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September 12 - Goodbye from Doctor Emma

Update (12th September 2004)

Noon Position : lat 61° 36.4' N, long 012° 50.9' W
Air temperature @ noon today : 10.9°C
Sea temperature @ noon today : 12.9°C

Winding down.

As I write this, it seems as if I am sitting in a cross between a washing machine and a roller coaster. We are hove-to in a force 9 gale, just 3 days from home. Science is finished, the scientists are all busy compiling figures and tables for the cruise report, the crew busy with hand-over notes and the galley staff are frantically trying to find 2 beans to rub together to make dinner for 50.

Steve Eadie is celebrating his 48th birthday in style, continuing the theme of our recent visits to Iceland.

Steve and friends by Simon Wright. Click to enlarge.

The officers with Steve, wearing his trademark gimballed viking beer helmet (a Gerry Armour original- also available in red, lilac and taupe). Click to enlarge.

It has been quite a week. First there was the most magnificent aurora, green and white curtains, flares, ribbons and pulses lighting up the sky for over an hour. It was such a drammatic display that no-one felt the biting cold until it was almost over, when I for one suddenly noticed I couldn't feel my toes! We spent the day time exploring the fjords adjacent to Kangerdlussuaq, each one slightly different and more incredible than the last. We came within spitting distance of the margin of the immense glaciers at the head of Amdrup and Watkins Fjords, taking cores and CTDs before retreating though the newly formed sea ice to shelter overnight wherever it was ice-free.

Mountains in Watkins Fjord by Emma Wilson. Click to enlarge
Watkins glacier by Robert Paterson. Click to enlarge.

Mountains at the head of Watkins Fjord.

Click to enlarge

The enormous glacier draining into Watkins Fjord.

Click to enlarge

Coring by COlm OCofaigh. Click to enlarge.

George and Andy pick up some ice for their G&Ts. Click to enlarge.

We passed within arms length of mountainous icebergs, one the size of the ship, and another looking like an enormous white Dougal from the Magic Roundabout.

Sphinx by Colm OCofaigh. Click to enlarge.

The Sphinx sails past. Click to enlarge.

With all that scenery to watch, it was almost impossible to do anything else. However, back out in the open sea we were surrounded by fog and interest in photography turned to competitiveness in sports (JCR style).

Sports Report.

Polar Bear Football.

This latest report from Duncan Mercer about his icebox (see JCR diary 13 43):

It seems that the bears have been playing football with my box. It has gone from upright to on it's side a number of times; currently it's sitting on a 30 degree slope with it's antennas pointing at the sky. This is good news, as the system has levelled itself out and is now sending useful data. Let's hope the bears don't come back for another game!

Table tennis glory

The annual JCR table tennis tournament is in full swing, or at least it was, until the weather made the odds of hitting the bulkheads higher than those of hitting the ball. We were hoping to be celebrating with the winner by now but the fight for the aptly named (?) Desert Cup is still being played out, with the second semi-final the next match to be played.

In the first round, a number of worthy challengers were defeated including our very own Seth, ousted by finalist Lee, Gerry, Tom and Robert. Stinker Smith's training paid off as he won 3 straight matches until he finally came up against the surprise of the tournament, PSO Julian Dowdeswell. This renowned Prof now faces Nick (the old man) Dunbar for a place in the final. If Nick gets through, it will be an all-crew final- perhaps this shows that students aren't such skivers after all..... or maybe it just proves that the crew are!!!!

Tune in next week for the final result......!

Darts disasters

There was no glory this week in the bar for Charlie Smith, who seems to have lost his form in darts. He blames it on his alter-ego, Sydney. Charlie/ Sydney was in such poor shape that he failed to win a game against even Steve, a confirmed non-darts player. The award for this stunning lack of ability- the Tin Hat, another Gerry Armour original.

Duncan and Charlie by Lester Jolly. Click to enlarge.

Chief cook and karaoke champion Duncan McIntyre congratulates Charlie "Stinker" Smith... or is it Sydney??? Click to enlarge.

The JCR Strong Man Competition

There were a few competitors for this title but sadly no-one has yet managed to outdo 3500 kilowatts of engine power.

The big man by Lester Jolly. Click to enlarge.

The big man, 2nd engineer and expert milliner, Gerry Armour. Click to enlarge.

Reflections on a year at sea.

At the end of this voyage, a year and a week since I joined the ship, I will hand over to Lisa Handcock. I'll say goodbye to my temporary home and my surgery/ office and undertake a little "lifestyle adjustment". This year away has been an adventure, a learning experience, a challenge and a holiday; but most of all a pleasure and absolutely unforgettable.

I joined the ship a nervous wreck, unsure what to expect, afraid of bad weather, of seasickness, of losing my hair (with good reason) and of being bored and lonely. I wasn't wrong about the bad weather, of which we have had plenty; I have been, am and always will be, seasick but have learnt, if not how to beat it, how to accept it; I did lose my hair (all but 3mm of it) but I was never bored nor lonely. I spent the year surrounded by friends and never had a moment when I couldn't walk out of the door and find a friendly face or someone to talk to within minutes.

Green water over the bow by Emma Wilson. Click to enlarge.

Bad weather in the north Atlantic. Click to enlarge.

Back home in the summer for 4 weeks leave, I couldn't put a mug on a smooth surface, I kept looking for hooks to hold doors open and at 10 am the first morning I spent a few minutes wondering why no-one had been in for a cup of tea!

