Many people have asked me over the last few weeks “Are you excited?!” and my response usually was that I have been feeling more anxious than excited so far. Joining the Australian Antarctic Program (AAP) is a lot different to when you organise and book your holiday of a lifetime. Instead of slowly building up the excitement through booking flights and researching places to visit and things to see, the AAP organises everything for you and throws you in the deep end. First you have to navigate through the interviews and tests, then plan and pack cargo for 5 months in a place where you can’t duck out to the shops if you’ve forgotten something. Once that’s all done you have to think about how you are going to manage life back at home while you are gone and try to get your head around the fact that you’ll be away from your loved ones for such a long time. That’s enough to cause a certain amount of apprehension over the last few weeks. I expect the real excitement will come when I’m locked up on the boat and we’re heading south.
I am only a day away from departure now and have spent the last several days in pre-departure training at the AAD. We’ve been given a huge amount of information critical to our enjoyment and most importantly, safety while we are in Antarctica. It seemed pretty daunting at first but it has been really interesting. We’ve learnt how to identify the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite, been shown numerous ways in which we can hurt ourselves and ways in which to ensure it never happens, and learnt about how to look after the environment, from safe distances to observe wildlife to sorting rubbish and dealing with bodily functions in the field! We also got to speak with the wintering station leader at Davis via webcam and ask him a few questions about how things are going over there in preparation for our arrival. I was surprised to find that one of my friends at IMAS is also travelling down to Davis on Voyage 1 (V1), which is quite exciting to have a familiar face down there with me. She also gets to spend a few months at Mawson Station, of which I am very jealous. Particularly since she’s going there to survey the Adelie penguin population!
Today I had my final session of training, which gave us information about travelling on the Aurora Australis and all the mandatory safety briefings associated with being on a boat in the open ocean. Tomorrow I head down to the docks where I have to check in and weigh my luggage and then at 1pm I will have to say goodbye to my Mum and Dad and Boyfriend and be escorted onto the boat in preparation for our departure that afternoon. It should take us 12 days to travel to Davis station and apparently the weather for the first few days will not be on our side. I won’t have internet access on the boat so I will have to save up my posts for when I arrive at Davis and set up my internet connection.
So until then… I will try my best not to get too sea sick and next time you hear from me I’ll be in Antarctica!