11th March

The wind just kept getting stronger on Tuesday and eventually Cookie put a notice on the board saying none of the visitors were allowed outside, it was just too fierce. We all had jobs to do, as the Mawson people were busy unloading supplies and also coping with an extra 30 odd bodies. I mopped some floors, washed dishes and restocked the bar with home brew from the basement. It felt good to be doing something useful but I was very hot ( remember all the layers I had put on to keep warm at the fuel farm ). My trousers were the worst, thick polar fleece duds that were boiling. Finally a nice Mawsonite told me to go and look in the dress-up box in the basement and I found some old grey trakkies to borrow. The Red Shed has big windows from all the living areas and everyone spent a lot of time looking out at wind whipping across the bay, ice and water flying together. The Aurora was swinging from side to side and it looked as though the ropes would break for sure, but they must be very stretchy. I couldn’t help thinking how terrible it would be to see her break away and steam out the harbour. Peter the captain told me this morning that they had to work very hard with the engines to keep her steady in the wind. Finally the blizzard was so strong that we couldn’t even see the ship. At it’s strongest there were gusts of 90 knots. By evening the worst had passed but it was still too dangerous to go back to the ship, so Georgie and I went walking, blown along like autumn leaves. The floor was looking like my bed, when a lovely thing happened to me. Fiona, who is going to Macquarie Island to be the cook, said I could have her bed and she would share with her partner Damien, who is going to be the carpenter. What a sweetheart! It was delicious being in a soft, warm bed and looking out at the wild and icy world.When I looked out my porthole at Mawson this morning it was snowing and the sea had started to freeze, turning opaque and forming into little pancakes of ice. The station looked pretty, with all the rock covered white, and the wind turbines still. I was first up on Monkey Deck - there were no footprints on the snowy deck, and no wind, everything felt very quiet. Later the crew were busy, loading last cargo, and the helicopters flew out to be stowed for the voyage. The blades were unbolted and stored in a big box, then the pilots pushed the choppers into the hanger and tied them down. There is a big fence around the edge of the helideck that folds outwards during heli-operations and it had to be put upright again for the voyage, and some of us helped with that, pulling the panels up with a rope, then slipping bolts into the hinges to keep them there. It was a simple job made difficult by the cold and made me appreciate the work the crew were doing. After lunch we heard the ship's hooter and felt her move, and raced up on deck to wave goodbye to the Mawson mob, who had looked after us so well. They let off some pink flares that fell slowly down through the snowy sky as we pulled away. They won't get any more visitors until September. Last night we had a head-shaving auction to raise money for the fight against cancer. Kristian, a young zoologist specialising in seals, organised it, and he had a very special reason for doing so. His girlfriend Eve was supposed to be on this voyage, working with him, but her Antarctica medical examination detected a tumor, so she has been undergoing chemotherapy. Five men had their heads shaved and raised $3150. Some look good and some look pretty funny, with weird mowhawks and moptops, it's a brave thing to do,

Other items

21st February

Its about 5.00 pm on my first day at sea. We are 200 nautical miles south-west of Hobart in fairly calm seas. I’m still finding my sea legs but haven’t been sick. The anti-seasick tablets make me very sleepy and I had a delicious sleep last night, feeling snug and safe in my bunk as the ship crashed through the sea.

22nd February

Ít doesn’t really feel as though I’m on my way to Antarctica. It feels more like I am on a floating health farm, fabulous food, great gym, no stresses or worries. It has been foggy all day today with calm seas but even so I am very careful about going on deck. It’s such a big ocean that I can’t help imagining how terrible it would be to fall overboard. I watched shearwaters ( mutton birds ) flying around the ship yesterday.