23rd October, 1995

Hello everyone! I'm sorry this bulletins is late. I had just finished writing my notes on Friday the 20th when Don shouted "penguins, penguins!" as he looked out our kitchen window. Jumping out of my seat, I screamed "where, where". Straining my eyes, I saw a small black rock start to move across the ice at the entrance of Boat Harbour. It is official - at 2 p.m. Iocal Sydney/Antarctic time, we both saw our first penguin after nearly seven months. Shivers went up and down my spine. I had to tell the world. The COMSAT phone was hurriedly connected, then a call put through to Susie at Expedition Headquarters in Sydney. It was blowing about 25 knots with no drift and brilliant sunshine as we quickly donned boots, down jackets, grabbed cameras and rushed outside to head for penguin number one, about half a mile away. In the next 15 minutes, Don and I both fell over quite a few times in the excitement, not really concerned, though the ice was really slippery. We were off to greet our first visitor in months and there he was! One neat, well-dressed, shiny Adelie penguin with a very full tummy. He was so fat and so cute with his little pink feet. I wanted to rush up and give him a big hug and shake his flipper. It was that exciting! All the time, Don and I were laughing, screaming and jumping up and down. It was such a great feeling. The penguins were back, or at least one was. The weather is on the improve. Christmas is not far away and 'ÒSpirit'' is leaving in about eight weeks.

It is funny how we got the impression that our first penguin would be as excited to see us, as we were to see him! But oh no! He was not interested in these two brightly coloured ''thingÕs jumping up and down, making funny noises about eight metres away. He stopped to check us out and then carried on his way. It was very obvious to us, he was on a mission as he walked about a mile, all the way up to a very high rookery - that's probably where he was born. We were shocked to discover that our visitor was actually number two! Another penguin was already fast asleep on a rock, a few hundred metres away. About ten minutes later, number three jumped from the sea onto the ice. For the rest of Friday we searched for penguins all over Cape Denison with no luck, so the total score for Friday was three.

This bulletin only covers up to Friday but it is actually Sunday 22nd as I am writing. I am not going to tell you what happened on Saturday and today. You will have to wait until next week, but it is very exciting, so stay tuned!

Now back to the events from last Saturday 14th. It was just as exciting! Don and I went for our walk out on the ocean. It was frozen but not very thick. A really strange feeling went through my body, never really relaxing for the fear of breaking through. Don seemed very happy at finally getting to walk on sea-ice. For about three hours, we walked up to icebergs grounded on rocks and took photographs of our hut from the ocean (the first time we had seen it from that angle). We stepped over pressure cracks. A few had opened up turning in to big blacks lines of deep cold ocean just to remind us that we walking on water. It was fascinating to run my ice axe through it until Don reminded me that a leopard seal had once jumped out of a crack like that and had attacked a man in the Ross Sea area. Strong sunshine had made the top 50mm of ice really slushy in places, like mud sticking to our boots.

Standing next to the huge lumps of ground ice with its brilliant shades of blue seemed so special after looking at them from a distance all these months. The sun was slowly setting over the plateau as we returned, creating huge shadows and beautiful soft pink and yellow colours which will become another vivid memory in years to come. Back in the hut, we were reminded of how unfit we had become after months stuck inside, having only enough energy to grab some food and get into bed - what a day!

Sunday we slept in and took things really slow. Monday brought a falling barometer and rising winds up to 80 knots and very little drift initially. It was really exciting to watch a few big cracks appear in the sea-ice and then within three hours it was all gone. Right where we had walked, we could now only swim! This place really is amazing. The good news was that the blizzard blew itself out in 24 hours and we then had beautiful sunshine and see- through wind. Don suggested the penguins would be back on the weekend, now that the ice was gone. They could swim at last. Not bad - he was only eight hours out but that was his second guess.

Temperatures went up with the blizzard and are now around -10 degrees Celsius, so inside the hut is melting again. Yuk, water drips everywhere. It is really miserable. Our mattress is soaking and everything is in plastic again. Hopefully this will be the last time, but I have said that before.

I had spent two days this week, writing up food lists to be bought and loaded aboard "Spirit" for the pick-up trip. Steve Corrigan, the skipper who brought us down here is now in charge of final preparations and will skipper "Spirit" again. Don says it is really strange having someone else skipper our boat but he has a lot of faith in Steve.

The ice in Boat Harbour is cracking up, creating small crevasses. Don was unlucky enough to fall through the snow into one this week. No damage - only one leg fell through up to his bottom. He said it was scary as it could have closed up with his leg still in it. We are very careful now crossing that part.

I am glad I am writing this bulletin as I can imagine how Don would have described my accident this week. I was having a bath when my bottom touched the heater grill. Now I have three stripes burnt on my bottom. One has blistered and they are all sore, but I will survive. Don says it looks like a good piece of char-grilled rump!

The total sunshine for this week was 49 hours.

Two bears were born. One white 20cm tall named Barney. The other caramel 20cm tall called Bert.

Stay warm and stay tuned for next week!

Bye for now, Margie.
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