG EXPENSIVE MISTAKE.

End result – I got a prepaid sim with 17GB data and 1000 minutes of calls for about 370 Turkish Lira ($80 AUD). That is SUPER expensive (compared to the 5 Euro 50GB/unlimited calls/texts I got in Romania). Turkcell at the airport wasn’t much better.

Lesson learned? DON’T BUY A SIM FROM THE AIRPORT, and definitely don’t buy Vodaphone in Turkey. Go Turkcell and get it once you hit Istiklal St.

Anyway, I had connectivity and navigation now, which made life much easier and I could kick myself for lack of preparation later. It was late – 10pmish – and I had another hour on a bus to get to the Hostel. Ahhh the bus. now where was that shuttle to the City?

After a bit of fluffing around trying to find the right shuttle bay, I found the bus to Taksim, paid my 12 TL, and settled in for the ride. Resting my head against the glass window, the vibration of the bus soothing the jarred airport nerves, I watched the city lights slide by and noticed the traffic building. We crossed a massive suspension bridge, it’s wires and cables glowing a bright crimson red; unbroken streams of honking traffic and flashing headlights flowing relentlessly across its 6 lanes.

‘Wow…busy’, I thought.

Then the bus arrived at the Taksim Square stop.

JEEZ LOUISE!

After the relative quietness of Bucharest (never thought I’d say THAT), landing in Taksim Square, Istanbul was a sensory punch in the face. I’d basically landed in the centre of THE tourist hotspot of Istanbul on a Thursday night and it was a little…hectic.

Bustling and noisy and crowded and everything that I wasn’t expecting (idiot), it took me a few moments to adjust before checking Google Maps and heading off towards my hostel, weaving through back streets and narrow alleys before finally turning on Istiklal Street.

WTF! TOO MANY PEOPLE.

Istiklal Street stopped me in my tracks as I tried to adjust to this new level of chaos. It was a swirling tidal wave of babbling humanity, people coming at you from every conceivable angle, bumping and thumping or elbowing past.

I was drowning slightly in this swollen flood of people and the sheer energy of it all was ferociously overwhelming. Pushing my way to the edge, I swam across the human rip and finally slipped into a sidestreet to escape the crowd and get back on track.

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Ahhh…so close! Just down this dark narrow alley.

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Only 2 streets off the chaos, down an eerily silent and deserted back alley,Β  I find my little Jumba hostel, a wonderful family run Hostel snuggled in between cafes and antique shops and my home for the next 3 weeks.

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After a bit of a ‘Mission Impossible’ session to find the right door, enter the access code, find the hidden keys in a bookcase and figure out the trick to open the Hostel door, it was a self check in to a quiet, empty Hostel and a massive sigh of relief. I was finally here.

11.30pm Thursday – I’m in and can try to get some sleep before heading out to explore my new home bright and early tomorrow.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..

5.30am Friday morning, a call to prayer blasts me awake from the mosque right across the street…oh well I’m not getting any more sleep so why not. It’s a nice way to wake up actually, and a perfectly beautiful day to start exploring πŸ™‚

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So what to do on Day 1? It was stinking hot and humid by 7am so the first port of call was coffee.Β  All I had to do was find a decent coffee shop closeby, and MAN was I in luck.

Staying in the heart of Beyoglu was pure luck as its full of art galleries, boutiques, cafes and third wave coffee shops…I’m in caffeine heaven here at the moment, and I soon found Kronotrop roastery about 3 minute walk away. BRILLIANT coffee and a quick double espresso plus croissant got me started for a long way of walking.Istanbul.

Now you’ll remember that I did virtually NO research on Istanbul. What I didn’t realise is that this city is built on 7 hills and is much like the hilliest parts of San Francisco pretty much all over.

If you walk, its a hillclimb all the way.

The first day I walked 17kms and by the end of it my legs were cramping and I was exhausted. But I felt AMAZING and had walked all over my neighbourhood to get my bearings, then headed farther and farther afield. By the end of the day I had a good grip of where I was and the layout of the city (at least this part).

Day 2 and 3 were me realising how massive this city is and how I cant possibly hope to explore it all even in 3 weeks (especially on foot, as Day 2 was over 20kms of city hiking, day 3 close to 24km).Β  My “dont have a plan” plan wouldn’t work here.

So I made a list : what were the touristy things to see and how could I get them out of the way first.

Galata Tower, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum, Grand Bazaar, Egyptian Spice Bazaar, Bosphorus tour. These were the dot points that every other 3 day backpacker hits when they come to Istanbul, so I set out with a plan to cover them all off over the next few days and then dig a little deeper once I scratched that “tourist” itch.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday I walked close to 100kms around this city from dawn til dusk, at first ticking the tourist boxes and then getting purposefully lost. If I recognised a street, I’d turn off it just to see where the new road led.

Getting lost in a new city with no time constraints is a wonderful luxury and the best possible way to explore. Pretty soon I was heading out into areas that the tourists didn’t go. To the not so pretty areas, to the ruined derelict buildings and the garbage filled empty lots filled with streets cats, barking dogs and rotting refuse.

To the tourist free parts of town where life happens.

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I learned that the street dogs with the green ear tags are rabies free and that the others aren’t. (soooo many street dogs). That the street cats here are actually well loved and cared for (it’s a City of Cats and its just wonderful).

