Okay! Well, I’ve been negligent on blog entries, but that ends today. For my second journey south has begun.
Well on its way, in fact. I am sitting in the Red Room on the RRS Ernest Shackleton, and the Cape of Good Hope is passing by on the starboard side.
In the last month, I have waited, been delayed, and been subject to rumours and dark portents about budget cutbacks. The British Antarctic Survey is somewhat immune to recession effects – however, by coincidence, we happen to be having a terrible budget year, with overruns, cutbacks, layoffs, trip cancellations, and so on. I was worried that my own trip would be cancelled, but no. On Wednesday at 11:30AM, I officially became homeless again as I handed my house keys to my hosts, muled my belongings back into work, and boarded a shuttle bus to Heathrow.
My journey south this year is completely different than last year’s, with one exception: an unpleasant long-haul overnight flight in a tiny seat with no sleep. But the movie selection was decent, and we got through it. On Thursday morning, we arrived into Cape Town with bloodshot eyes, breezed through customs, and went down to our ship.
Cape Town is a fantastic city. There are several different areas within, each with their own unique charms. The V&A waterfront is a completely Western enclave – shopping, seaside bars, fancy hotels, and so on. We knew that our ship would be moored within walking distance of this area. What I -didn’t- know is that we would be the centrepiece of it:
We were 20 steps from the nearest restaurant, and the glitzy shopping mall attached to it. And the tourists! All the tourists came to admire our ship, get their picture taken in front of it, and ask us questions about the voyage. Martin, our vehicles manager, was supposed to do an hour of security at the gangplank, but enjoyed talking to the admiring throng so much that he just stayed there for the afternoon, spreading the Shackleton love among the people.
The rest of us mainly stuck to the waterfront, visiting favourite haunts and stocking up on last-minute supplies. For me, that included flip-flops, biltong, long-life milk (luxury compared to powdered milk), magazines (the current winterers are starved for them), and a few computer supplies.
And then, this morning at 11:00 AM, our port leave officially ended, and we did a lifeboat drill. This included a roll call – the easiest way to make sure we were all back on board – and an orderly rush to the lifeboats in full winter gear. In the hot African sun in the middle of summer, -that- wasn’t too pleasant.
And then, that was that. We raised the gangplank, and glided out to sea. We had a few folk bidding fond-farewells, included one young lady who seemed particularly keen to bid us farewell:
I don’t think any of us knew her, but it was still a nice gesture.
And now, Cape Town is disappearing and seasickness is beginning to rear its ugly head. Several people are beginning to get nauseous. I’m doing okay, but have to look away from this blog entry every few minutes to keep myself in check.
And now, I shall lie down for a bit.