Archive for February, 2011

Spinning Yarn: Granite Tapioca #64

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

 Through the rookeries and around to the rocks. Wow! Such great rocks just had to be climbed – it was the only way back to the Hut and to “Civilization”! There were orange sized ones, watermelon sized ones, medicine ball sized ones, and all just begging to have a booted foot placed on them. Not since I was 12 years old had I had such a workout! (that was back at Peggy’s cove in Nova Scotia). Most enjoyable, yet challenging.

 Antarctica is volcanic and most of the rock is granite. We saw all  different colours and patterns, the shapes were amazing. Can you see the face in this round cantaloupe-size boulder?

 None of us were fazed by the calm, the silence and the wilderness. To sit calmly and quietly on top of the rocks at the bottom of the world and hear the silence…..let it seep into your soul….was a magic experience.

Spinning Yarn: Through the Rookeries #63

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

 We reached the end of the cliff face, and paused. The vista before us was breathtaking.

On a mirror sea, the small shore ice floated calmly, watched by the blue-ice cliffs over loaded with the weight of heavy snow. Under a gunmetal grey sky, the picture was one of calm, the palette of colour all in tones of glowing ice blue. The peace broken only by the gurgling of the penguins.

 Beside the cliff and just before the edge, a group of penguins gathered around their dead mate, demanding of me an answer – what I was going to do with him? Nothing, guys- just look and study the feathers – No, they are not spinnable…..

 Taking leave of the multitude of Adelies at that spot, we continued on our way around the cliff, through the rookery to the shore on the other side – a line of red penguins marching single file through the ranks of Adelies in their black and white suits….

Spinning Yarn: The Hike Around the Rocks #62

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

  Mawson’s Hut is about 40m from the harbour, on the flatter part of the slope that comes down to the water. It is quite small, even though the two buildings are spliced together. A  verandah around 3 sides allows for extra storage space and a dog area and also provides additional buffering from the 200km winds that are the rule rather than the exception.

 Walking further up the hill to the moraine line, we pass clumps of large rock, salute parades of Adelie penguins and dodge patches of hidden ice and sink holes. (Carefully does it! Why did I leave my boot chains back on the ship?) and wait for the other hikers to join us. (This picture is looking back at the Huts from the moraine line  – See the Pyramid roof?)

 As one group with 2 leaders, we began to CAREFULLY cross to the left, over the sheeted ice and delicately decorated blue patches of solid ice, away from the Hut and off towards the rookeries at the next cliff. We progressed to the sound of swishing boots, penguin toenails on ice, and the small yelps of surprise as we slipped and glided (sometimes on our bottoms) across the guano-stained surface of the  treacherous expanse.  We paused at John O’Groats.

Spinning Yarn: Tanned in the Midnight Sun #61

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Everyone at church was glad to see me back, returned safely from my adventure, and they all commented on how well rested I looked and why are you tanned?

 Well, ladies and gentlemen, in the Antarctic summer, there are 24 hours of bright broad daylight! Plenty of opportunity to be out in the fresh air and sunshine…And I did sit outside for the 6 hours it took to spin my yarn, amidst the snow, ice, penguins and seals, drinking it all in…

 Exposed to sunshine, it never takes long for all my freckles to join together in one smooth tan. The only part left “blank” is the stripe across my nose where my glasses sit.

 (One man, on the cruise, Jeff, told me his reasons for coming south were – to sunbake at midnight and to meet the cast of “Happy Feet” – He succeeded in both!)

Spinning Yarn: Lessons for the Penguins #60

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

While spinning on the ice, I was observed at various times of the day, by seals, by people of course – they did not understand it either – and most of all by curious penguins.

The red penguins just stood there on their walking sticks, hanging about the big square thing waiting to go inside. They made as much noise as any rookery, chatting away while they move the big black eyes that they carry – the eyes that point and click.

 This Blue penguin was not behaving at all like the other red ones – It was sitting on something and moving its flipper feet in a most peculiar way. There was no clicking black eye like the others have (camera) , only a big silver bag containing some blue coloured fluff which seemed to disappear into the tall brown tree. I wonder what this penguin is doing?

Spinning Yarn: Back to the Ship #59

Monday, February 14th, 2011

 “Thank God! I was worried about you! You have been out there all day!”, exclaimed fellow passenger Joanne as I came to the Lounge after my day of spinning yarn. She surprised me with her concern. Nice…..