I discovered that street food is safe and plentiful and I that need to try the stuffed clams and the fish sandwiches. That Gosleme and Manti are super easy to make and that a shot of aniseed flavoured Raki will blow your socks off. That Turkish standup comedy is hilarious and Open Mike Nights in English here are a lot of fun. That the roar of the city wide Call to Prayer is ‘live” here and not recorded, that the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia ‘sing’ to each other at Prayer Times, and that the Romans actually did actually do amazing things here that persist today (like the massive Basilica water cistern under the city and the 12 miles of aqueduct that supplied it)

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I also learned that the Internet is heavily monitored and censored by the government, that using VPNs is illegal here, and that negative online comments about the country and it’s leader can land you in prison. I wandered along discretely with the now-banned weekly ‘Saturday Mothers’ protest, snapping away quietly until the plainclothes Police began arresting people and the Riot Police moved in with water cannon trucks and tear gas; eventually getting noticed, picked up and questioned by the uniformed Police about being at this protest – ‘Who are you, what are you doing here, give me your camera…” – *more on this later.

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I was bewitched by the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and the Suleiman mosque, and the history on display at the Museums and Galleries, and found more of this city’s Roman and Byzantine history that is ever mentioned in the tourist brochures, and what I discovered delighted me.

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to be continued (once I’m in Nepal…)

…lucky?

So I’m back again. Regional Australia, Western NSW. Dubbo. The temperature is over 32 degrees, the air is still and the outback sun is blasting down under an endless blue sky. The sudden jump in temperature from my previous home is hard to take. Antarctic-induced pale skin is starting to burn red and I’m still wearing the same clothes that I have for the past 6 months.

With 8 hours in suspended animation on Tuesday (as I flew from Hobart to Sydney to Dubbo,) Ive been dreading coming back here. It’s like picking at an open emotional wound; scratching at the bloody crust and sticking your fingers deep inside the cut.

Every time I come back there is that awful cold splash of reality and raw-nerve memory that seems to erase whatever healing has come before – undoes it all in an instant and drags me into past traumas.

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*You’re welcome…Β  πŸ˜‰

This particular homecoming has been very different in that I’m adulting it for a change (instead of burying my head in the sand or running, which are my usual methods of dealing).

The familiar landmarks, places and faces here still cause twinges of guilt/sadness/grief but this time they’re barely discernible. Definitely still there but nowhere near as strong and they seem to pass quickly.

Perhaps finally I’m moving on; past the breakup that caused me so much grief 2 years ago and sent me spinning off blindly into the world (2 years! ffks); coming to uncertain terms with my parents passing; accepting my own newly-realised mortality and then serendipitously finding a new direction in a life that I’d felt was rapidly going down the toilet.

It’s taken these first two traumatic events to give me momentum enough to pull my head out of my arse – do something other than wallow in numbing grief and paralysing self pity. Blindly running for the past 2 years, its time to start adulting.

Move forward and take risks. Travel. Live. Love. Endure.

Heady stuff.

Maybe I’m finally healing; it’s emotional growth and my internal work is finally paying off.

Meh.

Maybe I just need coffee.

Good Friday today : luckily my sisters bakery cafe is open and I make the 3km walk down to mitigate my caffeine (lack of) /red wine (excess of) induced headache.

MMMM long black and a ham salad baguette…topped off with a panadol.

Perfect.

Everyone I’ve seen here in the past 2 days have been so nice and welcoming, excited by my experiences and almost everyone has commented how lucky they think I am to have these opportunities.

I disagree.

Sorry folks but it’s not luck.

I do feel very fortunate for sure, but lucky? I’ve worked hard all my life to get the qualifications and experience to let me do what I do. Luck has never come into it; there is no mysterious benefactor handing our favors to me, I don’t gamble and I try to embrace whatever opportunity arises.

This is key I think – to stay hungry (cliched but appropriate) and remain open to opportunity – especially be ready to move fast when it finally appears.

Learning from past mistakes is a no-brainer, but it’s really hard to consciously break those unconscious patterns that hold you back…it’s hard, but not impossible once you recognise them.

So what’s helped me the most?

Yoga (yes really!), meditation (essential) and the yoga studies (fascinating) I’ve been doing: plus the support of Yoga buddies (love u guys) – they’ve all unlocked the means to allow me to grow and have really changed my life.

I’ve got a handle on these pattern fuckers and their time is up.

Anyhoo… Its been super nice of my sister to let me stay for a few weeks until I get sorted out hereΒ  – homeless at the moment until I decide whats next – but again only want to be here for the MINIMUM amount of time possible.

So my plans this time out? Not to make a plan. My strategies of Plans A,B,C to ad nauseum have actually held me back and in hindsight have made me more inflexible.

I have some practical tasks to achieve first; a week long IT Cabling course in Canberra, renew my St Johns First Aid (another 2 day course), and get my old rental house and passport sorted.

Then that’s it. I’m outta here. For good.

πŸ™‚

**Oh and I’ve met someone. In Tasmania of all places. Early days yet but we shall see what happens. More on that as events arise – for better or worse it’ll make for some interesting stories.

…roundtripper

This will be a blomit and I’ll fix it later.

Read at own risk as this is a brain dump from the past 2 weeks at sea during the Macquarie Island resupply (v4)

Well this trip is certainly a very different journey so far … what is this ‘work’ thing that I’m expected to do?

Ha πŸ™‚

The last 4 weeks ( v1 and v3) on the Aurora Australis were as an Expeditioner – so my actual job started when I got to the research station and my days on the ship were filled with endless free time.

This short trip so far ?

Flat out. So busy! 12 hours days (7am-7pm) so far and so much to learn. I expected as much and I’m loving it.

