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Posts Tagged ‘death’

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.

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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.

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