Sunday, February 25, 2007

He's Alive, He's Alive He Has Risen!

Supposedly our crossing of the Drake Passage was one of the smoothest ever - this doesn’t bode well for the return voyage given my sorry state so far. The cry of ‘land ahead’ rang out 6 hours earlier than expected and everyone dashed to the nearest porthole clutching cameras, binoculars and yes, even satellite phones!

Seeing the Antarctic Peninsula for the first time is a difficult experience to describe. There was a great sense of relief, not least for my stomach, a tangible air of excitement throughout the ship and I know it’s a terrible clichĂ© but the scenery really was breathtaking.

We anchored in the South Shetlands for a few hours which was an opportunity to ‘meet and greet’ the local inhabitants – Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins. A few of us were also able to take out sea kayaks and get in some much needed practice for the Antarctic Kayaking Championships, only 4 days away.

Paddling between icebergs, we were immediately rewarded with the sight of penguins ducking and diving alongside the kayaks. They were very curious and certainly showed no fear – I’m sure they must have thought I was some clumsy, misshapen seal in my all-in-one, rubber dry suit.

It wasn’t all cutesy penguins and stunning landscapes; the harsh reality of the Antarctic environment was brought home to me when moments later the same penguins were attacked by a huge leopard seal. Like a scene from Jaws, we watched him shoot out of the waves, mouth wide open, and snatch a fleeing penguin. It was all over in an instant but was a pertinent illustration of why only a tenth of penguins make it to maturity.

Back on ship we had a race briefing. I was slightly shocked to realise that there is less than 48 hours until the marathon. Cue, panic! I must have lost track of the days whilst under the influence of drugs (legal ones of course).
The marathon organisers have taken Zodiacs (motorised inflatable boats) into Maxwell Bay where the Russian research base, Bellingshausen is located. The Russians are hosting the run along with the Chinese, Uruguan and Chilean bases. The organisers will spend time negotiating the finer details of ‘Race Day’ with the 4 bases and will hopefully be able to finalise and lay out the course route tomorrow. This isn’t a normal marathon where all of the parameters can be agreed upon in advance, many compromises have to be reached and we are all braced for last minute changes.


Rob Mann said...

Go Nath Go! Can't believe you were so seasick - the Drake Passage looks flat calm on your photos! Best of luck with the marathon but remember that you can't out-run a fur seal!

All the best on the big day.


Anonymous said...

hey guys great pics. Emma wants to know if you can bring that penguin home for her. Glad you made the cossing in almost one piece. Good luck to you all for the marathon tomorrow. We'll be thinking of ya all.

Dunc and Em

Anonymous said...

Hey Nathan, hope your stomach has settled down now, best of luck for the marathon, hi to Lou, Matt and co, will be sending strength beams across the globe for you all, take care, yyeeeeeeeehhhhhhhaaaaaaaa!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,

Hope the run went Ok today!! Hope you are not too sore and get to enjoy the rest of the trip!

Hel & Rob

Anonymous said...

We were just discussing how unlike you it is to be sick Nathan.
Good luck tomorrow to both of you.
Do remember to wrap up warm and don't forget your gloves.
love Ali and Emma

Anonymous said...

Nath, I'm sure Xia can relate to you with sea sickness in calm seas - must run in the genes!

I hope you guys are surviving out there and the welly socks are helping to keep you a wee bit cosy!

Good luck!

Lee-Jade & Davie


Anonymous said...

amazing pics! Can't believe you guys have done this.. Matt winning it with his "usual extraordinary" training methods!!
Nathan - so sick - how can that be, it really did look calm in those pics.. All the best, enjoy an incredible accomplishment.. Brian & Twyla

abby said...

congrats matt and nathan, true role models...i would love to see your training diaries,esp matt's. we could compare to Lidia's! congrats you are so, young jedi, you are ready to compete in new zealand.

jedi master abby and jedi mistress lidia