I’ll take a break from my Mission Antarctica journey (though the Antarctic part was over – there was still a lot of adventures to be had). I’ll recount something from our adventures on Christmas Island. In the summer of 2009-10 we went to Christmas Island where I was visiting pastor of the Christian fellowship there. It was a wonderful experience (with plenty of great stories to tell). Anyway, this was our final day on the Island and whilst the day itself wasn’t overly remarkable, I got to meet some high profile people…

Friday 29th January 2010 (2260 days married)

The kids slept ok, I was up at around 6:30am and checked my email. Soon the kids were awake, Aiden’s leg was looking a lot better.

We had breakfast and began packing things up. At 8:30am I took the kids to Territory Day Park where they had a great time playing. Then we went over the bridge and to Boong Trading to get a spoon to replace the one Aoife broke.

We returned home at 10am, then Di took the kids. She went down town to the Op-shop and down and got fuel. I then vacuumed the house. The whole house looked so much better afterwards. I also put the cricket on.

Di and kids returned. Aoife had lunch and went to bed. Aiden was walking on his leg now! He wasn’t moving quickly, but he could still get around by himself.

We then had the last couple of hours of cleaning, Di did most of the packing and I did job after job and we got the house in order.

By about 3pm the house was pretty much ready. It looked similar to how it had been when we arrived. Teo turned up in their big Rav4 and we loaded all our bags up. We were right to go. It was a bit sad leaving 23 Lam Lok Loh – we’re appreciated the offer and loved the time.

Then Teo drove us to the airport. We checked in everything was in order. I had a good conversation with Teo there, she asked me lots of questions about suicide and what happens after you die and the spiritual world. It was a good conversation.

I also spied Greg Lake at the airport in his immigration uniform and also Brian Lacy [the Island administrator]. I said hello to them briefly. Apparently a couple of senators (Steve Fielding and one other guy) were on the same flight as well as the shadow immigration minister – Scott Morrison.

Greg introduced me to Senator Fielding and Scott Morrison. It was great to meet them. I didn’t say much to Senator Fielding but I had a nice chat with Scott Morrison. He was from Sydney.

Then I took Aiden for a short talk and then it was time to go through security.and then boarded the plane. We were off (we were also sitting next to Senator Fielding and Scott Morrison).

The plane took off and we left Christmas Island behind us. It was sad to be leaving, really sad. We felt like were leaving a very special place – our adventure was coming to a close.

We took off and Aiden was soon fast asleep. He slept. Aoife was a bit more difficult. We soon had our dinner – very nice good (mustard chicken). Then Di tried to get Aoife to sleep – poor Aoife was very squirmy. I wrote in here and got up to date.

Aoife finally went to sleep as we approached Perth. The flight had gone quite well and soon we saw the lights of Perth and we landed.

Aiden woke up and we soon got off the plane. We went through immigration and heaps of people wanted to look at our arrival cards. We took our stuff through quarantine and then we were in Perth.

We got our maxi-taxi and we drove into the Perth CBD where we were staying – at the Perth Hilton Hotel – a nice treat.

It was nice staying at a decent hotel, check-in was easy and someone took our bags up to our room. The hotel staff were very friendly. Everyone was happy. Aiden and Aoife were very happy.

We eventually put Aiden and Aoife to bed and Di and I relaxed for a bit and watched a bit of TV – Sports Tonight. Then bed.

Mission Antarctica

It was unclear when we were going to leave the base, but we had our second night on Antarctica.

Saturday 27th January 2001

I was woken by Marcus’ alarm (or more precisely by my need to go to the toilet!).

I knew I didn’t have long in Bellinghausen, so I decided to go for a wander. I headed north, walked up to the top of a ridge overlooking the bay. I took photos and I could see several large spectacular icebergs in the distance – in the open ocean.

Oh I felt so sad to leave this place. I felt like I was glimpsing something so special, so unique and then wham – it was gone. Taken away from me. I am reminded of Job throughout all of this.

Anyway, I wandered around and looked and enjoyed looking at King George Island.

I went back to the others and then we went down to breakfast a the dining room.

We had some cottage cheese style thing for brekky, but I couldn’t quite work out what it was. I ate more than the others – I thought it quite nice, but I didn’t overdo it. I ate plenty of bread for I was hungry and I wanted to put some carbs in the body.

After breakfast we got ready for the day, I didn’t have my Mission Antarctica jacket – so Damien and I went up to the cabin to get them. Good chatting with him – he is excellent value. I’ve really gotten to know him very well these past 2 weeks or so.

Then back down for the photos with Valerie and the Russian Mission Antarctica clean-up team. We took heaps of photos.

We also went over to see the scrap metal that they were preparing as well. [At some stage I had to run up to the cabin to get some medicine for Marcus – he still wasn’t feeling very well]. Valerie was very keen to show us the drum crusher that Royal & SunAlliance had paid for. He demonstrated by crushing a drum. After he did that another person from the base came over to him and talked with him (in Russian). Apparently by him using the crusher it had used a lot of power and things had gone off in the station!

We got a lot of photos of the crusher and of the rubbish. We also got team photos of everyone holding a RSA flag.

That I suppose was the reason that we were there in Bellingshausen to look at what has been happening and what is being done about the rubbish. That is the focus of Mission Antarctica! It was good to do that.

After we had finished with that, Mark took us through a couple of things, he finalised our ‘statement’, or our sequence of events.

Then we got ready to go on a nature walk with one of the Russians – ‘Yuri’.

We set off, not everyone, some weren’t quite up for it. We walked past the Chilean Base and over to a place Yuri called Elephant Bay. We walked over stones and through snow and we slid down steep snow embankments etc. We walked over some lichen and moss etc (I’m not sure how familiar Yuri was with the Antarctic prototcol!) and we found some seals.