We had dolphins again escort us out of Hobart, and I barely got up into the fresh air ( 4 hours after leaving) before the ship did an handbrake turn and headed back towards Hobart. There had been a critical piece of scientific equipment left on the docks, and it couldn’t be left behind. It would be loaded on a fast boat 🚀 and we would steam back to meet the boat somewhere off Hobart.

An almost 8 hour exercise in backtracking. The unexpected bonus being we all got cell service ( and Internet) back on the ship – so some frantic last minute app updating and software download occurred.

Was actually a lucky πŸ€ break that we turned back as it proved useful to solve many IT issues that would not have been resolved otherwise ( no internet on the ship, you see)

So we rinse and repeated – did a ship to ship transfer of the kit, rechecked the manifests, and turned once again towards Macquarie Island. The dolphins rested us a little less enthusiastically this time, but we were finally on our way.

The ocean was like a barely stirring millpond – barely a swell nor roll to be felt onboard, and the night brought overcast skies and a promising sunset.

Saturday was a long day – 12 hours of drills, briefings, and IT problem solving. It vanished in a haze of weariness by 7pm, and I decided to put on an Oscars themed movie night for this voyage in the cinema onboard – all the top nominated pics from this year’s Oscars. (yes I got fast internet in Hobart and abused it completely)

Let’s see how the movie night goes over the next few weeks… tonight I’m starting with The Shape Of Water , which is my new favourite film for several reasons, only one of which is related to the film.

It’s Sunday now, and the seas have decided to challenge us as we approach Macquarie Island, only 24 hours away.

The Southern Ocean is not happy to be woken so early on a Sunday and I’m not thrilled about it either.

Monstrous grey waves 🌊 angrily pound and crash across our portholes; wind-whipped white capped 6 metre waves , driven mercilessly by a 35 knot wind, have finally started to make this trip interesting and the bulk of the passengers are hiding in their cabins (seasick or watching movies on their laptops)

All my morning tasks are complete and I’ve just flicked in our vhf repeater in preparation for the boating operation tomorrow.

Let’s see what today brings πŸ™‚

… more of the same.

Fleet broadband communication issues outgoing from the ship to station was a headache as was getting support out of Kingston ( being a weekend and a public holiday, key support personnel were uncontactable – which always sucks). Best efforts were made but issues and workarounds are the order of the day here so we did the best we could.

The seas are calming also, which is a good sign for the operations ahead.

So now it’s Monday, and the Groundhog Day feeling was just starting to kick in again as a shadowy cloud front on the horizon slowly revealed itself to be Macquarie Island.

The upper bridge was packed as word spread around the ship : we were here.

For the incoming Winterers, this was to be their new home for 6 to 12 months. For the roundtripper, this was where the next 10 days would be spent frantically trying to complete projects and objectives before the weather turned it they ran out of time.

Science and logistics in competition with the plant and its elements in a race against the clock.

Today, Team Science is a clear winner, as the waves calm and the winds drop.

Boating operations with the IRBs ( zodiacs) and the LARCs ( repurposed military DUCKS) commenced and the passengers and equipments started to flow.

King penguin flocks (?) escort the IRBs to and from the ship, their curiosity drawing them closer and closer. More and more animals are visible in the beach but we are just a little too far away to see clearly what they are.

I’m on Bunker Door duty today – a special door usually reserved for pilot transfer in the side of the ship – the three of us being team leads for the next 10 days. Day 1 we are learning the ropes – literally.

It’s a great gig – and we are close (15 feet or so) to the waterline. We will be controlling the passengers and their baggage on and off the ship – passenger processing basically : biosecurity checks and boot baths, PPE and life jacket checks, carry on luggage transfer and of course, helping people climb up and down the long swaying rope and timber ladder slung out over the side of the ship – the only was passengers can get in or off the ship here.

It’s fun to do something different and not IT related. Plus am getting some great photos from this perspective.

Tonight I’m putting on Blade Runner 2049 in the theatre here – continuing the Oscars 2018 theme πŸ˜‰

Tuesday and our Phone issues seem to have finally been sorted out by head office. Having a long weekend back home makes support difficult and frustrating but luckily there are some talented people that know what they are doing.

The ship is deserted as most of the expedition era are leaving this morning to commence their operations on the island.

I have a shirt 3 hour shift in bunker door today, and then am helping out where I can. I have to stay on the ship – Comms Officer and all that – in case they have to haul ass outta here.

Hopefully when the returning Comms guy get on board later in the week I’ll get a chance to go ashore.

**also met Emily coming out of Macca – a friend of Ashley’s (my old housemate) and Kim (summering Bio at Davis with me). It’s a small world indeed.

A little extra duty today as I’ve been tapped in the shoulder to assist the DVL with cargo and manifest duties in deck – helping with the logistics of moving hundreds of pallets/cages of equipment off the ship and into station. We are boating everything across using the ducks ( LARCs) and IRB for passenger tender. It’s certainly a change of pace for me and it’s great to be up on deck where the action is πŸ™‚

I’m a little ill today I think… tired and flat. There’s been a virus getting around on board and I think I’m coming down with something. It’s always seems to happen with an influx of new expeditioners. Some bug ran rampant – an early night for me I think πŸ™‚

Tonight’s movie is Lady Bird.

Wednesday : this place looks like the Island from Jurassic Park. I’m not convinced that there aren’t dinosaurs there. It looks…cinematic.

We circle the island at night and come up close to the station during the day, waiting for the weather window to start ops.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

The winds have come up and although the oceans are smooth, SOPs won’t allow boating operations until the winds drop below a certain speed. The remaining 15 or so personnel waiting to go ashore are in hourly standby but at this stage it look that best case we’ll get refuelling some but that’s it.

