Sunday January 21st, 2001

Location

Anderson Harbour, Omega Island

Latitude

64.18S

Longitude

62.55W

Conditions

Sleeting

Wind

Southerly 15 knots

Sea

Smooth

Air temp

2 deg C

Sea temp

1 deg C

Barometer

990 mbs and falling


Andersen Harbour, Melchior islands. This harbour is formed in the gap between Omega and Eta Islands. This is where we are right now, anchored towards the head of the bay in quiet conditions, surrounded by high ice cliffs and rolling snow-covered ice hills that would support a ski resort in any other part of the world - but here there is no-one else around, just us.

The ice cliffs look as though they have been worked on by a massive ice-cream scoop. An ice floe aground in the bay just astern of us capsized this morning – breaking into many pieces as it rolled over. The bay has been littered with lumps of ice ever since. The ice cliffs that surround us are full of caves and holes and vary from snow white, to pale blues, to those patch-worked in pale green lichen. The fresh northeasterly wind blowing out at sea doesn’t reach us here, the high mountains of Brabant Island see to that. When we anchored late yesterday afternoon, the sun came out, the sky partly cleared, the breeze dropped to a flat calm and we marvelled at our surroundings, yet again. I’m not going to apologise if we continue to be surprised and amazed, it is that sort of a voyage - one of discovery where we are never sure what we will find around the next corner. Just when we think we are viewing nature at her ultimate, we are shocked into realising that there is no “finite” in nature and there will always be something new to come across that we will think of as better yet.

To live here permanently would be unthinkable for us humans - we wouldn’t be able to survive without considerable external assistance. But for the enormous amount of life that we see, this is home. The animals and birds might move with the ice-edge during the dark winter months, (not all do), but they not only survive they thrive. If we were left ashore in our daily work clothes we would probably be as stiff as boards by the morning. We would not be able to survive even one night. But for all other life here, this is their summer. This is their warm period with food at its most plentiful. This is their time to raise their young, to breed, and to grow fat ready for the next winter just around the corner. Nature has made some amazing adaptations to allow them to not only survive, but to thrive in this harsh environment.

We are fortunate in having medicines, doctors, and hospitals for when we fall ill; we have schools for learning, houses to live in, people to care for us in our old age, friends to react with, holidays when we are reaching the end of our tether, weekends to play, and so on. Our “trimmings” set us way apart from the life we see here. Theirs is a time of hunting for food, breeding, raising their young, watching out for predators, and sleeping. The wildlife we see here have no holidays, no Saturdays or Sundays “off”; no-one concerned if they fall ill or injure themselves; no medicines; no-one to care if they live or die. It is survival of the fittest. This is how nature works. Only the strong survive…