We found leapard seals I think – but they were big. The father one was huge! Massive things with big black eyes.

They made incredible burping noises as well. We got quite close to them and took lots of photos.

We went further around the bay and found more seals and some penguin remains, some of the seals eat penguins!!

Then we had some chocolate that Mike had brought (I have eaten more chocolate on this trip than the last 2 years combined I think!).

Then Yuri forged on – we walked past what he called a ‘sea-cat’ and over a ridge and into the next bay.

There were more seals along this beach and I saw my favourite seal – the Weddell Seal’. They look so gorgeous.

We walked around that bay and to the next bay. The beach had sand that was virtually untouched so we wrote messages in the sand. I wrote, ‘I am on a beach in Antarctica 27-1-2001’. We also saw the skeleton of a whale there (well the head and a couple of vertebrae).

We also ate some sea carrot (?), something from the ocean. It tasted ok, but I wouldn’t want to begin a diet of it.

Oh, the leapard seals – they were fine upwind, boy did they smell!!

Then we decided to begin making our way back to the base. The nature walk had been excellent. I had seen all sorts of seals and some more great scenery. There were many islands and outcrops in the bays we were looking at and in the distance I could see icebergs maintaining their silent vigilant watch over the seas, acting as sentinels.

We walked back a different way, straight up a snow covered hill. We got to the top and Yuri and I were way ahead of everyone else. I spied a hill nearby and I decided to go and climb it, so I raced off.

The hill was steeper and higher than it looked – but getting to the top was great. The whole bay was before me and I could see icebergs and islands all around. It was quite a great scene. I didn’t have long to savour the scene, for I had to join the others.

I looked again at the hill I climbed and I realised it was much easier to climb from the other end!

But we all wandered back to the base and we were met by a Russian in his truck. He told us that a plane was due to take us back to Chile in about 1 1/4 hours! Arrghhh!

Nooo – it was too soon. No only did we have virtually no time to get ready – there were still so many things I wanted to do. We had planned to see the penguin rookery the next morning, I was going to trek to the glacier in the arvo, I was going to send a postcard, get my passport stamped! 1 hour!!

I raced with Brenda down to the Chilean base and we got our passports stamped. It was very good.

We chatted and she asked how I felt, she said it must have been hardest for me for I had been looking forward to it for so long. I agreed with her.

Then we went to the Russians and the souvenir shop – a bit cheeky considering others were packing our bags for us (our plastic bags), but we went with Marcus. We bought some stuff – very unique stuff.

Brenda also said that people (team members) were a bit concerned about me. I have been very quiet about the whole thing. People think I’m either taking it the hardest or handling it the best. I think I’m doing both – so many emotions are going through me. Intense grief and sorrow, intense disappointment, joy and peace at being at Bellingshausen, wonder, excitement, everything possible. So I can understand why people think that.

Anyway, we headed back to HQ and got our passports stamped and everything was ready to go. All of our gear was in plastic bags and we put everything and ourselves on the ruck. Then we drove to the airstrip and left Bellingshausen behind (they had a Lada at the base, which meant many Lada jokes e.g. What do you call a Lada without a roof? “A skip”). We waved everyone goodbye and then drove up to the airstrip.

There were many photos and many hugs and farewells – particularly to the 2041 crew.

We waited in the small departure lounge that was there. The Russians looked a little uneasy in the Chilean area. There is a bit of animosity between the two camps, I think because the Chileans are far better funded than the Russians.

Eventually our plane arrived, it was hard to believe that this was it. Mission Antarctica over – I was leaving Bellinghausen almost as soon as I had arrived. I was there for less than 48 hours – maybe 44 hours or so.

We all boarded the little plane, an 8 seat military plane. We all had window seats. The men had to sit in the front and the women in the back because of the weight or something.

Then the Chilean pilots fired the engines and we took off leaving Bellinghausen and Antarctica behind. One team member made the comment, ‘I hope I never have to see this place again’. I disagree hugely, I would love to go back. I felt so disappointed to have to leave.

I watched as the ice covered King George Island retreated into the background and my view was replaced with cloud and the Drake Passage. My mind raced, I thought so much and so hard about everything.

We had left Antarctica.

A day in Antarctica

I thought I’d continue my story of my trip to Antarctica. We’d arrived, we were staying at the Russian Antarctic base, Bellingshausen. This was my full day in Antarctica. It was challenging and difficult day, particularly as everyone was affected by grief and we all processed it in different ways.

Friday 26th January 2001

I was woken at 8am by Marcus’ alarm (Marcus and I were sleeping the same room). I decided to go for a bit of exploring. I got my wet weather gear on and I used the line again, ‘I’m going outside, I may be some time’.

I stepped out into a blizzard. The wind was blowing at a tremendous pace and it was snowing. I wasn’t sue where to walk, so I went down the hill. I had a bit of a look at the rubbish that was there and I went to be near the water and I saw a bunch (flock?) of penguins walking along the waters edge – they were struggling against the wind and the looked very amusing waddling along.

I enjoyed the wander. I felt nice and warm in all my gear even though the wind and snow was very cold.

I got up to the cabin and all of the others were ready to go. We then walked down to the base for breakfast.

Went into the dining room and it was nice and warm, but it had seemed like I had wound the clock back 30 years. It felt like an old youth hostel. We got our crockery and cutlery and some porridge and cheese and some meat stuff and sat down.

I sat with Oleg and Marcus for breakfast and we talked and I ate. The porridge was quite nice but the bread and cheese was also good. I ate some Polish condiment on top of my bread. Marcus made the comment that I ate a lot, but I was hungry and I hadn’t had a proper breakfast in a couple of days.

The food was simple, but good, it was warm and it filled me up. I was satisfied.

