During this voyage south there were only two science projects running, which left most of the expeditioners on the ship with no work to do until arriving at Davis Station. After the hectic weeks before we left it was nice to have a day off but the seasoned Antarctic expeditioners amongst us knew that people would very quickly get bored if there was no entertainment. On the day after we left Hobart our Voyage Leader asked for a volunteer group of people to work together as the social committee and organise some fun things to keep everyone entertained on our long voyage. We ended up with an enthusiastic group of people who have done their best to provide us with options to fill our hours on the ship.
At 7 pm each night we have had various expeditioners holding talks in the cinema, either explaining some of their scientific research, showing pictures from their travels to various places in the world, or just talking about themselves a little. A regular afternoon screening of Game of Thrones became incredibly popular, followed by an episode of Grand Designs for those who are more into architectural fantasy. Another popular tradition on ship is the game of ‘Assassin’, where each participant is given a name of another participant to ‘kill’. This can only be done when they are alone in a public space (ie, no cabins or work areas), suddenly provoking everyone to be incredibly wary of empty corridors and stairwells. If a person is ‘killed’ they hand over their victim to their assassin and the game continues until there is only one person left. It takes a few days to complete as some people never seem to be away from the company of others. A ‘spot the iceberg’ competition ran, where expeditioners could pay $2 to choose a time when they thought the first iceberg would be sighted, with the proceeds going to Camp Quality, and a photo competition where expeditioners could enter photos in various categories (ie, landscape, wildlife, portrait) to be judged and shown later in the voyage.
Due to the availability of lots of good food at regular intervals and the fairly sedentary nature of sea travel there was an increasing desire for some form of exercise. After the weather conditions improved and most of us had all gotten our sea legs a morning exercise class was scheduled in the lower deck lounge, starting with Zumba and then expanding to include a full repertoire of Pilates, Yoga and Zumba over 2 hours. There is also a gym on board, which many expeditioners have been using to burn off the extra calories from the extra servings of delicious meals we have been having.
Social activities weren’t only restricted to the social committee. Numerous card games have started up in the lounge, with players cycling in and out of the particularly long ones. A regular darts tournament was organised in the lower deck lounge and a 1000 piece puzzle was pulled out of the cupboard and tended to by passers-by. Other board games appeared from expeditioner’s cabins and many hours have been sunk into winning and losing strategies.
A much anticipated event was the arrival of King Neptune when we had entered into the sea ice. The king and his followers made an appearance in the mess and performed the ritual initiation for those expeditioners on board who had not passed below 60°S on the Aurora Australis before. There were a lot of laughs and a hasty shower by those involved once the proceedings were complete. Afterwards, a special event was organised, where the expeditioners and crew were treated to a BBQ out on the trawl deck at the back of the ship. This was followed by a charity auction in the lower deck lounge, where various items made by the crew and expeditioners were sold to the highest bidder, including services such as massages, room cleaning, and the opportunity to drive the ship through the ice. Three expeditioners also raised money to shave their heads, earning over $2500. All proceeds, totalling over $13,000, will go to Camp Quality.
Due to our delays in the ice we were also on board the ship for Halloween (Oct 31st) and Melbourne Cup Day (Nov 5th). A stash of Halloween decorations was found and the mess was decorated with spider webs and plastic bugs and skeletons. Some of the expeditioners got creative and got into the doctor’s office and supplies cupboard to put together some excellent outfits for the evening. We also enjoyed a Melbourne Cup lunch with lots of improvised hats and dresses, along with a special appearance by the official horse of the Aurora Australis, Ice Runner (lucky #13), as well as its jockey and trainer.