Looking for work onboard today – digging in corners for things to fix so I don’t have to update documentation (ugh). Save that for the trip back.

So tired today I just want to sleep.

Lates, my peeps.

Tonight’s movie is I, Tonya.

Thursday now, and the last of the day trippers have gone ashore. There are three expeditioners left on the ship and it’s eerily quiet.

I’m stuck on board and today is the first day I’ve been bored. There’s nothing to help out with and no tasking from the Div. I might help out in the kitchen.

The island is a 15 minute swim away 😦 but the weather changes every 5 minutes from sun to rain to sleet to snow and then back again

Monday 19th – has it really only been a week???

Feels like an eternity now.

There’s only three of us that haven’t gone ashore yet, and it looks like we won’t. The weather is our enemy here and every window of opportunity is focused on cargo and projects.

Since Friday we have done nothing by dodge the weather and stooge up and down the coast, hiding from the swell, swooping in to anchor quickly to put whatever we could ashore whenever we can.

We may we’ll be late back to Hobart but at this stage it’s all a big ? – completely dependent on the wind, waves and swell. The uncertainty is fucking annoying to be honest – you can’t plan anything and have to be prepared at a moments notice to move.

For the past week or so I’ve been team lead on our bunker door team – basically passenger control and quarantine for peeps getting on or off the ship – and that’s been fun. Hanging out a door in the side of the ship helping people up and down the ladder only a few metres above the water gives you a new perspective on the ocean and the island . **I cracked the viewfinder glass on my good camera (grrr) on some dangling metal fitting on the harness we have to wear. Hope it’s a cheap replacement :/

Finally saw The Last Jedi – Sunday night movie 🍿 here and what a beautifully shot piece of shit that was. Such a stupid movie with stupid characters making stupid decisions and stupid speeches. And the stupid attempts at comedy. And Frozen Space Leia. And that whole stupid lame casino caper fucktarded thing. And Porgs. And mincing villains with Family Guy- type humour. And Phasmas big moment. AAARGH FFKS. My God, Disney are killing Star Wars already. So disappointed 😒… ut it was absolutely beautifully shot and designed though…kudos for that but the whole story was a b grade stinker.

Monday 19th and nothing has changed. We are advised to bunker down and burn the day. Great. Movies, read my books and the odd IT job to do. Yawn. Another 12 hour shift on call.

Tuesday 20th and we’re still here.

No cargo ops today although they are going to try after lunch. The weather is improving as is the ocean conditions – still a day and a half of cargo ops that they need to do so it looks like we are staying out til it’s done…

I’ve started a midday movie and afternoon tv session in the theatre and as boredom kicks in on board, I’m getting quite a few people in πŸ™‚

Today it’s a 12.30pm matinee of “The Shape of Water” , then at 3pm my “Stranger Things” marathon finally starts πŸ™‚ … tonight it’s “Bone Tomahawk” at 7.30 for some Western action.

Tomorrow is another ” maybe you can go ashore depending on the weather” day but I’m not holding my breath. It’d be nice to get into the island for a while and explore but my world won’t end if I don’t . I’m getting a bit sick of being on the ship to be honest – it has been almost a month at sea now if you don’t count the 3 days alongside between voyages – cooped up inside isn’t a lot of fun.

Im running out of things to do so to stay productive I’m starting on documentation.

DOCUMENTATION!!!

That’s how bored it’s getting now it’s not that busy. I keep asking myself (and everyone else in my chain of command) “is there anything I should be doing that I’m not?”. The answer seems to be “as long as you keep the punters happy”.

So far so good.

This post is too long and boring

To be continued.

Whodathunk

Tuesday.

I’m just back at the Winston for dinner ( Beer and burger) before hitting the cinemas again to see Black Panther – the late show.

They do brew a damn fine pint.

( oh and weapon of choice tonight again is the Winston burger REMIX: sheer genius for you burger connoisseurs out there. This is basically a bacon double cheeseburger served in a Cinnebon but add fries and a horseradish/wasabi sauce …. mmmmmm kill me now I die happy)

… skip to 9.30pm – Beer and burger buzz installed successfully. Just waiting for the film to start and I’m the only one here.

πŸ™‚ perfect.

Hey let’s chat!

So what’s new?

Im glad you asked!

…after a relatively breezy Monday of debriefs and goodbyes, I thought that all this talk of readjustment issues on return from Antarctica was a load of bunk.

It’s only been 4 months!

What could possibly change!

Well! Let me tell you …

I now have super powers ( at least temporarily)

Whodathunknit!

1. Super Hearing – In the 10 story apartment block I’m in, I can hear a constant hum of conversation all the time – like hundreds of voices gibbering in my head – except they are not in my head ( God at least I hope not – can you hear them, Frank?).

I had to leave a cafe today as there was a group of people talking extremely loudly and it was massively unsettling.

2. Super smell – the vehicle exhausts, petrochemicals and even cigarette smells are driving me crazy.

3. Super Chatty (shut up, you) – I can’t stop talking to strangers. My shopping rounds today took all day as I bloody well introduced myself to people in shops, randoms in cinemas, and many cafe people and had a damn good chat.

4. Super Confidence – I’m 10 foot high and bulletproof at the moment.

5. Super tired – not sleeping at all (See 1.)

6. Super restless – I can’t stop moving. 20km walking around town yesterday, 10km today so far. Crazy! (See 7.)

7. Super Caffeination – I can’t get enough good β˜•οΈ. Yum.

8. Super Preparedness – all packed and ready to go to Macquarie Island.

9. Super Luckiness – to have worked with so many awesome people.

10. Super gratefulness – to be handed these opportunities and have the life I have.

Not a bad top 10 of super powers, I reckon.