After breakfast we kind of worked out what to do. Damien and I went into the games area and had a game of pool. Damien beat me quite convincingly. The pockets were very narrow, hard to get the ball into the pocket.

After we finished there we decided to join the others – they had gone across to the main office area.

It was a very nice area, well set up. It was far different to the other parts of Bellingshausen – it was modern and looked and felt nice.

We sat around for a bit. I was restless, here I was in Antarctica, on a Russian base and I wanted to explore. I didn’t want to sit around in a cosy comfortable room.

The whole mood had changed. Most of the others were very keen to leave and go home as soon as possible. […]

Royal & SunAlliance had said the previous day that they felt that the expedition should end at Bellingshausen and we should go home. Personally I was very disappointed with that, I had had my heart set on Antarctica since April 11th and now it had been taken away. I wanted to maximise my time on Antarctica.

[…] It was very hard under the circumstances, but we were in a very special place.

Anyway, after a bit of time in the luxury area (which I found out was only to enter by invitation only!) we went across to the Chilean Base. Most other people on the team wanted to call home and were very concerned for family members.

We went over to the Chilean area and got some phone cards for the others to call home. One thing I noticed was that for anything to happen amongst a big group, it takes a long time. I sat in the Chilean Base and looked around.  Then people began calling home.

The Chilean base was much more modern and better equipped than the Russian Base. they obviously had a lot more money than the Russians.

The Chileans were very generous with us, giving us drinks and letting us into their games room.

They had a table football game and I played a bit with one of the Chileans on the base. He was very good and he spoke no English, but we enjoyed the game of table soccer between Australia and Chile. I think he beat me.

Then the others on our team played. I played Marcus and Damien, Then Marcus and I took on Damien and Andres. They beat us but cheated, they discounted a perfectly good goal of ours and they counted a goal which they shouldn’t have. Then we changed teams again and Damien and I took on Andres and Marcus. We thrashed them 5-1 in a brilliant display of table football.

After that people were still making calls. […] I wasn’t going to call home for I had been told that my parents had been told that I was ok , the boat was ok, but Pip was dead. For me, that was enough information and I believed my family would have been happy with that.

I went out for a quick wander and I bumped into Mark. We had a good chat and I offered to stay longer if possible. He then came and talked with the whole team and relayed the latest news.

Then when we had finished making calls in the Chilean base we left there and went back to the Russians for lunch,

The contrast was stark, the Chileans were in a modern, well equipped base and were talking, laughing and joking. They smiled. The Russians rarely smiled or talked, they seemed sadder and quieter.

Lunch was excellent – a nice soup and pasta + meat and salady kind of thing.

I met a couple of Russians from the base – I found out their names and where they were from (St Petersburg) but that was about as far as my conversation ability with them could take us! A shame, I wished I could speak more Russian.

Lunch was nice, I met another Russian, a guy with a beard. I can’t remember his name, but he very kindly gave me some Russian coins.

We developed a bit of a plan for the afternoon, we were going to get our gear off the boat and move it on land. So Damien and I went up to the hut and collected some life jackets and brought them to the water.

We watched penguins whilst waiting near the water. They were very comical walking on land. We saw Chinstrap penguins – they stood maybe 30cm or so off the ground and liked to wander around a bit.

I stood around on the waters edge for a while watching and talking. I was waiting for others to get onto the 2041 and get their gear. Eventually I got into the Zodiac and went across to the 2041.

I got my gear from the boat and I very quickly sent an email home and to as many people I could remember the email addresses of (I think it was Damien Jenner, Katrina Ramsay, Graham Clarke, Jessica Ryburn and Jo Pidgeon).

I got everything ready and then jumped aboard the Zodiac. It was possibly my last time on the 2041.

It was a great yacht, I enjoyed most of my time on the yacht. It was a shame we did so little sailing. I would have loved to have learned how to sail more.

Anyway, we got the gear on land and we carried it over to near the dining room.

Jane and Andres had organised with the Chileans to have a memorial service for Pip in the Chilean chapel. So at 5pm we all went up to the little blue chapel for the memorial service.

All of the team and a couple of Chileans were there.

We went in and eventually the mass got underway. It was totally in Spanish, so I could understand very little.

It was a nice way to remember Pip, but it would have been nice if some of the service was in English.

I was reminded of my talk I gave at Beach Mission recently and I couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. […]

Jane requested at the conclusion of the mass that we say the Lord’s prayer in English. It was a nice thing to do. […]

Anyway, the mass was over, we had finished our memorial service for Pip Gregory.

After that we had a couple of photos. There was much crying, particularly Lynn and Jane – they took the thing the hardest I think,.

I was now caught between feeling grief but also real disappointment – for my Antarctic adventure would end at Bellingshausen.

Then we wandered down the hill and back to the dining room.

We hung out for a bit and Marcus and Brenda were thinking of going swimming!! Marcus had these great shorts, red and white board shorts! In the end he didn’t go swimming, we just went to the water’s edge and I took a couple of photos of him by the edge of the water near the penguins.

We also saw the plane go overhead that had Pip’s body in – bound for the Falkland Islands.

Then back to the dining area and some of the team had taken to drinking. We were drinking a bit of vodka and Piska. We were sitting in the kind of smoking room and most drank and talked.

Mike had found a funny contraption from a Frosties package or something – it was a pea shooter that shot little sticky things. We shot various things we were aiming to hit people in the face – I asked Mike if he could get the sticky arrows to stick to my glasses, but he hit my forehead and nose!!

Mike was the source of all sorts of things, he brought out some balloons and we blew up some balloons. We had great fun in hitting the balloons. It was very simple, all we did was hit the balloons in the air and not let them touch the balloons in the air and not let them touch the ground! Very simple, but we created a lot of noise. The Russians must have thought we were mad!! Andres turned out to be a bit of a party pooper as he popped the balloons.

