We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came – John F. Kennedy
Yesterday, the crew of the Alexandra Shackleton returned to the ocean for more trials – sailing trials and survival suit trials. There’s been much talk this week of survival suits which are designed to extend the life of anyone who ends up in the unenviable predicament of having to jump into icy, Antarctic seas. (French solo yachtsman Alain Delord was wearing a survival suit when rescued by MV Orion from his life raft in the southern ocean 380nm south of Tasmania on Sunday night).
Donning their traditional gear, the crew sailed the Alexandra Shackleton away from the shore across the choppy bay, close to the support vessel Australis. The sight of six men striding out of a research base in vintage polar adventurer gear, carrying fluorescent bags and heading towards a tiny, wooden boat was too much for some – a resident penguin watched from shore wearing a perplexed expression on its face.
After a successful stint of sailing in gusty, unpredictable winds, the crew had reached the part of the journey that I’m sure many were dreading: getting into their survival suits for a leap of faith into the bone chilling sea. With six bodies below deck in such a confined space, the drill would have resembled a frantic game of Twister. With arms and legs and feet all over the place, the crew managed to get their survival suits on without killing each other – a minor miracle. It’s not enough to just get the suit on – it needs to be done with both speed and precision because without all the zips being closed off properly, the suit is rendered ineffective. Although jumping into freezing, Antarctic waters would have been a daunting task, there’s always room for a laugh on this expedition, with Tim’s elegant scissor-kick jump drawing applause from the support crew on the Australis.
Most of the crew were happy to swim the distance to the safety of the zodiac boat being steered by trusty Magnus from the Australis, however Seb and Baz made the counterintuitive move to swim away from the zodiac, with Baz making it all the way to shore unassisted. But the freezing submersion wasn’t limited to the crew of the AS, with the film crew from Raw TV wading out up to their chests to get the perfect shot. That’s dedication.
With chilling winds of up to 30 knots still blowing outside, the delayed departure gives us all time to make final preparations for the big adventure ahead. For the crew of the Alexandra Shackleton eating as much as humanely possible seems to be the name of the game, with Skye Marr-Whelan from the Australis commenting that the six of them are eating for 12. With tonight most likely being their last night of gluttony before the pemmican diet kicks in, we’re expecting some epic appetites at the dinner table!
- by Jo Stewart, Shackleton Epic blogger