Land-ho! The final cut of rock-ice-sunset photos 1361 to 1423.
Ahoy there. Since I was last with you we have been chilling in George VI Sound, which sounds like a music shop in Bracknell but is actually the bit of sea at the eastern end of George VI Ice Shelf. We have been continuously doing CTDs in zig-zagging fashion all the way up the Sound and out into Marguerite Bay, which is named after Ol' George's favourite cocktail. This is a vital leg of the cruise, because George VI Ice Shelf is long and thin with ice fronts at both ends, so the ocean is free to flow all the way through provided that it has a shilling for the toll booth. We spent most of the cruise so far 'doing' the western end, so now that we have also measured the eastern end in fine detail we can calculate budgets of ocean heat and salt beneath the ice shelf.
We are now heading north to do some work on the shelf break, which is where the generally-shallow (~500m depth) continental shelf seas sharply deepen to become the abyssal ocean (~4km depth). In the last few days the wind has got up, and last night we were rolling quite violently. Despite being pretty heavy (man), my chair was sliding across the room with me in it and had to be lashed down whenever I got bored of the ride and went for a cup of tea. While processing salts I had to cling to my beloved salinometer to avoid being flung across the room and dashed against the salt-cured remains of Ph.D. students who had perished at the salt-face on previous cruises.
A couple of days ago the night watch had the honour of doing the cruise's 200th CTD, which fortuitously came up just before breakfast. This meant that we were able to sample the ceremonial bottle of Bailey's (enjoyed by the day watch as a tot in afternoon cocoa after CTD 100) without affecting our high standards of performance. Technically it probably should have been the paint-stripping Rum they use to degrease the bilges but Deb has a cultured palate. Karel expertly filmed Fruchtzwerg (don't ask) and I taking the 200th set of salt samples, but the footage is too large to upload so you'll have to wait until Cannes.
The really good bit about being near the land is that there are mountains to look at, and they are slightly different shades of white and grey to those we are used to. I bet some of the snowboaders out there would like to risk the use of their prosthetic joints on these...
Blocking our path to the ice front (the seaward edge of the ice shelf) was a certain amount of fast sea ice (ice stuck to the land that is, not ice that proposes a joint account before the main course is finished), so we went as close as we could through the loose floes. I had trouble sleeping one afternoon and got up to discover that my shipmates were doing an ice station in a beautiful winter wonderland of ice and mountains. I stopped watching when the Chief Officer informed the ice party over the radio that their floe had a 'small' crack in which was nothing to worry about, though heading in their direction...
Later on the sky became electrified in a strange phenomenon previously unseen by humankind. My theory that it was some kind of phosphorescence caused by Albatrosses regurgitating Electric Eels while in mid-flight will be presented at the CLXIIth Symposium of the Cambridge Philosophical Society upon my return.
When morning came, there was a lovely berg to look at in front of some mountains exhibiting 'Alpine glow', a pseudonym for ski rash. Although those pesky clouds are obscuring the summits this is probably the best of the 20 near-identical dodgy pictures I took of it.
Finally, after a hard day's night, what could be more welcome than an early-morning flop in one of the bar's ultimate easy-chairs? Note the strict separation between coffee-side and beer-side; if this quarantining is maintained I can tell what time it is by which hand is in charge of the drinking procedure.
The only problem is accurately judging the centre of (original) gravity of your pint when the ship is rolling. How close do you think this one is to toppling?