Then it was time for dinner.

Dinner was nice, beef and potatoes ans something that was kind of like chips. I really liked it. I ate that up. All of the meals seem to be white – there are no fresh vegetables (or very few vegetables), a lot of potatoes.

After dinner we returned to the smoking room again. Hung about chatting with the team and Lynn brought out her pink slippers! They were very funny! There were a lot of jokes about Damien for in Ushuaia Hilda made him ask the Spanish locals in Spanish if there were any gay bars in Ushuaia.

We all tried learning a bit of Russian. Damien had an English – Russian phrase book – we we all had a bit of a look. Compared to other languages – particularly Spanish and other Asian languages, Russian is very difficult.

Anyway after a bit Damien, Marcus and I went up on the Russian truck with all our gear, our clothes and stuff, up to the hut.

It was getting close to dark – the days are very long, but not quite as long as I expected.

We unloaded all of the gear and I got my Bible and read some words of comfort. I read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 about there being a time for everything. I read it to Marcus and Damien. They said it was so relevant. I also read a Psalm of despair – Psalm 88 I think.

We chatted a bit and discussed the issue of suffering a bit as well. They found suffering very hard. Damien said he used to go to Mass ever Sunday until his mother died – now he only goes occasionally.

Then the three of us walked in the twilight to the HQ where the others were.

Marcus wasn’t feeling the best – so he went to see the doctor. Damien and I went into the luxury area and found everyone drinking.

I had a very average glass of red wine and I chatted with people. I felt very tired, but hung about chatted a bit with Damien and also Brenda.

I hung about – I was keen to go, but I stayed. There was a big balloon fight at one stage. We all had the balloons going, the Russians were getting into it. It was so simple, just hitting balloons into the air, but everyone got into it and had a good time.

Mike also got going with his pea shooter contraption. He was wearing his yellow shorts and was showing a lot of leg when getting photos with the pink slippers.

The Russians seemed to enjoy the evening. I think we must have done a bit for morale on the base. I don’t think that they were used to such revelry.

Anyway, eventually it was 11pm (in Russian time, I think or maybe 10pm Russian time and 11pm our time – it was always confusing, I couldn’t work out if we were an hour ahead or behind), and Oleg decided it was tie to get off to bed. So we all dispersed. The 2041 people (Mark, Emily, Mike and Mark) all went off and we trapsed up the hill to our cabin, our 1/2 star hotel!

I got myself sorted for the evening. Things weren’t going to be as wild as the previous night – there was no alcohol.  I wrote in here for a while.

Marcus wasn’t feeling great, so he went to bed. I went to sleep not long after.

I thought I would like to share some stories from my journal. So here is a bit of a classic, way back from 1996 when I’d just finished my third (and final) year of uni studying Commerce at UNSW. At the end of the year I went away with the faculty Commerce Christian group. It was a few days away and involved much fun.  This is an abridged version of one particular event of that famous Commerce Bash…

Tuesday 5th December 1996

[After a morning of Bible reflection and discussion, then lunch (I described lunch as ‘delicious, some stuff with something else in the middle’ ) and a trip to the beach, the attendees of the Commerce Bash gathered in a park in readiness for the photo hunt.]

We each got a camera and went in a team in a car and had to take photos of stuff.

In our team was Stu Starr (driver), myself, Jon Blencowe, Tony Wright and Squish. We had a great team and we sort of worked out what to do.

We headed off and went to try and find the tourist information place and we found the Catholic church, got a photo there. Then we saw the girl guide hall and we got a photo with the people there – points for little kids. We were getting warmed up and we then did a human pyramid with a group of little kids, and then we raced over to the Bowling Club – where there were lots of people bowling – and we got that photo.

Then to a corner shop where we found lots of ice-creams and a photo there and we asked directions to the police station and cemetery.

Then we drove to the police station and by this stage the policeman in charge was a bit annoyed at heaps of people coming through and annoying them. We also got a photo of us smiling outside the funeral parlour!

But we got the photo and then to the cemetery and we weren’t entirely sure where to go. So we saw this girl  walking beside the road, so I wound down the window and said, ‘Excuse me, we were wondering if you could tell us where the cemetery was!’ It was a bizarre request and we all cracked up later.

Anyway, we got to the site and found a grave with the name Elizabeth Stack, so we did a ‘Stacks on’ in front of the site.

Then out and on driving back we the girl who helped us and we waved and honked the horn. She must have thought we were loonies!!

Anyway, we did a couple of our creative shots, we got a photo of Tony dressed up in Anthony’s motorcycle gear (looking very seedy),  beckoning outside a pre-school! We thought it was pretty funny.

Then next we got a photo of Stu preaching from the Bible outside the ‘Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’, we were all disciples at his feet – it was quite funny.

Then we went off to find the Lake Haven shopping centre and we got there, got a photo of heaps of animals (birds) in a pet shop.

Then found the train (in the shopping centre) and then we took off and had to finish our photos.

We went past a primary school and it looked like they were having a pageant of some sort, we thought if we ran out of time we’d go back.

Then we drove to the golf course – got a photo on a green with some bewildered golfers and then we went to the highlight of our trip, the turnoff sign to Buff Point.

Squish was in the car and squirmed, I maintained my modesty by taking the photo – but Tony, Stu and Jon stripped down and put a hat in a strategic spot and we took the photo.

We couldn’t believe it – but then we took off.

We stopped at a sign that said Newcastle, we wrote SAND, and put it in front of the New and had Sandcastle 60 – we aimed to get 60 sandcastles.

Anyway, then we decided to go to this primary school (Gorokan Primary) and we raced in and it was a kids dance – there were hundreds of kids around and Tony took the photo and we raced out again.

We were in hysterics thinking that no-one would be able to beat us (especially at 20 points per kid!)

