3rd November 1995

Hello everybody. Week 42 is coming to a close, Christmas is heading this way fast and its only about eight weeks until "Spirit of Sydney" arrives (touch wood!) I bet you are all thinking about your holidays. Down here, all we think about are the things we will be doing when we get back to civilisation. Our white world is so fantastic at present, that the hardships and dark world of winter seem a distant memory. The human mind is amazing! Even though I am still a bit homesick, I look back on everything which has happened over the last ten months and remember the good times vividly whilst I have to stop and think about the bad parts. By the time I get back to Australia, I will probably wish I could spend another year in Antarctica!

There is hardly any room to move inside Gadget Hut as all 71 teddy bears are out and about, waking up after their long winter (they are organising a picnic for Hobart!) Huey, Louey and Dewey, our Sonnenshein batteries have fully recovered after being in front of the heater for the past two months. They took up much of our scarce floor space. They have returned to the Lobby. The Solarex solar panels provide twenty times more power than we can use so our batteries are always topped up.

Gadget Hut seems so big with the increased floor space, now that the batteries are in the Lobby. Don went for a walk inside by taking very small steps and I can get into my seat without having to be a contortionist.

The average wind strength has dropped back to about 25 to 40 knots virtually all week with heaps of sun and Don and I have been able to really get to know the Adelies. We have decided to observe seven couples in detail until we leave and already they seem like old friends. On every occasion possible, we sit watching their habits, body language and interaction with other birds. It is incredible how their lives are structured and how nature has adapted them to survive and communicate in this harsh environment.

Don and I feel like the luckiest people in the world, to be able to sit in the sun in total peace and solitude for hours at a time, surrounded by thousands of cute little black and white Adelie penguins who are totally oblivious to the rest of the world with its atomic testing wars and pollution.

October has been a very special month, with November shaping up to be the same so this is definitely the best part of Expedition Ice-Bound.

As predicted, the skuas are getting hungrier and impatient for eggs to be laid and chicks to be hatched. They will be easier prey than the adult Adelies. We don't think any skuas have had dinner yet. Yesterday we saw the first giant petrel fly overhead. These birds are really big. They are about the same size as a big turkey. They are so powerful. They charge into a rookery and grab a penguin, so it won't be long now before the food chain cycle begins again.

We have witnessed some very fierce fights in the rookeries with feathers and blood going everywhere between competing Adelies. We think it is the single male Adelies who cruise the edge of the pack then make a run into the middle looking for a mate. Every bird he passes, pecks at him until the male stops by a pair and an all- out brawl begins. The noise is unbelievable. Eventually the penguins that started the fight, work their way to the edge of the rookery causing absolute chaos, until one is chased away by the other, usually bleeding from the flipper and minus a large quantity of feathers.

We think the leopard seal is still around. We noticed one penguin hop onto the ice by himself with an injured foot. It may have been the one that got away. He looked a bit sorry for himself as he slowly hopped along. Apart from that he seemed quite healthy.

The Ave Maria iceberg is still aground. After being pushed offshore about 3 miles by the katabatics, it ran aground again and stuck fast for two days. The strangest thing happened when it sailed away into the wind in an easterly direction, pushed by the currents for about 5 miles. The next day it drifted back again. Now it is stuck fast on the bottom about 3 miles to the north-east of Gadget Hut. I hope it will be there for a long time as it seems like an old friend.

As the sun moves low over the plateau to the south late at night, the colours are amazing. We even saw a rainbow from the sea spray, late one windy afternoon.

A strange cloud appeared this week, over Cape Gray which is about 20 miles away at the eastern end of Commonwealth Bay. It was a brownish grey cloud which extended over Boat Harbour and looked like it was full of smoke and pollution of some kind. It is impossible to say where it came from or what it was but it created a weird hazy light underneath and around it. It could have been some weird light on a soft cloud. Don and I both agreed that it did not look like water vapour.

The Wedel Seals still haven't arrived nor any Emperor penguins. Don saw an Emperor penguin in 1993 on his previous visit to Cape Denison and Mawson saw a couple during his stay. They look so beautiful in the photographs we have and I am still hopeful that one will arrive before we leave. It would be fantastic.

Two skuas have made a nest in the rocks on the ground between two rookeries. It is funny to see these birds nesting on the ground until we realise that there aren't any trees for them to build their nests in.

Our wind instruments have been playing up again so some data is not being logged into our computer which is disappointing. It has been a pretty hard year for them.

Our snow cave Don dug in the middle of winter was sealed up with blocks of snow nearly five months ago. We were surprised to find it in perfect condition this week, when we dug out the entrance. Don Is talking about sleeping in it for a few nights. The good news is that there is only enough room inside for one.

There are only four tins of fruit left in our supplies, we are just about out of muesli and there is no Milo! It could be worse! We could have run out of toilet paper but so far, it is lasting okay.

Don said I had to tell you that the "what happened to Margie this week" segment was that I was chipping some ice from the floor with a hammer and screw driver when everything in a big basket on the top shelf, crashed down on top of me making all sorts of noise. There was no damage because it wasnÕt very heavy but it was really weird. It was as if someone had pushed it off the shelf but there was no one here.

The total sun for October was 297.5 hours. The highest temperature was -5.7 degrees Celsius. The lowest temperature was -26.6 degrees. The best meal for this week was a toss-up between tuna patties and Shelf Stable's Spanish Lamb. Three teddy bears were born this week. A 20 cm caramel bear named "Flinders", 8 20 cm ginger bear named "Toasty" and a 15 cm caramel bear named "Frosty".

Bye for now and stay warm.

Back to Index Ever Onwards