“Back on Ship”

We are all back on aboard now, with everyone feeling exhausted from the hectic two days, and there was a big line for dinner right at 5:30. Antarctica is beautiful but tiring and it gives you an appetite! The atmosphere of the continent seems brilliant and draining at the same time:  the powerful rocky landscape, biting wind and sun are a stark contrast to the softness of ship travel. It was certainly an exciting two days. At midnight last night I forced myself to get into all my winter survival gear to go outside and see if there was an aurora: there was one but not very colourful or spectacular, so instead I sat on the rocky slope above the elephant seal “wallow” and made a lengthy recording. In the silence of the night their constant deep belching sounds are truly spectacular. I am hoping some ANU student will use this material for a very fruity symphony. I also spent this morning videoing them, and then tried some more recordings of harp in the wind. The erie aeolian effect seems to perfectly suit the landscape and the sound travels a huge distance – this might be due to a combination of factors like dry air, lack of absorbent vegetation, cold, the nylon strings. A small group of young Adelie penguins added their calls. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take the special windproof field recording mic ashore this time as space was limited, so I think the recordings will be better from Mawson when I can filter out the wind.
Before I caught the IRB (inflatable rubber boat) back to the ship, I was treated to a most magnificent helicopter ride – more than an hour over the fjords, ice plateau, glacier, crevasses, lakes and rocky hills. The most extraordinary thing was to see the ice fields from above – they are pale blue with windswept white snow across the top.
Full steam ahead to Mawson now – 24 hrs predicted until we get to the edge of the ice, and then there will be reconnaissance flights to work out the best way in from there.


6 responses to ““Back on Ship”

  • Chris Clarke

    Sounds wonderful, following all postings with great interest!

  • 3W Caringbah PS

    Dear Alice,
    Did you have fun on the helicopter ride? Were you surprised to see that the ice was blue because we were? Does the harp sound really different when the wind blows? We hope that we will be able to hear some of the sounds you have recorded and the songs that you played there.
    We are looking forward to reading more of your stories.
    From 3W

    • alicegiles

      Dear 3W – The helicopter ride made me feel a bit sick but it was worth every minute. It’s funny I was surprised by the blue because we see it in the icebergs so I should have expected it. I was mainly surprised to see the flat plain looking like smooth pale blue cake icing with some smeared soft white icing blown across it. The strings of the harp get played by the wind blowing past them, and then the sounding box resonates just as though it was being played but it includes all the overtones – as though the wind was very clever at gently playing all the harmonics on the string. Alice

  • Hannah Lane

    Hi Alice,

    I am very much enjoying following your blog, it makes for great reading! I have written about in on the HCA blog here: http://www.harpcentre.com.au/news-and-events/2011/2/19/alice-in-antarctica.html
    and here:
    All the best for the rest of your journey, you are greatly missed in Canberra!

  • Lara Wiesel

    I was just wondering how you were coping with the all-dayers. It must be an eerie experience.
    Lots of love, lara 🙂

    • alicegiles

      Hi Lara – I wake up at about 3:30 am every day because of the light and the time changes – getting used to it by now but it was really annoying at first. Actually the best light is around 4:30am so on special days like outside of Davis when the light was beautiful I go up to the bridge and look out. The night is not so bad – it’s not that much light at night really, just a bit twighlight-ish.

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