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Captains' Log: Goodbye Antarctica, hello Romania

Paul helped out with underway water sampling for two research projects on the ship. Photo: Mark Horstman

29 November 2019

We said goodbye to Davis on 16 November, after a successful resupply, and completed a 180 degree turn in the fast ice, breaking up the cargo lay down area that had been in use all week. We followed the track that we’d broken in on, pausing occasionally to allow seals to move out of the way.

The scenery was stunning as we cleared the fast ice and began to thread our way through the sea ice, with plenty of seals and bergs to photograph. A very nice BBQ on the trawl deck, while threading through the ice, was a great finish to the resupply and a welcome on board to the outgoing wintering expeditioners.

Not long after clearing the edge of the sea ice we passed the Chinese resupply ship, Xue Long 2, on its way to Zhongshan.

Around this time, word came through to get back to Hobart early, if possible, as the French resupply ship L’Astrolabe had suffered some damage, and the Aurora Australis had been tasked to do a resupply and refuel of Dumont D’Urville. Fortunately the weather was kind, and we had a very fast passage back to Hobart.

During the voyage a few of us assisted with water sampling, for two different underway science sampling regimes. 

Georgia Nester from Curtin University was using eDNA (environmental DNA) to identify patterns in biodiversity for multiple pelagic invertebrate species across the Antarctic Polar Front. Jeff Miller (from the refuelling team) was looking after the underway phytoplankton sampling as part of the Antarctic Division’s long-term monitoring program. 
These projects were both set up in one of the wet labs, and involved filtering water every few hours. Over 100 sampling sessions for each project were carried out. 

We arrived in Hobart on Wednesday 27th November, cleared customs and immigration and then everyone scattered Australia-wide.

I will be going home to Brisbane, where I will catch up with the progress on Nuyina since I left on my Antarctic adventure, and of course I am looking forward to the next adventure in Romania, early next year, to see the ship itself.

I would like to thank the Australian Antarctic Division shipping team, Voyage Leader, Doug, and Deputy Voyage Leader, Misty, all the expeditioners who gave up their time to show me around at Davis, and Captain Gerry O' and his great team on the Aurora for their hospitality, and for answering so many questions. It was a great privilege to have the opportunity to sail on one of the final legs of the Aurora as she takes her place in Australian seafaring and Antarctic history. 

The Aurora’s turning circle broke up the fast ice that had sustained resupply operations just days before.  Photo: Paul Clarke