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Dec 29 - Christmas at Rothera

Monday 29th December 2008

Position report at 15:00 GMT
Latitude: 50 30 S
Longitude: 042 23 W
Bearing: 300 Nm SSW from Bird Island
Cruise Number: Signy-Bird Island
Distance Travelled: 216
Total Distance Travelled: 216
Steam Time: 17.7
Total Steam Time: 17.7
Average Speed: 12.2
Total Average Speed: 12.2
Wind: Direction NW, Force 2
Sea State: Moderate. Low swell
Air Temp: 1.3 °C Sea Temp: 1.0 °C
Pressure: 990.3mb Tendency: Steady
Overcast. Mainly fine, occasional snow flurries

Distance from Llantwit Major: 6,518 miles

Apologies for the tardiness of this web-diary entry (with its being Christmas and the New Year I was distracted from my diary duties a bit I’m afraid!). Just before Christmas, for the inhabitants at the Rothera base, the JCR became Santa’s sleigh, bringing all sorts of goodies, food, drink, boats, personnel and a full measure of festive spirit. We were consequently warmly welcomed as we approached the base and our arrival was celebrated with a posh dinner on the ship.

Arrival into Rothera
Arrival into Rothera

Our time in Rothera was extremely busy with the offloading of cargo and fuel and reloading of waste materials from the base to be shipped back to the UK for recycling. In reward for the long hours and hard work involved, a ski-trip and sledging was arranged:

Travel by ski-doo
Travel by ski-doo

In the place of a conventional ski-lift, our uphill journey was made by skidoo. This part of the ski-trip was almost as exhilarating as the downhill skiing. The skidoo tow is a lot faster and more thrilling than a seat on a chair lift, but you do have to hang on tight and concentrate rather than admiring the view… some of us learnt this lesson the hard way!

Magda being  towed by skidoo
Magda being towed by skidoo
Johnny - forced to stop for a photo, but eager to whiz off down the slope
Johnny - forced to stop for a photo, but eager to whiz off down the slope
Claire and Terri sledging
Claire and Terri sledging
Gareth, Magda, Mel, Chris and me
Gareth, Magda, Mel, Chris and me

And for those who did not make it out skiing, another trip was organized, abseiling into a crevasse:

Ralph and Tom in the Crevasse
Ralph and Tom in the Crevasse
Rich in the Crevasse
Rich in the Crevasse

We were introduced to yet more Antarctic creatures in Rothera including the Weddell seals and Adelie penguins.

An Adelie penguin, just in from the sea.
An Adelie penguin, just in from the sea.

We left Rothera on Christmas eve and were subsequently treated to picturesque views of the Gerlache straits as we sailed through the snow on Christmas day.

Gerlache Straits
Gerlache Straits

On the way to Rothera, we had converted the officers’ and scientists’ bar into santa’s grotto, decorating it with all of the fairy lights and Christmas decorations that we could find (they were plentiful!) to get us into the Christmas spirit.

Johnny and Jim in Santa's grotto - aka the officers' and scientists' bar
Johnny and Jim in Santa's grotto - aka the officers' and scientists' bar

And, influenced by Chris (our artist in residence), we even built an “Antarctic Nativity” scene:

Antarctic Nativity Scene complete with Penguins, Huskies pulling the sleigh, a miniature JCR, and action-man baby Jesus.
Antarctic Nativity Scene complete with Penguins, Huskies pulling the sleigh, a miniature JCR, and action-man baby Jesus.

To be honest, a Christmas day away from my home and family was not something to which I had been particularly looking forward. However, my apathy was misplaced and I quickly realized that I would very much enjoy the day, which was made special by the relaxed and fun ambiance on the ship. The celebrations began late morning with a champagne reception:

Officers and Crew enjoying a pre-luncheon aperitif
Officers and Crew enjoying a pre-luncheon aperitif
Officers and Crew enjoying a pre-luncheon aperitif
Officers and Crew enjoying a pre-luncheon aperitif

The meal which followed really was something to write home about!

Menu for Christmas Dinner, comprising what felt like interminable courses of delicious food.
Menu for Christmas Dinner, comprising what felt like interminable courses of delicious food.

The catering staff really excelled themselves for this special occasion; the food was fantastic, the saloon looked a picture and the service was, as always, first class!

Stewards: Lee and Nick, with help for the day from the ship's bosun Dave, looking very dapper in a bow-tie.
Stewards: Lee and Nick, with help for the day from the ship's bosun Dave, looking very dapper in a bow-tie.
Lunch in the saloon
Lunch in the saloon
Lunch in the crew mess
Lunch in the crew mess

How any of us managed to stay awake in the afternoon with our bellies full of delicious food, I do not know… but we did.

On returning to the officers’ and scientists’ bar, we noticed that the Christmas tree had gone missing… After a brief search, we headed down to the crew bar, to find some rather sheepish looking members of crew, the Christmas tree and a lot of laughter! Mystery solved.

The missing Christmas tree
The missing Christmas tree

And at three o’clock, as we were unable to watch the Queen’s speech, I did the honours and read to those in the crew bar, the Queen’s speech from 1952 (I couldn't find a script of this year’s on the internet yet). I had not anticipated that my audience would sit quietly and listen, nor that they would want me to continue beyond the first paragraph… I was quite embarrassed when I realized that I would have to complete the entire speech!

JCR version of the Queen's speech at three o'clock
JCR version of the Queen's speech at three o'clock

In the evening, a buffet was available to those who had managed to digest enough of their lunch to allow space for more, and this was followed by a showing of films on the big screen. This certainly was a Christmas day to remember.

Many thanks to Richard, Johnny, Riff and Gareth for the photos in this web-diary entry.


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