Sunday, 19 December 2010

Day 9 – approaching Commonwealth Bay and the Antarctic Circle


“The sun, already high in the heavens, for we were in latitude 65degS, bathed it with light, causing it to stand out in vivid contrast to the cobalt ocean and sombre gloom of the distance. As I gazed at the wonderful and, to me, novel sight, I felt that we were at last really at the threshold of that Great White South – whence providence alone knew how many of us would return.” So wrote Herbert G. Ponting of his first sighting of an Antarctic iceberg as he sailed south with Scott in 1911 aboard Terra Nova. His century-old prose still precisely reflects the feelings of anyone sighting their first mighty tabular iceberg, sometimes as big as entire city blocks.

The day also delivered Emperor and Adelie penguins, seals and both Blue and Humpback whales. Although the dense pack ice slowed us to a crawl at times, the captain pressed on, crunching and crushing his way through the tight crumble of smashed bergs. Open seas were reached again, spread like an archipelago with massive bergs large enough for two postcodes. As I write we creep south at about 6 knots, the Circle just beyond the horizon and just beyond that, Mawson's fabled Land of the Blizzard.