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Antarctica 2012: A Homeward Bound A/aurora

Photo by Sampson.

 We reached the marginal ice zone (miz) six days after we started moving. A barbeque was scheduled to celebrate reaching the ice edge, and a collective sigh of relief was felt upon its arrival.

Love seeing blue ice in the water. Photo by David Lubbers

Cargo had all been made shipshape, and most of the expeditioners had no outstanding experiments for the return trip. Most aboard were outside to witness our quiet progress through the miz. The sun smiled down on dozens of happy faces that smiled back up.

Our trip out was accompanied by a much greater number of icebergs than we saw coming in, a result of how much further west we left than entered.

A super villain’s fortress? Photo by Lubbers

I am skeptical that most people would enjoy the subtle differences among the many icebergs we saw, so I have decided to upload a reduced set of photos. The novelty of the scenery change hadn’t worn off so I was quite content to watch iceberg after iceberg slip by. It is difficult to represent size in these photos, and they honestly don’t do the behemoths any justice.

Items may be larger than they appear in the mirror. Photo by Lubbers.

 

Our miz edge celebration was fantastic. To mark the occasion we decided to have a barbeque aboard the trawl deck.

Impressive feast after 50 plus days at sea. photo by Christian Sampson.

Everyone seemed relaxed, and the venue was well chosen. The sun slowly set on us as we rolled in gentle swell. Icebergs sailed by as a variety of birds glided alongside us. The region was obviously warmer than those we had previously known. For the first time in our trip a coat was not required as long as I didn’t stray too far from the fire.

The evening was rounded out by another Camp Quality charity event. This took the form of a charity auction. Several items were auctioned off, including some items handmade by the crew, custom Aurora clothing, a snowflake preserved in resin, the remaining chocolate aboard, and a hidden stash of coffee.

A most expensive bag of coffee. Photo by Sampson.

While the chocolate and coffee fetched an amazing price, the gem of the auction was a historic Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) book. The master agreed to pen a statement indicating the book had been on the Aurora during this voyage, following which it was stamped with the ship’s official seal as proof.

Our return voyage was calm; especially considering we ran 16 knots most of the way home. We had a pair of low pressure systems following closely behind us, but we managed to remain ahead of the bumpiest of the weather. While we did experience some heavy swaying, it was all fairly constant, and we did not feel like we were crashing into the waves.

There was a solar eclipse visible in the lower hemisphere during our return. Several of us made our way out in the morning to see this event, even though the eclipse was incomplete at our latitude.

I have uploaded a photo of this event taken by Peter Kimball. In a fantastic turn of events, this photo showed numerous sunspots. Sunspot presence marks favorable conditions for Aurora events. Fortunately, these sunspots were seen just preceding a new moon on what was forecast to be a clear evening.

The Antarctic had a final parting gift for all of us aboard the Aurora. That night there was a very bright aurora that remained glowing in the sky for hours. It was predominately green, but during a few brief moments a rarer red hue was seen. The lights danced and played in the sky, as if driven by an ethereal windswept fire. Much of the crew and expeditioners were seen on the outer decks, heads tilted towards the natural magnificence above.

An aurora from the Aurora. Photo by Peter Kimball

I used somebody else’s camera for some of the time we were outside, but I have not yet tracked down the photos I took. Fortunately, Peter Kimball was again ready with his camera, and was kind enough to share the photo he took of the Aurora beneath the aurora.

Following our port arrival and customs clearance we went to a ceremony held for all expeditioners. I enjoy seeing people reunited, and this occasion did not disappoint. Unfortunately my reunions are still a full day of flying ahead of me. I will miss the Aurora, and all I met aboard, but for now I am ready to be home. I am excited to look over the data we took, and learn as much as can be had from it. I am eager for life to return to normal, if only for a while. There is some comfort in the routine of school, work, and home life. I look forward to this in the short term, but I sincerely hope another adventure still lurks somewhere on the horizon.

Homecoming. Photo by Sampson.