Today we underwent our ship induction. This allowed us to board the Aurora Australis for the first time. The ship is still under construction so we had to wear hardhats and
orange reflective vests for safety. The hard hats ended up being a good thing as some of the doorways have thick lips on the top and bottom, making it easy to bump your head going through.
The ship is huge. For scale you can look at this picture, posted on Wikipedia. In the center of the boat there is an open door and a gangplank heading down to the ice. The doorway is probably 6.5 or 7 feet tall. There is a person walking down the gangplank, but they are harder to see in the photo.
The induction we underwent allowed us to see bunk area, as well as to find our lab
space. Our equipment all arrived in time, and was waiting for us in our lab. Some of our boxes will be put in storage containers on the deck while we are travelling down to the ice pack. Once everything cold sensitive was removed from these boxes we assisted in carrying them out to the trawl deck where a crane was able to move them to their final destination.
We still have a lot of organizing to do in our lab. The shelves are designed to accept and hold firm containers called ‘fish boxes.’ These fish boxes slide into the shelves and have a small metal latch that keeps them from falling out while the ship is heaving. As soon as we have been appointed fish boxes we will go back into our lab and make sure all of our equipment is secure for the crossing to the ice.
We went to a kitting appointment where we received all of our cold weather gear. Gear
was tried on piece by piece to ensure that everything fit correctly before we left. The clothing they gave us will cover a large range of weather conditions. The only thing the clothing we received cannot protect us from is the sea water, but there are emergency suits on the boat that are designed to preserve body heat in case the ship needs to be abandoned and there is no ice about. I have only heard about these suits, and will talk more about them when we actually see and try them on.
On Friday night we will board the ship and undergo another induction required for all voyagers. This induction will teach us how to move around the ship while it is moving, what to do in case of emergency, and will let us know the duties we agree to as voyagers. The ship could not get along without volunteer work, so everyone on board has a responsibility to assist. Everyone on board will need to pitch in to help with cleaning, sorting vegetables, working in the kitchen, and moving heavy equipment. Last time I did research in Antarctica I was particularly impressed by the helpful spirit and community oriented culture. It sounds as though the ship will be a similar environment.
Life is busy with preparations and I have been sleeping more soundly than normal. Anxiety previously felt about the trip has dissipated and I am eager to get onboard and start our way to the ice pack.
Three researchers from the University of Utah–math professor Kenneth Golden, math doctoral student Christian Sampson, and electrical engineering grad student David Lubbers–have embarked on a two-month research mission on an icebreaker in Antarctica. This is the 15th excursion for Golden and the second trip for Lubbers. He was an undergraduate on his first trip in December 2010 and that experience influenced his academic future. Lubbers will be blogging periodically from the ship.