The many months of eager anticipation I’ve been feeling about this trip of a lifetime are polished off around Christmas by two difficult weeks of will they, won’t they emails flying around about the ice conditions and whether they are good enough to merit investing what is a considerable amount of time, effort and money. The trip seems to be on, then off and then finally back on again as ice reports from other research vessels in the area eventually paint a more positive picture of our chances of reaching Green Island, the one site that last year’s field team could not reach and our primary aim heading South.
So despite the uncertainty, we finally made it onto HMS Protector, ready for departure for the Antarctic Peninsula. Our team of three is completed by Ashly Fusiarski (Ash), who is a field assistant for the British Antarctic Survey and is charged with keeping us alive when we’re out and about on the islands! Ash is fresh from over-wintering at the British base at Rothera and comes with a wealth of experience leading various expeditions around the world, including in Antarctica, so he is very welcome!
Our flights from the UK were smooth enough and I even managed to sleep for most of the first leg, so it flew by. The BAS logistical wheels turned very smoothly and on our arrival we were met off the plane and deposited at a B&B in Stanley where Ash had been waiting for a couple of days already. Working on or being associated with BAS seems to hold a lot of privilege in Stanley – for dinner we simply turned up at a local diner and told them we were with BAS and no cash had to change hands. The next morning we were picked up again and driven to where HMS Protector was berthed.
We were welcomed on board, shown our cabins and given a safety briefing and then very much left to our own devices. We’ve been made to feel very welcome and are given the run of the ship, often spending time up on the bridge, where there are fantastic panoramic views. Only an hour or so after we stepped off dry land for what may be the last time in quite a while, we were off, pushing away from dock and slowly and carefully winding out way out through the network of channels and islands towards the open sea, all the time wondering what Drake’s Passage might have in store…