Then we went to the Lake Haven Shopping Centre again and we finished off the film and it started to absolutely pour.

We then put the film in and we had finished. The only thing we didn’t get was buried in the sand – head visible!

So we celebrated and Squish bought us all ice creams from Maccas.

Tony and Stu and I were chatting in the car, Stu said, ‘This certainly is a good team building exercise’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve grown to hate you all!’

But we went back to where the BBQ was supposed to be – talking mainly about the Buff Pt shot and the hundreds of kids.

We had a fantastic photos hunt – thoroughly enjoyed by our team.

Anyway, we got back to the camp and talked to everyone, Darren couldn’t believe that people in our group actually went ‘Buff’ naked.

[After this we had dinner and card games and then the photos returned with the winners of the famous Commerce Bash photo hunt…]

But, the photos came back and they were hilarious. The Buff Point one turned out well, as did most of our photos.

The other groups basically didn’t have a chance, we had hundreds of kids and animals and old people etc etc.

Then they announced the points. One team got 425 or so, and another two teams got 520 odd and 570 odd. Then our team got 1725 points!!

We got more points for our picture with all the little kids in (31 kids – 620 points) than the other groups got all up!

It was hilarious. We also won 3 of the 4 special categories. We lost the landscape one, but one the funniest individual (sleazy guy beckoning outside a primary school), the funniest group (Stu preaching outside the JW’s) and the most creative near Buff Pt!!

So we won by miles (although they tried deducting 1000 points for ugliness and 200 pts for another silly reason.

But out team dominated and collected the prize, which was glory and honour and humility!

Pip’s sudden death was a dreadful shock to the whole team. We actually weren’t that far from Antarctica and after the drama of the morning we tried to come to terms with what had happened. I’ll continue the events of that fateful day.

Thursday 25th January 2001 (continued)

People began sobbing and I stared blankly and couldn’t believe it. I also couldn’t work out what would happen to the rest of the trip – what would happen?

I wanted to be alone and I went up on deck. We had passed into the Antarctic zone with icebergs etc. I looked out and saw an incredible sight of icebergs floating magnificently in the ocean and I saw King George Island with the curved masses of ice in beautiful blues and whites.

However the sight of this seemed irrelevant – the sight of my first iceberg seemed like nothing compared to losing Pip. I felt numb. It felt irreverent to take photos.

I just stood up on the deck watching the world go past, a remarkable Antarctic world and I just thought. I thought about death and the mission and Pip and what had happened.

I had felt bad that I hadn’t done much to help.

I tell you, the worst thing I had to do was to carry Pip, when dead into one of the cabins. She looked dead, no life in the lips, eyes shut – lifeless corpse. It was a terrible thing to have to do.

So I just stood and watched and looked at Antarctica – we had arrived, but under the most tragic of circumstances.

When I went up on deck I said to Jane, ‘I’m just going outside, I may be some time’.

Anyway, it was good to stand up on deck on ‘growler duty’. I was there for a while by myself then Damien joined me. We talked a bit and looked at the snow and ice. Damien said, ‘it’s a bit irrelevant now, jut just doesn’t seem important’. I didn’t feel like taking pictures – it just didn’t seem right.

Damien and I talked a bit and then Marcus came up and joined us on deck and we talked some more. All of us were in shock and we couldn’t quite believe what had happened.

My mind was racing, do we stop here, will I get to see Antarctica, how do I respect Pip?? So many questions.

Talked a bit with Marcus and Damien and then I took a few photos.

Antarctica really is an amazing place. All around me I felt power, the sheer power and size of the ice and snow. It has a strange feeling. I felt like I shouldn’t be there.

Anyway as we went past King George Island we got closer to Bellingshausen and I noticed a storm brewing. We motored into the bay where the base is and we needed people on deck to help get things ready.

We put the sail away and tied everything up and went into the bay. I saw a blue iceberg, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

The wind picked up to some 30 knots or so and we got closer and closer to Bellingshausen.

We sailed through an ice-field, there were growlers everywhere and we had to slow down so we could get through ok. The wind was very strong, but we got through fine and eventually found the bay and saw the Bellingshausen base for the first time.

There were quite a number of buildings there, mainly the Chilean base, but we could see the Chilean base on the left and Bellingshausen – the Russians – on the right.

All of the buildings seemed so out of place, they seemed such an intrusion on the natural beauty of King George Island.

We anchored and then went down to the saloon. Jane and Lynn cooked us up some food – sausages in pastry – quite nice.

Then we had to recount the whole story. We went through everything and wrote it down so we could all agree on the correct sequence of events for future reference.

The tale was quite sordid as we recounted all of the details. I didn’t say very much at all, I realised how little I had to do with Pip on those last couple of days. Lynn, Damien, Marcus and Mark and Jane bad been the best with her. I felt guilty that I hadn’t done more to help at all. I liked Pip and I had a couple of good chats with her. She was quiet – but a very valuable member of the team.

Eventually we finished recounting the details which seemed to take an eternity. We got our stuff ready for transfer to land. We went across in the Zodiac an met up with the Russians on land.

When I got onto land it felt very weird. My body was so used to the water. My head and body was spinning around. I had sea-legs.

Then we got onto the back of a Russian truck an we went up to our ‘hotel’ (later one of the Russians described it as a ‘1/2 star hotel’). It was situated high up away from the rest of the base. It overlooked the bay, but it was hard to say what we saw, for it was dark.

We got to our rooms, they were dry and warm. It was an old scientific research area. There were beds there and bedding. We got our stuff together there and made up beds etc.

We also met Oleg and Valerie from the Russian base. They gave us a bottle of cognac and Damien go out a bottle of whiskey.