Steve Eadie. Click to enlarge.

Steve Eadie, my neighbour. Click to enlarge.

I have plenty of favourite moments and places. Equally there are aspects of life at sea I won't miss. I never got used to breakfast with 20 others (they however got used to me sitting in the corner growling soon enough), the craving for fruit after a few weeks deprivation, UHT milk or the rattling, creaking, banging world of stormy nights. The flip side to that is the deep appreciation I now have for simple things- walking, trees, tea with fresh milk, peace and a daily newspaper.

Grey headed albatros by Jon Watins. Click to enlarge.

Grey headed albatros. Click to enlarge.

Our seasons in Antarctica and the Arctic were very different in many ways. One of these was the wildlife. In Antarctica we continuously had albatros following us, the most beautiful of which (in my opinion) are the light- mantled sooty albatros (JCR diary 13 09). We also had penguins- wherever there was land or ice nearby, and we missed them in the Arctic. No matter how hard you try, you can't help but look for them whenever you see an iceberg!

Lockroy by Emma Wilson. Click to enlarge.

Gentoo penguins at Port Lockroy. Click to enlarge.

We have been lucky in sighting lots of whales, Robert Paterson seeing even a blue whale whilst on watch. In the Neumayer Channel (below) we saw a mixed pod of minke and killer whales. They came alongside and for a few minutes porpoised along the side of the ship before turning away. 10 months later the giant killer whales, radiating pure power, and the slender, graceful minkes are still a vivid memory for me.

Dawn in Neumayer Channel by Emma Wilson. Click to enlarge.

Of all the places the ship visits, South Georgia is most people's favourite. I didn't fully understand why to begin with, but the island slowly but surely worked it's magic and I was as sad to leave as I would have been my own home. The mountains with their glaciers which flow right into the sea, the lakes and streams, the beautiful aquamarine water in the bays, the history and most of all the wildlife make it absolutely the most beautiful place I have ever been. It is fresh, green and full of life in the summer, but snowy and clear in the winter; the fact that it is wild and inhospitable only enhancing it's beauty. My last day there was among the best I have ever had, climbing to the summit of Mt. Narwhal with chief engineer Duncan Anderson. The weather was perfect, the panoramic views beyond all expectation. We came down in time to see the old whaling town of Grytvikken in the evening light and to pop into the museum for a chat before a typical happy, welcoming King Edward Point BBQ.

Climbing Mt. Narwhal. Click to enlarge.

Climbing Mt. Narwhal on South Georgia. Click to enlarge.

If days on South Georgia were among my best memories, then nights anchored near Signy are there too. Utterly peaceful apart from the groaning of the huge glaciers on Coronation Island; dark, starry, cold, remote. The only light comes from the tiny base, and the ship always felt strangely isolated.

JCR in Borge Bay by Emma Wilson. Click to enlarge.

The ship at anchor in Borge Bay, Signy Island. Click to enlarge.

I joined BAS to go to the Antarctic, a place I had dreamt of seeing. I got so much more than I bargained for; I found new definitions of home, I found skills I never knew I had and most of all I found love, friendship and happiness. Thank you, to all who have shared their home with me for the last 12 months, and to those people who have allowed me to fulfill a dream.

The JCR family. Click to enlarge.

Friends. Click to enlarge.

The Aurora Borealis

by Ruth Mugford

We were lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) last week. There were clear skies and we braved the brisk wind up on the monkey island to see the spectacular natural light show above the mountains. The aurora is a phenomenon that occurs at both poles- the southern hemisphere equivalent is the Aurora Australis.

It is caused by charged particles, mostly protons and electrons, which originate from the Sun and penetrate into the Earth’s atmosphere. These may collide with the molecules in the atmosphere (such as Nitrogen and Oxygen) and excite their electrons into higher energy states. When the electrons return to their original state, they release the energy in the form of photons (light), which is what we see as the shimmering curtains flickering across the sky. Each molecule has distinctive energy levels and hence produces light of a certain colour.

Aurora Borealis by Ruth Mugford. Click to enlarge.

The aurora. Click to enlarge.

The Sun constantly produces these charged particles which stream away in all directions. Only some of them pass near the Earth and give rise to the aurorae. The Sun goes through activity cycles of roughly 11 years where the number of particles produced increases and decreases. Occasionally an event called a solar flare will throw out more particles than usual. Thus the frequency of aurorae can be predicted by the sun’s activity.

Charged particles are deflected by magnetic fields – this is the same principle that allows electricity to be made in turbines. The deflection is greatest when the particle is travelling at right angles to the magnetic field. The Earth has a magnetic field, which acts as a shield to charged particles. The field is roughly shaped like a bar magnet as in the diagram. At the equator particles would have to cross field lines, so they are deflected away, but at the poles particles can travel along the field lines and reach the atmosphere, giving rise to aurorae in the Polar regions.

The higher the energy of the particle, the closer to the equator it can reach without being deflected. The Aurora Borealis is occasionally seen as far south as the UK and Germany, but there are few events which have particles with high enough energy to reach these latitudes.

And Finally.

It has been a spectacular summer, with amazing views, and this is one to remember:

Evening sunlight by Simon Wright. Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Thank you to Simon Wright, Robert Paterson, Colm O'Cofaigh and Ruth Mugford for the use of their photographs.