So I have powers now, and as with great power comes great responsibility, I promise to use them for good and not evil purposes.

(Unless it’s all because of the caffeine, in which case it’s every person for themselves)

Sorry World but I’m fairly certain it’s less Antarctica and more the caffeine… mwahahaaa

Now all I have to do is get on the ship Friday morning and not fuck it all up for the next few weeks.

Totally and honestly, I’m loving life at the moment.

*chatted to my lovely and intelligent daughter Isabel today ( she’s the coolest, smartest, most quick witted chick I know – giving me shit for an inaccurate Bitmoji )

**bought a syndicate entry in the 30 million $ lotto tonight – if you don’t hear from me again, I’ve won.

***there’s a new Jack Reacher novel out!!!!

****AND I saw The Shape Of Water finally – so beautifully moving moving, original and a wonderful film – I’ve fallen in love with cinema all over again – thank you Guillermo πŸ™πŸ»

Happy days!!!!

πŸ™‚

…back

We just rounded the lighthouse at the tip of Tasmania and got cell service! Guess that means I’m back, at least for a little while.

Mixed feelings today, but the dolphins that surfed our wake and escorted us in definitely put a smile on my dial.

Will be in our berth by 2pm, hotel by 4pm and in the pub by 6pm (hopefully) for final drinks and lots of farewells.

Warning : This will be a blomit of thoughts from the past 2 weeks at sea. Reading it is up to u. Pics and vids later as I edit for clarity.

It’s Wednesday after my last post and the second day at sea, aboard the Aurora Australia bound for Hobart … it’s just on dinner time – 5.30pm – and I’m in my top bunk just staring out the porthole at the rolling grey seas outside. Just thought I’d try to write something to capture some moments on the trip home.

What happened yesterday?

Well not much and I slept for most of it. The first night out was typical – 1 snorer in a 3 berth cabin makes for shitty sleep. I haven’t suffocated him in his sleep yet but it’s still early in the trip and I have a spare pillow.

Accidents happen at sea.

Joking!

Or am I …

Probably not.

*The snoring gene needs to be wiped from the gene pool sometime and I’m happy to do my bit.

The ocean is beautiful tonight.

Anyway I slept most of Tuesday and spent the afternoon catching up with the other returning expeditioners. Brendan the ITO at Mawson is aboard and we chatted briefly about our experiences and the ups and down of station life.

There was an aurora rumoured to be visible around 2am and I tried to stay up for it – reading in bed – but fell asleep and was awoken 10 hours later by the ships emergency alarm and a Muster.

(Picture a sleeping cat suddenly thrown into a bathtub. That’s me)

Falling elegantly out of a top bunk is a skill that I’m still developing.

After the throwing on the emergency survival gear and tromping up to the freezing helicopter deck for a Muster and Emergency drill, it was time for a quick coffee to defrost before grabbing my camera and spending the next 7 hours happily shutterbugging away on the freezing decks.

We punched our way through the seaice all last night and for most of today, the ship weaving around the larger bergs and crunching through the ice floes, scattering more seals that I’ve seen in the past 3 months.

On the gently undulating icepack, rhythmically pulsing with the ocean swell below, the number of seals was astonishing – family groups of Weddells, Crabeater, and fur seals were lounging around wherever you looked.

**I saw my first leopard seal this morning about 10 metres from the ship but my damn camera card screwed up (flaky write protect) and wouldn’t write. Camera locked up as the perfect leopard seal photo vanished in my viewfinder.

Naturally I had a mini tantrum – stress does weird things to people and I definitely qualify as that now.

Stomped my foot, swore viciously, loudly, profusely and (much to my embarrassment) was overheard by someone that hadn’t heard me swear ever. 😬 πŸ™Š I do have a talent for it.

They were a little shocked. I was a little embarrassed. Awesome.

Anyhoo the bird life was also crazy : giant Petrels, Albatross, snow Petrels and several other kinds I’ve not seen yet.

We punched slowly past massive icebergs carved into art by the churning grey-green ocean; then even larger bergs covered in vast colonies of sea birds.

At one point the sky was swarming with several wheeling masses. Disturbed by the ships passage they flocked in flowing feathery swirls inked black against the fading greys and icy whites of the Southern ocean.

Tens of thousands of birds covering icebergs hundreds of miles from land. Mesmerising to watch and it even surprised the biologists among us.

I’ve had to defrost my hands several times today (despite the gloves) and it’s the first time they’ve been painfully numb from the cold…a hot water defrost causing actual pain. oops again.

It is below freezing still.

Anyway after a few hours of editing and sorting my photos and videos, I adjourned to the cabin for a snooze.

**just been told I snoozed through a whale alert – pod of whales πŸ‹ sighted … dammit :/

I’m going to skip dinner and go back to 1 meal a day I think. Put on 6 kilos since October and it’s not from exercise, I can tell you πŸ™‚

So as of now, there’s a swell and we’ve broke free of the pack ice into the open ocean. The ship is rocking and a rolling and I’m in heaven again. I’ve been wandering around this afternoon whistling and singing to myself like a crazy person.

It’s so good to be back on the ship though – I think I love being at sea πŸ™‚

** so much for skipping dinner …chicken schnitzel and veges mmmmmmm .. best sit up in the bridge for a while and check out the views while dinner settles.

Thursday morning was hard to take as from late Wednesday evening the ship began its trademark wallowing in the east swells.

