Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

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Special Report: Answers To Questions

Hello all out there,

I’ve been catching up with news from many of you in the last few days. Thanks to all, it’s nice to hear from you; this email system is so good but we have come to rely on it and when it fails it’s like we’ve had an arm cut off.

I reported that we might have some problems with email after we get to Davis on account of having to give a handset back to the fellow we borrowed one from when ours broke. I’m pleased to say we won’t be without email. The technicians can do something with wiring and keep us connected to a slow circuit rather than the fast link we’ve enjoyed. Basically this means that messages will be slower leaving the ship but with less people on board (we shed 52 at Davis) it shouldn’t mean that much.

Betty wants to know about the ‘Candlelight Suppers’ Gordon has in his cabin, and if she could have an invitation. Well what it is, is that on some occasions Gordon has invited three other people up to his cabin at 7.30 in the evenings and they have a quiet evening with nice chatter, a glass of nice red wine, some good cheese and biscuits/crackers - a genteel gathering. Folks generally dress a little better than normal. Gordon turns off the main lights in his office space/lounge and puts on a reading light to provide a low light atmosphere. With a nice bit of quiet music on a CD it is a great way to finish a day. So there are no candles but the atmosphere is there. The expression? Anyone remember Mrs Bucket ("Bouquet") from the British comedy TV series "Keeping Up Appearances?" Perhaps not known in America but popular in Australia with many audiences.

And some questions from the kids -

"What kinds of recreation activities, if any, are available on the Aurora Australis? We know you don’t have much time for recreation, and that is not your purpose on the voyage, but if people have time off, what do they do? Let us know!"

Gordon always seems to be so busy I wonder what he does for recreation. There is actually a lot to do on the ship. We have many board games and folk play cards, backgammon, chess, scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Yahtsee and so on. There are videos of course - there are two areas where people can view - Gordon saw Dr Zhivago last night with a few other folk. For the physically inclined there is the gym which has exercise bikes, a rowing machine, weights, punching bags and the like. For relaxation there is a small sauna. Some groups have been doing aerobics to Jane Fonda tapes. There are several computer terminals in one of the conference rooms so people can play computer games, send emails or just write. There are many many books around the ship and reading is very popular - some have told Gordon they read more books on the ship than they might read all year usually.

Sometimes someone will organise language classes, yoga sessions, Tai Chi etc. When we are in the ice, there is an awful lot of photographic activity. People also keep themselves occupied in helping some of the continuing on board observation programs - we have bird watching, seal spotting, whale spotting and now that we are in the ice, iceberg observation and recording. Some people get involved knowing nothing about birds for example and learn from others and become very skilled very quickly. And a lot of social mixing - everyone talks to everyone else - it doesn’t matter what their jobs or backgrounds may be. We’ve also had more formal training sessions - in knot tying, map reading, using Antarctic clothing and so on and Gordon also organised the formal program of guest speakers at afternoon talks. No shortage of recreation or entertainment.

"What is this Quiz Night you mentioned?"

This was a real fun night with an aim to have fun and also to raise some money for our shipboard charity. About 60 of our 82 expeditioners participated and so did about six from the ships crew. They formed up into eight teams and each member had pay $1 to be in a team.

A small panel had prepared questions covering eight or so different topics, for example "the Aurora", "Famous People’s faces", "Antarctic places", "sports and entertainment" - a bit like Trivial Pursuit. The questions were provided to each table and they had two minutes to come up with the responses and write them in. When done the tables swapped papers and marked them off as the correct answers were announced. The scores were then marked up on a board so everyone could see how the night was going.

The teams also gave themselves names, usually funny ones like the Adelies, the Rough and Readies, Snowy and the Bandits, and so on. There was a very good Master of Ceremonies - who is actually the Head Cook on the ship. There were howls of protest at times and a lot of chatter and shouting and laughter. And people or tables got fined for breaking any of the rules - for example anyone found to have broken a rule was fined, if someone from their table or another had ‘told on them’, that person got fined, someone got fined just for being big and ugly, at the end one table said - "We’ve been good and didn’t get a table fine at all during the night", so they got fined for being too good.

One of the question sheets had famous faces, but just a part of a face, some examples were President Clinton, former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke but also a picture of Gordon or at least part of a picture of Gordon from the Fright Night party a little while back - when some got that wrong they got fined - even after the night was over, a couple came to Gordon and said they didn’t recognise him, so Gordon fined them not just for being stupid but for admitting to being stupid!!

In between quiz rounds there were sundry activities for which there were spot prizes - one activity was ‘Heads and Tails’ - in this everyone had to stand and put their hands either on their heads or on their bottoms - the MC then tossed a coin and if ‘Heads’ came up, all those with their hands on their bottoms had to sit down and the rest then did it again and this continued until there was only one person standing so he or she won. Another game was to see if people had been learning their knots properly and a representative from each table was asked to come forward and tie a particular knot - if they couldn’t the team lost points, if they could the team got bonus points.

We haven’t made the final tally of money for the night - but Gordon who had been looking after the money had over $300 at the end of the night and the MCs little black book which recorded fines has probably got over $1000 in it; the fines are to be added to people’s bar bills. All in all we had a really fun night and will make a considerable donation to our charity, Camp Quality.

Other shipboard events
We entered the sea ice zone two nights ago and sighted our first iceberg early yesterday (Friday). I’ll tell you more about that in another report but I wanted to tell you about our ‘Iceberg Sweep’. Something else which Gordon organised - people had to try and guess the date and time of the first sighting. There were very clear rules about size, visibility, position etc and people had to pay a small sum (50 cents) for each time they guessed. Gordon collected $282 in entries and a prize of $170 was given to the person who won with the rest of the money going to Camp Quality. The person who won then promptly donated her whole winnings to the charity. Aren’t people lovely?

In one of her emails Betty mentioned working up a board game - Jeopardy™ based on an Antarctic theme. We think it would be lovely if the game had elements based on the joint Antarctic experiences of Betty and Gordon and of the American and Australian Antarctic programs - this would be a real cool way of extending the principle of international co-operation in Antarctica and also be a fun game to include in schools.

I think that will do for now. Time for a shower, Gordon will shave, dress, a walk on the bridge then breakfast.

Love you all




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