06 February 2007

I-TASC expedition 2006/2007

Seas are relatively calm. We have a few more birds appearing out the back of the boat, but otherwise, all is the same.

Advice from the bottom of a well, Part 4 : extras
I thought I should write down some last bits I had forgotten in the last sections about what to bring if you ever find yourself going to SANAE.

* gloves
I have thought about the glove issue a bit. In the last week or so at the base, I found that the large windproof mitten gloves (the gloves without fingers) are excellent for warming up your hands while outside. If you get cold hands then you can take off any glove inners and put your ‘naked’ hands into the gloves. The natural warmth of your hands will warm your hands and fingers faster than any other way (except a heater). So bring a good pair of robust windproof mittens. Also, I mentioned earlier, merino glove inners, and lastly consider getting a really good pair of warm working gloves.

* Butane Solder Iron
If you are going to work with any electronics, then bring a butane soldering iron for working outside. It would pay to buy this in Cape Town as most airlines won’t allow them onboard aircraft in checked or onboard luggage.

* cups
It might seem a little trivial, but there is a lack of good cups and glasses at SANAE and it’s the little things that make a difference. Bring a big thermos flask type cup. Good for coffee up on the monkey deck on the boat, and good for long cold drinks at the base when you come in from a hot day’s work or a sauna.

* tradeables
Bring some extra CDs and DVDs, if you don’t use them, they are good currency on the boat for trading with the crew, and if you have a laptop with a dvd burner, you will also make good alliances if you don’t mind a bit of extra work ripping/burning.

* video
If you are going to take video you most definitely need a good ‘Zepplin’ microphone sock. You won’t get any outdoor sound without it.

* currency
Make sure you bring enough currency with you to pay for the communications and shop bill you might accumulate on the boat.

* USB stick
These days it almost goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Bring a USB memory stick, at least 1GB. You need it if you want to send emails from the boat as you need to write emails, transfer them in a text file to a stick, and then give it to the radio comms officer. The officer then copies the text into an email and sends it (all emails leave via the same Agulhas email account). You get replies the same way except the radio officer prints them out for you. However, even without this, I used my USB stick several times a day while at the base.

* Wireless Router
Don’t leave home without one.

* Arduino
I wish I had a small PIC set up. If you know what an Arduino is then get one. We had to build a circuit on the fly on this trip for a reasonably critical role, but if we had an Arduino unit we could have done the same thing faster and more reliably.

* Radio
For listening to Radio SANAE!!!

* Disk Space
Make sure you have lots of disk space available for photos etc – consider an external disk.

* Rechargeable Batteries
Bring plenty of rechargeable batteries.

* Sunscreen
The stuff SANAE provides isn’t that good. Bring your own and make it as strong as possible.

* Extension cords
You won’t find any extra on the boat or at SANAE so bring your own extension cords and power boxes, especially if you are using plugs that are not South African plugs…bring as many extension boxes and cables as you can, you will use them all.

* Walkie Talkies
Not absolutely necessary to purchase for an individual, but useful for the team.  They can be expensive, but 2-way hand held radios are rare at the base. I would find out what kind they use (what frequencies they work on) and then buy a couple. This is the expensive way but it has the advantage that you can always have a radio that is on the same channels as the SANAE radios. A cheaper way would be to buy 2 or 4 small walkie talkies of the cheap variety for comms just within the crew.

* Attitude
Bring a good one 😉 – on this note -> you can expect tensions amongst your crew. It’s _normal_. Part of the experience of the trip is learning how to deal with team dynamics. I recommend you expect that tensions will arise and you prepare to forgive, forget, and move on as fast as possible. On-going issues need to be addressed but there is a lot to be said for a generosity of spirit. Provide your teammates with comradeship, and good feedback, never criticise the person but instead address the issue at hand with an attitude of improving the situation and not apportioning blame. Be prepared to own up to and laugh at your own mistakes. Find out what motivates your teammates, and work on that. They are old rules, you can take them or leave them, but trust me on the sunscreen 😉


05 February 2007

I-TASC expedition 2006/2007

Last night we moved through the last of the ice. it was sad to see the last remnants disappear behind the ship. While we were going, cutting through large islands of soft melting ice, the sun gave us a beautiful farewell sunset. It was so vibrant as to look almost fake.

