Ice by Mary Doumany played by Alice Giles at Davis Station, Antarctica
Monthly Archives: February 2011
Today a place was set up on the ice next to the ship for cargo operations: containers were lowered by crane from the ship, helpers unloaded the containers, and helicopters landed to be filled and fly off to Mawson Station. I have helped in a small way by spotting helicopters on their way, signing people on and off the ice, and watching for cracks next to the ship – not very essential occupations, but an excuse to get down close to the ice and watch the goings on. It’s still very cold (around -14) so am trialling all my winter gear. At this temperature I will definitely not be playing outside unless the sun is shining directly onto my fingertips! The beautiful mountains surrounding Mawson are clearly visible from here – dark with large patches of snow and ice, making some look a bit like orcas to me. Lots of people are already ashore, some will return tonight having had their stint on land. Tonight after helicopter ops finish, we will all be allowed down on the ice to play for a couple hours before dark: very exciting. I will be sending off my equipment (including laptop) tomorrow, so blogs will miss a day, and the harp will fly with me in the helicopter the next day.
To top a magical day, last night the half moon shone on the shining shelf ice with a warm golden glow in the half dark creating an image that remained with me as I went to sleep. This morning while doing my practice warm-up exercises I thought about how one can see with the heart rather than the eyes, and how I felt that image and the huge quiet iceberg scene within me as a feeling rather than a picture. This is how I hope the Antarctic Adventure affects my playing: rather than the idea of programatic pieces to perform or compose, my world is concerned with how to express beauty from the heart. The perfection of nature I saw yesterday, not mechanical, ever changing, but uncompromisingly clear, leads me to seek perfection of expression and sound in every note with serenity.
Today we are going three steps forward and two steps back – icebreaking mode means backing up a couple hundred meters and then forging ahead. The Aurora Australis is built as an icebreaker, which means her hull is shaped round to rise up over the ice and crush it down while pushing it back and out. After managing about a ship’s length in new ice we slow to a halt, back up and do the same all over again. The sun is shining and the ice is shiny and crisp , breaking off like the hard sand you get at the beach sometimes. It is very cold today – when I got up for sunrise at 4 am it was -15 and now at noon it is still only -10 degrees. The ice is dotted with single penguin tracks, looking very much like a neatly sewn stitching – the single line where they slide or I suppose the tail drags in the middle is quite etched, with the little neat footsteps either side.
The light on the the white shiny ice is blinding, and much as I hate it, sunglasses are now a necessity.
Today I woke early (yet again) to the sound of the ship scraping through ice floes, so I got myself out of bed and took the recorder down to the hull of the ship to get some good slushy crunchy sounds. After that there was still plenty of time before breakfast to go above deck and watch the scenery – ice floes alternating with open sea. Fairly early on we arrived at the edge of the shelf ice that is preventing our getting close to Mawson, and ‘parked’ the ship by driving into it – the ice has snow on top and is soft enough at the edge to plough into it. Scott (Master) and the Voyage leader Andy went on a helicopter trip to check the best way forward for us. Meanwhile several other helicopter trips to Mawson were made, carrying firstly those who will help with the cargo operations. This evening shorty after dinner the decision was made on our direction and we have had the most spectacular and beautiful experience yet. Everyone was up on deck or the bridge as we traveled between huge icebergs in the soft colours of the setting sun – pale pinks and pastels amidst the bright clarity and stillness of the blue-white bergs. The sea was smooth as a lake and I couldn’t help the tears pouring down my cheeks for the beauty of it: I feel I will always remember this scene within me as a metaphor for purity and serenity.