We talked briefly then the Russians left, I was totally exhausted so I prepare myself for bed. I thought the others would as well, but they sat up talking and drinking. I tried to get some sleep, but I couldn’t above their drinking and talking.

In my head was the Bible verse from Ecclesiastes, ‘A time for mourning and a time for joy’. I felt it was the time for mourning.

Eventually they all went to bed and I got some sleep.

We were much closer to Antarctica and then came the day that changed the trip and our lives forever.

Thursday 25th January 2001

I was awoken at around 2:30am by Damien, I was on the 3-7am shift to watch the boat.

I got up and was ready to go. It was freezing. I spent a lot of time on the front of the boat on iceberg duty looking out for growlers (submerged ice) and icebergs. I spent a lot of time talking with Brenda and a bit of time talking with Lynn.

Lynn spent a lot more time below deck looking after Pip. She was really sick, so much so that when I got up Jane was going to sleep in Pip’s cabin to look after her and watch her.

The morning shift was very uneventful, in fact I don’t think we made a sail change. There was no wind – we just motored along.

Jane came up at one stage and gave us an egg – for breakfast! It was nice.

The highlights of our watch were some penguins swimming and some seals.

Then at 7am I went back to bed to get some sleep.

I woke up again about 1.5 hours later. There was pandemonium and action in the passageway.

I heard a beeping from the Nav. area and Jane came in and woke up Marcus.

I then say Marcus and a couple of others drag Pip into the passageway. I prayed for Pip then.

I got up but I didn’t fully know what was going on. I looked out of my cabin and I saw them administering CPR to Pip. I saw Hilda and she had a kind of shocked look on her face and said, ‘She’s not breathing’.

Suddenly I realised just how serious the situation was. Mark was running around with various needles etc and he told me to sit at the chart table and write down any message that came through.

I sat there and heard the whole story unfold. There were people madly giving Pip CPR and rubbing her legs to try to keep her warm – but there had been no pulse and she hadn’t been breathing. It was looking really bad.

We got a message from a ship called the Orlova, they were about 4 hours away to the north. We had a bit of a conversation with them (Emily was doing all the talking) we even turned around to try and get closer to them.

However we had a conversation with the doctor on the Orlova and we relayed Pip’s symptoms to him. We said that the patient was without a pulse for about an hour or so, then I heard the doctor say that he recommended we stop CPR, ‘the patient has expired, you’ll only exhaust your crew’. I couldn’t quite believe it – Pip was dead! It couldn’t be true could it?

Mark was injecting all sorts of things, adrenalin, insulin, Dramamine, but he had no injection called ‘life’.

We kept going with the CPR and I prayed more.

We had news of a navy helicopter on its way, so we changed course again and tried to get closer to the helicopter.

It was only 11am but the morning had seemed like an eternity. Everyone was looking concerned and people were quite shocked.

The helicopter eventually arrived – I played my small part relaying messages from the radio and getting Em or Mark to take them.

When the helicopter came it was incredibly dramatic. Two royal navy servicemen came down. The spray and the noise and the wind was incredible.

The navy doctor was there only for a little while – they only had a few minutes on the 2041.

He pronounced Pip dead and then the servicemen were winched back to the helicopter and they took off.

It confirmed what we had all feared, but Pip was dead. Yesterday she was alive – I asked her what she wanted for lunch and she said, ‘A cheese sandwich’, ‘with butter’. Now I would never hear her voice again. It was almost unbelievable.

When the Navy servicemen left we put the boat in neutral (there was still no wind) and Mark called an emergency meeting.

We were all pretty gutted I mean what could you say or think or do! Pip was dead, one of our team, the Mission Antarctica 2001 team, was dead! I mean dead! Not just sick or late or missing or irritable – dead! Not alive!

Mark said that he, Em and Mike would sail the boat, we were left free.

We’d settled into life onto the yacht and we got closer to Antarctica.

Wednesday 24th January 2001

I awoke and I tried to work out what time it was. I hoped I had slept through to the next watch change and I was quite relieved to see my clock at 10:28am when I got up. I had a shave and ate something.

Our watch’s job was to get lunch ready. So Lynn and I began chopping things up for sandwiches. We got a whole load of food ready an I went around taking orders. We made up sandwiches and distributed them. I think the appetites are returning – people ate a lot more!

I had a bit of time till our next watch – 1pm.

It was a glorious day, blue skies, hardly a cloud to be seen. Unfortunately this meant no wind.

I got into all my waterproofs etc and went on watch. It was like being on a cruise! The sun was warm and people lay about on deck. The water is incredibly blue. We are gradually making our way across. There isn’t much wind. The main thing we’ve done on our watch is let the yankee out. Not much else. Just sat back and enjoyed the glorious weather.

Absolutely nothing happened on our watch. I went up to the bow of the boat (I think that is the right term for the front) and sat and watched the sea and let my mind wander.

I sat right at the front and looked back at the boat rocking and making progress over the water. I watched birds flying around and I just watched the deep blue water. It was a beautiful rich deep blue colour. I enjoyed sitting at the front of the boat.

Then back and sat around some more. I got quite hot with all my fleece and wet weather gear on. Sat around and the afternoon moved along. The entertainment was the Yank and Irishman sparring in a verbal duel. They are a funny pair.

Eventually dinner time came and Matt had cooked up a delicious shepherds pie thing, it really was nice. Ate that and sat up with the others. I also say up and ready some of Brenda’s ‘Hockey News’. Ice Hockey is a totally different world, I know nothing of it at all.

Eventually our watch finished at 7pm exactly the way it had started – except that the Yankee was out! It was still a gloriously sunny day. It had been very quiet – a little wind and the engine had been on all the time.

I looked at the ocean around me, wherever I looked I could see the ocean, from horizon to horizon and all in between. The big restless, blue alive ocean!