 She really had no reason to be concerned, though. I had done this before (!)….-5º at Mt Hotham, -10ºº in the Ice Lounge, -18º in the freezer…..and the Expedition Team was on hand, on ice. Dressed as I was in all my layers, I was warm enough, and I had my drink bottle with me too, because Antarctic air is especially dry and upkeeping fluids can be a problem. I was under expert care and supervision, while at the same time, they left me to work.

 And God blessed us immensely with such brilliant weather. That morning, we had glided into the harbour on a mirror sea, there was NO WIND at all (most unusual for the “Home of the Blizzard”) and the temperature was only 0º! A summer heatwave!  I was spinning with bare head, and bare hands! (hat, hood and gloves at the ready). My Mom’s Blue Coat in admirable and effective array, yet unzipped for me to regulate my own temperature.

Spinning Yarn: Wheely Easy #58

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

 There was no trouble at all with the Majacraft Little Gem, and I did not expect there to be, I was still pleasantly surprised by the smooth motion of the treadle-ing and the efficiency of needing no threading hook – an extra bonus if the weather had been very cold and I would have been using my gloves.

 Setting myself  the task of spinning all the blue fibre – not knowing if I would have another chance to spin on the ice if I did not complete it in one sitting – I took the time I needed (6 hours) and a break of 20 minutes to have a quick and cursory look inside the Hut.

Tomorrow will be another day…

Spinning Yarn: Several Productions at Once #57

Friday, February 11th, 2011

 I chose a great spot to set my wheel, just in line with the whole vista of the Hut, and far enough away to include all of it in the picture. Matt Ticker, from Mawson’s Huts Foundation, agreed with my choice and we proceeded to film my part of the coverage amid the ice, gently falling snow and under the watchful eyes of several curious Adelie penguins.

 Unbeknownst to me, Lisa Wilkinson from Channel 9 TV had been travelling with us on the same cruise, and she chose the same spot for her filming, though you will not see me in any of her footage. She filmed the actual hut and the story contained on the inside of the buildings.

 When I reached the ice at about 230pm, the sun was high in the sky. By the time I had completed the fibre I had set myself to do, the sun had not really moved, it was still high in the sky –but the clock said 9pm!  Spinning all that fibre took a long time, 6hrs, and my wheel was “smokin’”. My tired legs and stiff fingers still worked well enough by the end to put me in the last Zodiac back to the ship – tired but happy. I had achieved what I set out to do!

Spinning Yarn: Production Day at Mawson’s Huts #57

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

 When I arrived on shore, I gathered all my equipment, (Backpack, spinning wheel, spinning bag, fibre, boots, extra clothes in case I was cold while sitting, deck chair and Camera, Whew!) and stepped carefully over the ice, around the penguins, away from the seals and straight into a sink hole…….

 Thankfully not too far down – Praise God for rubber boots – and picking myself up off the penguin poop, carried all the stuff and carried on up to the Hut, where I paused.

 I was really here.  This is it.  This is 1911.  Breathe in the air, Marion. You ARE HERE!

You are about to start the physical production of the project that will add to the history of this very spot. Breathe, Marion. Drink in the crisp, clear air. You are HERE!

 Drying my tears, I set up my wheel.

Spinning Yarn: We arrive at Cape Denison #56

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

 When we left Dunedin, we had 3m swells and a lot of us were sick, still finding our sea legs. Four days later, by the time we reached Cape Denison, we were not sick and did have our sea legs.

 And God blessed us with a mirror calm sea on which to glide into Commonwealth Bay, and on which the Zodiacs zipped unconcernedly around flotillas of welcoming penguins and ‘bored’ meetings of weddell seals. We landed on the “beach” – Expedition Team carved snowbank – under the protection of the Cross in memory and honour of  Ninnis and Mertz.

 Activate the 5m rule. Pretend to be BORG. Do not approach the wildlife – if they want to investigate you, then that’s ok.

 Isabelle had the distinction of being the oldest member on the ship, and was brought ashore in the Zodiacs with the rest of us, but with the added equipment of her wheelie chair. She may not have been able to go inside Mawson’s Hut (the wheelie would not fit) but she did have some great encounters with the penguins, who were as fascinated by her walking frame as she was with them….