For some reason it was impossible to sleep as the unusual action combined with shoddy bunks to produce a deafening groan and creak every time the ship rolled.

Let’s not forget 2am also brings the snorer into play. Fkn awesome and I left my earplugs in Antarctica.

About 4am sleep finally came for me so when the sun streamed in about 11.30pm ( the start of lunch) my first thought was to stagger up in deck for some fresh air and wake up before diving into the bowels of the ship to find the Mess.

Up one ladder and a flight of stairs into the Helicopter deck and I stepped out into a warm cloudy but yet sunshiney morning.

Stifling a yawn I wandered over to the starboard side and glanced out as the sun cleared the clouds.

There was a commotion below.

My ears almost touched behind my head, so wide was my smile.

Humpbacks!

We had stopped to recover and redeploy a whale mooring – a underwater bouy that helped track and record the migratory movements of whales.

We were in the middle of a whale migration freeway, and we’d be here for hours.

πŸ™‚ hee heee!!

I flew downstairs to grab my camera.

The pair circled the ship once, twice – a little wary but not afraid. One of the crew said that usually a pod that’s been hunted will scatter but these guys were just super curious and probably hadn’t come across humans before. Lucky for them.

This was the first time in my life I’ve seen humpbacks and they were virtually in my lap!

A small group of us stood out on the helo deck and watched the whales wander off into the distance…a clinking and clunking from below from the recovery of the whale mooring equipment (an underwater satellite of electronics in a sealed unit about the size and shape of a 44 gallon drum). The device (2000 metres or so below) had responded to its radio signal from the ship, released its ballast and after a 20 minute ascent from the bottom of the ocean, bobbed to the surface for recovery. The replacement device was already prepped and the operation was then repeated in reverse, the experiment was reset for the next 12 months, and we were on our way again.

… skip to Tuesday 27th. 5 days later and all of them Groundhog Days.

Driven slightly mad by lack of deep sleep – thanks 2am snorer – life became very simple. Eat, sleep, read, repeat.

*the snoring starts every single night at 2am ish and goes til 4am ish – like clockwork. I woke out of a short sleep last night, threw my top bunk mattress into the floor and slept on the floor of the cabin to escape the groaning bunk beds -when the deep gurgling snoring began, I started awake and yelled out “choke already you bastard” before I was awake – not my finest moment*

The routine aboard the AA can become extremely so. After settling in, the 90 or so passengers aboard vanished into their own rooms and worlds of report writing, watching movies on their laptops, or reading. Social time was mealtimes, and napping πŸ’€ was the second most popular pastime. Breakfast 7.30-8.30, lunch 11.30-12.20, dinner 5.30-6.30. Outside of those times the ship was a ghost ship as the station based social habits ebbed away.

Everyone has become introverted to a degree, for a little while at least – cocooned in this big orange chrysalis while we transition to whatever our evolved forms will be.

There was a small core of hardy gym enthusiasts, card players and readers that hung in there but the bulk of the passengers were in hibernation.

None for me, thanks πŸ™πŸ»

So the past few days highlights included :

AURORA!! a few clear nights and a few short partial deep green banded auroras lighting up the sky for the briefest of moments through a rare hole in the clouds. Another first for me πŸ™‚

RAIN! I felt the rain on my face again for the first time since October last year and it was good.

HUMIDITY! The abnormal dryness of the Antarctic air is gone, replaced with a blessed moisture.

HEAT! It’s consistently above 3 degrees now, 5 degrees as I type this; shorts and t-shirt weather for us all in the rare sun breaks that we are starting to have.

TIME! We had a 4 hour time change just now – so are now aligned with Mainland Australia again.

CALM OCEANS! Under 5 metre swell and 30 Knott winds all the way. This equals a good nights sleep 😴 for a change and we’ve been making almost 14 knots instead of 10/11 which means…

EARLY ARRIVAL! So as of today, we have 5 days to go and should get in to port around midday on Sunday – almost 3 days earlier than expected.

Wednesday 28th: post 4 hour time warp. Weather is almost 8 degrees but cloudy and rainy with a 5 metre swell and light winds. Stayed up talking til the wee hours. Late dinner at 6pm/10pm. No sleep last night – finally drifted off at 4am/8am and woke a few hours later … crawled out of bed for lunch at 7am/11am and it’s a ghost ship again. My body clock is so broken my eyes hurt… Everyone is suffering today. Hanging out in my rack watching Californication and trying to reset .πŸ’€

OMG – the snorer must die.

Skip to Friday 1st March, after everyone recovered from the time change and the routine kicked back in.

The weather is hovering around sunny and 10 degrees. It’s barely raining now. People are out on the helo deck in shorts and t shirts getting some rays.

**Had my Comms Officer briefing today. One of my roles on V4 is to manage Emergency Satellite and Radio Comms if there is a critical event. Like the radio operator on the Titanic I’ll be tap tap tapping away when the ship sinks – or catches πŸ”₯ or pirates attack – something like that πŸ™‚ Was shown all the radio and satellite gear and procedures so let’s hope I never have to use them!

We are all anxious to get back to Hobart now – only a few days to go. Saturday will see a final emergency drill, cleaning our cabins and getting our gear ready to go through Customs etc in Sunday afternoon.

There’s not much happening today but a formalish dinner tomorrow night really underlines that this current chapter is over.

Skip to Sunday – we just rounded the lighthouse at the tip of Tasmania and are in the final run to Hobart.

This morning the ships was abuzz with cabin cleaning and last minute packing. Getting our Customs and quarantine stuff in a pile and filling in paperwork.