Today I will sleep a little en leer Nederlands. It’s getting a bit of a swell in the sea… I had forgotten how foggy that makes the mind.

03 February 2007

I-TASC expedition 2006/2007

Back on the ship. It was an amazing helicopter ride from SANAE IV to the ship. I was very sad to leave the continent and couldn’t help shedding a tear or two on the trip back to the Agulhas. We left the base, swooped over the AWS, and then turned and dropped spectacularly over the Nunatuk…those chopper guys, they like to impress and I’m glad for it.


It was also amazing to fly over the ice shelf and see the ice stretching away to the horizon with ragged cliffs. Then the Agulhas. Beautiful on the sparkling blue water, cruising slowly in anticipation of our homecoming. She’s a queen of second homes amongst an array of second homes we have experienced on this trip. A good friend spent much of his life on the sea in the NZ Navy, and as a pilot in Dunedin. I could never understand how he could love it so, as it seemed a very harsh existence, but seeing the Agulhas again filled me with warmth and respect for the ship and the strange existence it offers. It made me realise how lucky I have been to have had a glimpse of life at sea, and I can see its attraction.


I was also sad to leave Zama behind. We had a tight cabin, the boys of B10. 3 of us came back but Zama was asked, just two weeks ago, to stay. I wouldn’t like to have been in his situation – the other over-winter crew had 2 months to train and many more to prepare psychologically for spending 14 months on the continent by themselves. However, Zama had no such luck. He decided to stay, and I am sure he will have an amazing experience. It would have been hard for him not to have said his goodbyes properly to family and friends.


It was also great to finally be able to call Lotte and talk for a whole 10 minutes! ah… the small pleasures of modern naval communications.

Anyway, we wait here on the ship for 2 more days, and then we move out across the Southern Ocean. I hope the seas are good. We were fortunate to have extremely good seas on the way here. I hope we get that luck twice. Leon (one of last year’s winter team) is hoping to see at least 10-metre waves and hopes the ship will surf some… I don’t share his enthusiasm… maybe the trip home will cure me of my new found respect for life at sea 😉

Outside, the crew are loading containers on the ship. There are a few more loads to come from the base, I think they expect to be finished with this tomorrow. They bring the containers down a steep bank cut they made in the ice. At this time the Agulhas is parked with its nose on the ice shelf and the containers are swung aboard.


So, I’m spending the days till we leave watching stupid American tv series, and taking photos. I am practising birdy shots with the telephoto…its kind of like skeet shooting… you follow the bird, trying to pull focus manually as quickly as you can, panning the cam at the same speed, and then pressing the trigger to get the perfecin-flightht shot… It’s great fun and quite addictive – I’m sure if they invented cameras before guns there would have been a lot less game shooting in the world (and consequently more animals still around, and the world would be better documented!). I got a couple of good shots, but I am anticpating that perfect trophy to hang on the wall, maybe an albatross in flight, or two snow petrels in frame with perfect focus.


First Born is sleeping through the day. He worked hard these last days outside.

When I get back to Cape Town I fly from Jo’burg on the 18th of Feb. Spending my birthday mid air 🙂 Then I land in Sydney and I hope I get to see Mr Snow, Zina, and the good Doctor Gillian for a day or so before winging it to NZ. Not long to go now before familiar shores and faces populate my existence… now i just got to strategise the best moment to shave…


02 February 2007

I-TASC expedition 2006/2007

The unit is installed. All is running, and we are also. Helicopter flight out in 1 hour, the base is like a ghost town. I’m now busy copying Boston Legal series 2+3 for the long wave home…

We will update from the boat, might take a day or so

Need some coffee….

Check these :
Groundhog Weather : [24hrs][Archive]

Congrats to all involved 🙂

01 February 2007

I-TASC expedition 2006/2007

News news news…we have had our travel plans altered and we leave tomorrow (the 2nd) in stead of the 3rd. This means we have one less day to get it together…


For those interested, here is the circuit we built yesterday (whoever has to do the maintenance on it next year, there is a copy of the full diagram provided.)