I then went and had a shower and since the engine had been running there was hot water. My shower was brief and rather swayee, but very refreshing.

The sun is about to set – I’m going to watch the sunset and then go to bed, I’m on the 3-7am shift tomorrow morning. Hopefully there will be a bit of action.

I watched the sunset – it was quite nice, but it was getting cold. I bade goodnight to those on deck and to bed.

We continued sailing steadily south. The trip continues as the seasickness affected the crew.

Tuesday 23rd January 2001

I woke up a couple of times during the night, but I got up at 6:30am or so and attempted to to do my shift. I got into the wet weather gear and then Brenda, Lynn and myself did our shift. Mike was our watch leader.

We didn’t actually do very much, we put the yankee out and that was about it. We just sat around feeling cold.

I watched the water – there was water from horizon to horizon. It was very soothing to watch.

I also enjoyed watching the birds sail and drift over the water. The albatross’ with wonderful wingspans just glided over the water. They seemed so much more at home than myself. We really didn’t do much.

Lynn and I sang sea shanty songs – we didn’t know the words so we just did the actions. We also sang, ‘What shall we do with the drunken sailor’ and ‘What shall we do with the sleeping Brenda’. We had a good laugh.

Some of the others came up to do lunch and we chatted with them. Marcus was just too cheerful! He and Damien were coping very well with the sea-sickness!

I had been eating steadily over the morning and a bit of porridge and a bit of chocolate and the odd biscuit. I had kept everything down well. I ate half a sandwich for lunch.

We were off at 1pm and I hung about in the doghouse for a bit. The scenery was the same, rolling waves and cloudy all around. The temperature went between 8 and 12 degrees in the doghouse.

I went downstairs and wrote my wrote my sit-rep.

Oh – Andres had sort of roused – but not really. He said “I have been asleep for 16 hours and I still feel ill!’ I wrote the sit-rep, mentioning the fact that a lot of people had come down with sea-sickness and Marcus was too cheerful and Andres had a nickname, ‘Condor’.

After writing the sit-rep I went to my bunk and had a bit of a sleep.

I got up at 6:30pm for dinner. Dinner had been prepared by Marcus and Damien and it was nice – a beef stir-fry with rice! I ate a bit.

Pip and Hilda had arrived for dinner – Pip was feeling a lot better, but still not the best.

I sat in the doghouse for a bit and then went down and did the dishes with Lynn.

After that I came back up to the doghouse and wrote in here. We are presently a bit under 40 miles from the Antarctic convergence zone. This is where we have special rules about waste disposal etc. We’ll also have to keep our eyes open for icebergs and whales.

It is currently overcast and drizzly, there is a bit of wind but we are driving with the motor. Our progress has been steady.

I killed a bit of time, read a bit about the birds of Antarctica and the Drake Passage. We’d seen some albatross’s and petrels.

I lay my head down for a bit, I was on the 11-3 night watch.

I and Brenda and Lynn prepared for the watch and we were ready at 11pm. Emily was our watch leader.

Initially there wasn’t much to do. We just sat in the eerie twilight. After a bit I went up to the bow with Lynn and watched the ocean from the front. She asked me if I studied the Bible much, I said I did and we had a good conversation. She has had a lot of Christianity in her upbringing, Bible verses and Christian schooling. It as a good conversation.

Anyway, we had some action, the wind steadied and strengthened, so we had some sailing to do.

We let out the Yankee and the staysail. We got up to 10 knots – we switched the engine off and it was the most exhilarating experience.

The wind was quite strong, so we reefed the mainsail as well! Plenty of action. It was very exciting, the waters rushing about, putting up sails as the yacht sped along. All done in the dark.

It got dark for a couple of hours and at around 2:30am it began getting light again. The days are incredibly long here.

We aroused the next watch – which was good for I was getting really tired. It was 3am and very cold!

The next watch came up and took over from us. I went to my bunk and to bed.

Our trip continued as we left land and began our trip to Antarctica. We were sailing into open sea…

Monday 22nd January 2001

Got woken up, I didn’t sleep as well, I got very hot overnight in my sleeping bag.

Had breakfast and then did a couple of jobs on deck and we prepared to leave.

We had a briefing and then left Chile at around 8:4am. My stay in Chile had been brief – very similar to my day trip to Malaysia a couple of years ago.

We sailed off from Puerto Williams (with the engine on). Again the morning’s sail was very pleasant. We put up the mainsail and motored down the Beagle Channel.

We practised a man overboard drill. I was on the helm at the time, so I had to steer the boat right around into the wind. At that time the wind was quite gusty (25Kn) so it made the drill a bit ‘exciting’.

Then we took it easy for a bit. Then Mark got us onto our watches – our first taste for the sailing. I was on Watch 1 with Brenda and Lynn until 1pm.

We started our watch, another group went and made lunch and another group sat in the doghouse. We sailed down the Beagle Channel.

Mike was our watch leader and we put a couple of reefs in the mainsail, which was quite dramatic. I copped a wave in the face as well, which was amusing for some.

The watch was quite dramatic at that point with a 25Kn wind and us on deck. But we were under control and we sat back and enjoyed the scenery for a bit.

The hills became lower and there was less snow. We gradually left the craggy snow capped peaks behind and the passage became wider.

We had lunch which was excellent. Spaghetti + salad + sauce. It was great. I ate that up in the doghouse. Then the rest of the team went on watch and I had free time, so I wrote in here.

It is a glorious day, we have seen hundreds of birds, the wildlife is excellent. The channel hasn’t been too rough but we haven’t actually hit the Drake Passage yet. We should be there fairly soon, then the big seas begin.

Sat around on deck for a bit and seas remained quite choppy. The joviality and jokes began slowing down as people began to feel a bit queasy.

I was feeling quite fine sitting in the doghouse. I was quite enjoying it.