The first views of land at dawn was a final confirmation that this part of our journey is over.

All that remains now is to get into port ( around 2pm), clear Customs (3pm) and then get through the official welcome home ceremony and have a few well earned red 🍷.

Then a debrief at the Division headquarter Monday, a few meetings and I’ll have a few days free before sailing off to Macquarie Island in Friday for another 2 week voyage and the station resupply.

I could get used to this kind of life.

πŸ™‚

Out.

‘Straya…

Time for a cheery post!

Really!

It’s the day after Australia Day 2018 at Davis Station, and the sheer lack of people at 7am is unsurprising (considering how the evening was shaping up when I bailed at 11pm)

Australia Day for us is a bit like the 4th of July in the USA, and it can get just as bogan…interesting. It’s a day of celebration or mourning, depending on whether you came on a boat or walked here. (don’t even start)

So lets blog…catch up…shoot the shit…chew the fat…how are you? Whats new? I’m well…thanks for asking.

Deciding not to hide out, and having a rare 3 days in a row off, Australia Day 2018 began pretty damn well with a sleep in and a quiet breakfast overlooking the cranky penguin molting on the bottom steps of the LQ and Mess.

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This little fella was not happy and had solidly planted himself in THE single most inconvenient place in the entire station to start his summer molt. These guys will just pick a random spot and plonk themselves down for days, squarking the crap out of anyone that comes close, his little penguin body language saying it all – “just F*ck off and leave me alone”.

Most people here can relate as its getting to the pointy end of the season.

We cant just shoo them off, so being the environmentally aware crew that we are, he was quickly ‘hatted off’ and left to his own devices as the people here in station began to wander in for breakfast and prepare for the Australia Day festivities.

So…what would today bring?

Well apart from Terry the Plumber begin a massive media sensation back home and in the UK ( his Australian citizenship ceremony was performed here on Wednesday, which apparently was only the second time in history it’s happened down in Antarctica), we had the Olympic Games – Antarctic style.

A full program for the sporty types : the Davis Inaugural Olympic Games comprising of a dazzling array of team sporting events on the beach in sizzling sub zero weather and grey skies followed by cricket in the Green Store. It was a teams event and a veritible united nations of countries represented.

For the non-sporties or the generally disinterested, I ran up Crocodile Dundee and then Crackerjack in the theatrette for an afternoon of Aussie themed comedy – basically on autoplay.

Today it is bloody freezing outside, no sun with 20 knot winds and a wind chill down to -7.Β  Cold enough to cancel the traditional Australia Day swim (much to the relief of many).

Making a wise decision to actually watch the Olympics from the comfort of the leather lounges, heating and open bar of the upper living area I was quickly joined by a non-sportie crew to watch the fun and games through the large bay windows overlooking the beach.

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So began the 5 hours or so of merciless commentary from our impromptu peanut gallery: a veritable “This Sporting Life” with Roy and HGΒ  – Antarctic style.

‘Best Public Urination’ was hotly contested, as was ‘Craziest Penguin Attack’, ‘Most Hypothermic Competitor’, and ‘Shittest Long Jump’.

As the afternoon ground on, the pace slowed even more but the fun continued :Β  ‘Worst Tunnelball Throw’ was a nailbiter; ‘Longest Lingering Butt Slap’, ‘Most Homoerotic Male Wrestling’, and “Most Unneccesary Touching”Β  drew big crowds; and finally ‘Best Team Desertion’ and ‘Most Imaginative Buggering Off Home’ brought the afternoon to an shivering anticlimax.

(Of course our proudest day wouldn’t be complete without that old familiar chestnut: muscular bearded men and women in tights sports skins running around wearing Australian flags as capes)

Needless to say I will NOT be posting the videos. They may have to be burned.

Hmmm on second thought…could be useful!

I don’t think I’ve laughed so much for a long time and actually had trouble filming the events (must remember to wipe the audio)Β  as I was constantly having to wipe tears from my eyes from laughing too much as we tore shreds of the unfortunate and mildly hypothermic competitors freezing to death on the frosty beach below.

Heheheh….Suckers <sips beer, eats microwaved Vegemite and Cheese scroll, puts feet up>

Much like the real Olympics though, the Davis version was overly long and unnecessarily cruel. Case in pointΒ  – the last event : The Marathon.

After 5 torturous competitive hours in the cold, team champions were subjected to a series of situps/pushup challenges and then a almost-2 Km marathon sprint with a 10KG weight to bring back from the half way turnaround point – WTF!! Might as well kicked them in the groin as well just for fun.

A few competitors are still running. One stopped to have a leak. Several sorta slinked away and hid behind shipping containers til the pack returned. Many were tackled by boozy overexcited teammates on the way back. I’m fairly certain at least one person cried.

You can imagine the scene I’m sure.

Fortunately everyone that survived the beach had a great time and proudly wore their Gold Silver and Bronze medals way into the evening.

Overall it wasΒ  a massive success and absolutely frickin’ hilarious to watch.

Around 5pm, after the hordes descended on the Mess for dinner and then hit the bar the party got started with a home-baked “Hottest 100” put together by Sammy S (her 30th birthday as wellΒ  – Happy Birthday Sam!) and favourites chosen by Expeditioners and beamed out over slushy Fm (one of our local FM transmitters) – an eclectic collection of music ranging from death metal to electronic pop with a shit ton of 90s alt rock and “classic hits” that got most of the crowd up and singing.

