Saturday Spot: A Little More Southern Ocean…

I thought I would finish up my Southern Ocean Series with a couple of pics of essential kit and a snippets of what people actually do there.
And since you have toured Antarctica and Marion Island you can now consider yourselves old hands at this!


When you leave Cape Town in December and the air temperature is 40 degree Celsius, which is more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it is hard to believe that you are going to need snow gear within a couple of days and then you will still be freezing to death every time you step near an open door. In fact when you leave on a navy vessel that was never designed for the Southern Ocean then within three days of Cape Town your bunk will be adjacent to the hull and you will think you are dying of exposure every breathe you take!


What to pack for the Southern Ocean:

Firstly you are going on a boat – not an airplane with a weight load. If you can carry it you can take it! Just remember space – you don’t have any! On a navy vessel you have a bunk which my eleven year old would overflow and standing space.


The research vessel is slightly better. And I mean slightly!


You will need a passport! You go through customs as you leave Cape Town, you stay on the vessel the entire trip and then you come back into Cape Town port and you need to go through customs each way.


You need very fat books, you will read a lot and now is the time for epics like “War and Peace” Not to mention weather to match! Otherwise you play lots of computer games it is just amazing how good you can get at Tetris. They do have movies but unless you enjoy special movies like “Get Your Mother-In-Law With A Hatchet Part I to XXVII” carefully selected by the ships crew then you may want to pass on them!

Take stuff to write letters, they only get posted when the ship docks, but they are fun to get – just to remind you that you were actually there!


You need to take boring essentials like washing powder and so on. There are no stores out there so you have to think it through and what you forget you either have to barter for or do with out. You will need snacks to last the trip, also very good battering. Chocolate is always a good trade commodity! Just remember you are confined to a pretty small space with a couple of people that you would not normally mingle with!!!!

You will need thermal underwear that looks like it was worn in the first trans-polar exploration trips. Not to mention lots of wooly socks and overalls.


You will need wet weather gear and a snow suit.


You will happily wear a balaclava – forget about your hairdo. Survival becomes more important than aesthetics! For work you will even wear a hard hat on top of your balaclava. Not to mention well fitting gloves. (Yes, that is my hand!). And metal capped gumboots that look big enough to kick a hole in the ship.


You will need well fitting snow boots – unfortunately or fortunately depending where you are coming from everyone has the same government issue equipment. Everything gets dropped in the wet room every time you go in and out the door – you need to make yours distinctive!!!


What do you do in the Southern Ocean:

Visit a couple of islands… Prince Edward, Gough…


Some scientific stuff: Measuring, data collecting, observing and researching…


Visit an island and your first call to action will be to work in the hold – loading and unloading gear and equipment:


Once the loading is done you will most likely stomp through mires. Gather albatross feathers. You will wander past penguin colonies, which are quite the smelliest beasts on earth and seal puppies, which are quite the grumpiest!!! You will go on helicopter flips and see some more sites.


You will spend weeks watching the ever changing and wild ocean, and then you will watch the ocean turn into ice and then you will watch the ice! And you will see little signs of life – footprints and not just signs of life: actual life – marching around on the pancake ice.


And eventually you will get yourself home and warm!


That’s it! I hope you enjoyed your trip to the Southern Ocean!!!

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