However I had to go down to the toilet and start thinking about dinner. Lynn and I went down and it was hard to get about. Going to the toilet was a bit of an adventure.

But then I started feeling a bit crook. I sat up in the doghouse again.

Pip had won the sea-sickness competition and others were following suit. I felt worse and worse and eventually I had to get the bucket and I saw my spaghetti and mince again!

I then went and crawled to my bed. I felt pretty bad and I lay there. It was around 5pm. Dinner was a long way from being ready, in fact I think I’d be lucky to make my watch at 7pm.

Andres also came to bed and I threw up again. It was a pretty awful experience.

I definitely wasn’t going to make my shift at 7pm, in fact out of Brenda, Lynn and myself – only Lynn was able to do the shift. Marcus helped out.

It got a bit rough as well. We had some large gusts of wind – one gust got up to 42 knots! It was pretty windy and the boat rocked a lot.

Sea-sickness was bad, I just felt sick and like I didn’t want to do anything. I felt so lethargic. I did get some sleep though.

This was the day – the day the trip really began. I’d slept my first night on a yacht we were about to head off.

Sunday 21st January 2001

I slept fantastically. I woke up at around 6:30am and was up for breakfast. Ate brekky on the boat – cereal and UHT milk. Breakfast conversation was good, Hilda didn’t get in until 2.30am!

Then we did a few things, we prepared the boat for sailing and we practised some knots. The general standard amongst the group was pretty low. Damien and Pip were very good but Andres and the Canadians didn’t have much idea.

After that we took some team photos and tidied up. Mark did all the customs stuff with our passports etc. Then we were ready to sail at around 10am; except for the fact that there was no wind!

Andres pointed out that Marcus is your typical American – always talking, always eating with a baseball cap on.

We motored out of Ushuaia and we were off, off on the 2041, off on our great adventure – the adventure of a lifetime.

Mark was at the helm and he talked to us about what we were going to do. Our first task was raising the mainsail. We did it bit by bit and after much teamwork and help from Emily, we raised it! (there wasn’t any wind though).

We practised a few techniques and then we decided to have some lunch. Marcus (American – food is his speciality) went down and took charge.

I sat up on the deck watching the scenery. Again, it was nothing short of spectacular! We watched Ushuaia gradually become smaller in the distance. The Beagle Channel was like glass as it was so calm. We went past snow capped mountains and we could see the reflections on the water. We also saw many birds and wildlife. The sun was warm and it was quite beautiful. I even took the wheel for a while and chatted with Mark.

It was when I took the wheel that lunch was ready. Marcus had organised a delicious ham toasted sandwich. We all enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

Then after lunch the wind picked up a lot and we pulled out the Yankee. With the extra sails we had a lot more extra speed. We got up to nearly 10 knots at one stage!

We learned new techniques and new words – luffing etc. We also began some tacking manoeuvres. We all tried the different positions. After a couple of tacks I got the general idea of what had to happen on each tack. I began to get the hang of sailing. It was an excellent, exhilarating experience to be actually sailing! No motor – we got to our destination by sail power.

Then we practised a couple of man overboard drills. We went through the procedures and at one instance we threw the flag overboard and collected it.

Eventually after a great days sailing we made for Puerto Williams (Chile). We arrived and berthed on the jetty.

We did some cleaning up on the yacht and made everything tidy. Mark also did another briefing on man overboard manoeuvres etc.

Then it was free time. We got ready and then had a bit of a wander into Puerto Williams. It is a Chilean naval base so there wasn’t much to the town. We all had a look around – it was deserted. I suppose it was Sunday evening, so nothing was open.

It was a bit of a dump, dirt streets, small houses and unkept gardens and parks.

Wandered back to the boat and looked at the ‘yacht club’.

The others went to the yacht and I had a wander. I walked down the road and to a little bridge. I noticed a car stopped – looking at something on the pond. It was a moving log – a beaver! I went across and watched it for a while. It was great to watch the beaver in the Patagonian wilderness!

Then back to the yacht, wrote in here waiting to work out what happens with dinner. So a great day again today, sailing through Patagonia. Tomorrow it really begins – the Drake Passage, watches and everything. I’m learning a lot about sailing and I’ve even managed to use a clove hitch for a real situation!

We went onshore again to this restaurant that the customs officer recommended to Andres. We all walked up there through the thriving metropolis of Puerto Williams. We found the restaurant and went in. It was only the 2nd day he had been open.

His eyes lit up when we all walked in; we all looked pretty inconspicuous tramping through Puerto Williams with our red jackets etc.

We got there at around 9pmish and had some drinks. It was a bit of a speciality to Latin America, some alcoholic drink – similar to a margarita.

We chatted away and had a great time. We worked out we were eating at the most southerly ‘restaurant’ in the world! Quite a good experience.

The food came gradually, some entrée (a kebab style thing) and then some delicious hot bread. It was yummy.

I had an excellent conversation with Damien – we talked about religion for a bit as well. He asked if I was a bible bashing freak (i.e. want to convert you) – I don’t know how clear I was with my response. He is Catholic and goes to mass every week, but he doesn’t read his Bible. He is quite happy with what he’s got and doesn’t want anyone telling him what he should believe. But we had a good conversation.

The topic of what people thought about each other before the trip came up. Apparently Damien thought I’d be a pain. Hilda said she thought I would be older and more serious. Everyone said I didn’t look anything like the picture on the Intranet!

Anyway, eventually our dinner arrived – it came one by one and mine was the last to come! It was beef and chips and egg and tomato. Not too bad, but I had filled up on bread, so I couldn’t finish my dinner.

It had been a fun night, we had all enjoyed the food and the conversation.

Then finished up and headed back to the boat. I was pretty full – then got ready for be. In and to bed, my second night on the boat.