Then as per every Australia day ever, the booze flowed, people loosened up and the evening started to get sloppy as expected (myself included). People start tackling each other, the darts comp starts to throw from 10 metres through a crowd, the volume of the conversations increase to drown our the music which then increases to overcome the volume of the conversation…we’ve all been there.

But it was really so much fun to get involved and chat/talk shit and just relax.

The tempo of the evening started to ramp up, people were getting sillier and looser, the conversation getting less conversational, voices raised, music louder and louder…

At one point a Canadian kicked the blow up Boxing Kangaroo across the room. That drew some bristles immediately. Right about then I thought there may be blood and that possibly it was time to go.

Then, rather dramatically around 10pm, the main powerhouse went down and we suddenly were plunged in silence and darkness.

Kerchunk.

Uh oh.

No lights. No heating. No tunes. OH SHIT the beer fridges are out.

The on call sparkies rallied and swarmed out to see what had happened.

The emergency lights came on and the dim lights flickered into life.

Whey heyyyyy!…the party continued.

The IPA on tap ran out, then the cider, then the XPA, then the bottles. Out came the personal spirits stashes, the mixes got stronger and the party tempo increased yet again.

In the band room the local Davis musos grabbed guitars and drums and whatever else could make a sound and started jamming (awesome),Β  a lone stumpy figure dressed in a walrus onesie – lamenting the demise of the MP3 PC playing the music – started howling singing his own selection of indecipherable songs at the top of his lungs (and apparently didn’t stop til 3am).

We should have the power out more often!

Then the old ‘one beer too may’ syndrome kicked, in and moderately drunk Jamie arrived around 10.30pm.

I think someone asked me to fix a non-booting computer and, after just been jarred that all I do is turn computers off and on,Β  I told them (perhaps a little too earnestly) to fix it themselves (exact words were possibly “you have a brain, eyes and a finger – follow the instructions and fix it yourself then – I’m off duty”)

‘Nicely done” said my little monkey autopilot “now give them the finger”

yeaaaah…

Classy.

Time to go to bed, Jamie


Eqilogue

So bright and early today, 6.30am I’m proud to say, I arose bright and sparkly, no hangover, no ill effects , and a after having a great nights sleep wandered down for breakfast just in time to see the Aurora Australis sail/steam/chug into Prydz Bay to begin our emergency water supply transfer.

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I haven’t seen the ship since she left back in November, and the sight of her bright orange hull is such a startling contrast to the whites of the ice and the blue of the ocean.

Davis water supplies here, being in the largest ice-free area in the Antarctic, are adequate but relatively small – our Reverse Osmosis plant is broken and they cant fix it, so we cant produce our own water and supplies are low. The ship has been diverted from Mawson resupply operation to transfer her water to us and supplement our supply for winter.

So today is looking good : I’ve bailed out of the hiking trip out to Brooks Hut (for various reasons I wont go into but strangely still feel the need to mention – you know I’m DYING to say), and going to spend the day taking photos around station of the water transfer, and chillaxing.

My biggest problem today so far is that they’ve ran out of Vegemite AND Jatz crackers.

Devastating lack of post-hangover saltiness and looks of horror and disappointment abound as the news spreads around station.

Thank God it wasn’t yesterday.

That would have been absolutely unacceptably un-Australian.


*Still here?

Good News!

My funkiness has passed finally, after a solid week of “MEH”.

I think i just needed to blow off some steam and relax for a change. Last night did the trick.

It easy to forget how stressful this environment is 24/7 and its effects creep up on you slowly but surely. No-one is spared and everyone can get as taught as a piano wire at times.

Something to remember in the future : must make time to really let go of things and chill.

It’s ok to lock yourself away for a little while but overall being around your team and co-workers really is the best medicine to deal with the funky stuff.

…and always remember to breathe.

 

 

 

…next

Only a few weeks left now before getting on the big red boat and sailing back to Hobart.

I don’t know how I feel about that yet … seems a little unreal … to contemplate the relative normal of day to day again just when I’m just getting used to this new version of life.

Anyway…still time to explore and enjoy this world.

One thing that is surprising is that I can’t seem to write any more. There’s nothing bubbling up that’s neither interesting or constructive. Just a grey blandness that’s creeping in and I resort to cheap tricks to distract.

See! Sheer laziness.

Plenty of photo ops and hikes, movie nights and opportunity for getting involved – I just couldn’t really give a damn and more than a little funked up.

The 3 day hike with 2 new travel buddies was just the right amount of time and people for me…superb company and an exception to the daily rule of chit chat and polite nonsense but the daily inane and trivial conversation is just dulling and I can’t be bothered (even though I’m as guilty of it as the next person)

Still trying though…

Volunteered to fill in as a Hagg driver for Fire Team 1 for example, and spent last week looking after the hydroponics garden, and anything interesting that pops up. Didn’t make any difference.

Just not feeling it. Enthusiasm comes and goes in waves.

I know what it is and yes, I’m working on it. (You’d think 2 years and half a planet would be enough)

It’s time to move on…

So what’s next? I have absolutely no idea.

Applied for next season ( not wintering this year), put my hand up for the Comms Tech officer on the Macquarie Island resupply voyage – it sails out 3 days after we sail into Hobart – but that only staves off the inevitable for another 2 weeks or so.

Then I’m free-falling again.

Half baked plans to go here and there but nothing concrete I can plan around.

Impermanence is great and all that once you understand and embrace it but uncertainty can really fuck you up.

Meh…

Dinner time.

*it’s snowing!!!! That helps … a wander in the snow is just the ticket I think πŸ™‚

**nup – let’s try a movie – The Dish!

***nup – let’s try bed and 30 Rock 🀘

****yup – better now

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