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Offline Kortbroek

Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« on: October 27, 2016, 12:11:47 am »
This is my first report so bear with me. This is a trip I did two years ago and although it might not seem so initially, it involved a few 100km's of riding
in very unique terrain on 800cc Snowmobiles. But more of that later.

I started this story initially in the general section on the SANAP thread ( http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=14323.280 ) a few months ago and then kind of neglected/forgot to continue the story. In retrospect I think a proper RR is the way to go, there was some awesome riding, so here goes.

Here is the text from part:1 re-posted for continuity sake. Photos can be viewed at the link above.

Part 1: The beginning

So to start at the beginning, since my second year at Uni I've been scheming to get to Antarctica. Fast forward to June 2014.
At this time I was camping in a sandy riverbed in southern Namibia a few km's from the Orange river. I was working with a team from the Council for Geoscience and we were busy doing regional commercial mapping for the Namibian government. We started this in 2013 and by 2014 I had started on my Msc project in the same area. On one of the koppies close to camp you could get SA cell reception and every odd day I would check messages and emails in the evening. So one evening this sms comes through, "Trying to get hold of you, do you want to go to Antarctica? Geoff". Bliksem. So I phone and no answer, immediately sent of an sms and email to make sure they get my reply. Of course I would, if my Msc Supervisor and Boss allows. So the next day I mention this to the Boss and he is more than happy to send me down. Now how to tell my supervisor I am going to take a three month break out of my studies.
So after a bit of diplomacy and a "I will work on my Msc during the voyage (of course  ;) )" I get the go ahead! To make matters even easier, starting November 2014 I got a two year contract at the Council for Geoscience, and Dr. Geoff Grantham (Antarctica team leader) also happens to work for them. A quick motivation to company HQ and I am his field assistant and safety officer for the expedition.  :thumleft:
...and then the chaos started.

I got back out of the field in Namibia late July and had to be in Windhoek for a conference middle August. My Supervisor told me two days after I got asked on the Antarctica trip that she is sending me to Montreal, Canada for Sept/Oct. That meant I had 3 weeks in July/August to get a US visa, Canada visa and do all of my medicals for Antarctica. CHAOS! But where there's a will there's a way and come hell or high water I was getting on that ship in Dec.

So mid October I am back in SA and planning started in earnest. I was in charge of safety in the field (ropework, rescue etc) and had to start going over lists of equipment. Explaining to DEA officials why the 40y.o. moldy climbing equipment in their store needs to be retired and never ever used again was a slight challenge, also meant replacement gear had to be quickly sourced. Next up was refreshing myself on crevasse and snow/ice rescue. I had a little experience in SA snow and ice conditions, but luckily a lot in general mountaineering, climbing and technical rescue. Once on the ice I would be presenting a short course to some of the year team members and had to make sure I am on the ball.

So eventually everything was ready and soon I would be trading the sand and sun of Namibia for the snow and ice of the Great White South.

(see the photos in the original post)

Part 2 to follow shortly
- you reckon that thing will pop a wheelie? We're about to find out, SLAP that pig!
 

Offline Kortbroek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2016, 12:21:46 am »
Bliksem how time flies. Trawling the forum I remembered I’d neglected to write the rest, well finally, here goes.

PART 2: Departure and the voyage south

So end of November I was back from Canada, I had spent but one month at my new job and we were preparing in earnest for the trip down south. Departure had been set for 14h00 on 4 December 2014. The week before I had gone in to collect my cold weather gear from the Dept. of Environmental Affairs store in the Waterfront, including a lekker skaapvelletjie to sleep on. In these last days vital supplies were also stocked up on, mostly whisky and beer for on the ice but also good sunscreen, a decent compact camera (Canon G16) a few odds and ends and I was good to go. We had already packed and sealed our container a few days before departure. In went tents, sleds, cold weather gear and anything you won’t need until arrival at SANAE IV.

Some of the clothing and kit we needed.
Finally the day arrived. I was dropped off at the dock early morning by my brother and gathered in the building with the rest of the folks who would become part of the small boat community. After the Agulhas arrived from the fuel bunkers, last minute cargo was loaded and we went over to Mug & Bean for a final republic side breakfast. Around 14h00 we only started boarding and once on you are there to stay. The Boss and a colleague had come to see me off (nice guys) taking the train from Bellville aaand then we didn’t go anywhere. The Cape was stormy and we couldn’t leave the harbour until the next morning. So cheers to the land bound folks time to settle in to ship life. We spent our first night on board in the harbour which meant no bar as it may only open out at sea, so early to bed after a few cups of coffee en kakpraat with new found friends.

First sight of the SA Agulhas 2 pulling up to the dock after fuelling.

The cabin and bunk that will be home for the next three weeks.

The waiting on the morning to leave the harbour.
At first light on the 5th I woke up as we pushed off from the quay. Finally we we’re on our way with a beautiful sunrise over the Hottentots Holland mountains as we slipped past Robben Island and headed west.

Yours truly and my cabin buddy, Erasmus.

Couldn’t have asked for a better send off than this sunrise.

Open oceans ahead.
We would be sailing west until we were on the Greenwich Meridian and then south along that for an oceanographic seawater sampling transect from which we will only deviate to drop of a research team on Bouvet Island. The research on the ship never stops. On our way south we regularly stopped for up to 8 hours at a time to allow deep water sampling from up to 4km down. The oceanography students on board were working shifts almost from day one doing around the clock sampling and the rest of us, we were on a holiday cruise with no work to do until we reach the ice.

First sunset at sea.


Heli deck and hangars. Nice place to chill out when in the ice as the deck is heated.

Rosette with water sampling bottles descending, 4000m to go.

The first few days out from Cape Town the weather was beautiful with clear blue skies and mirror like crystal clear blue oceans. Life on the ship quickly became a routine. Get up for breakfast (if you wanted, it was always amazing), then grab a morning coffee and go chill up on the monkey island above the bridge with the birdwatchers (I spent most of my time here), on the helideck in the sun or reading/talking shit/playing cards in the lounge. Mornings was usually when I would also try to get some work done, usually in the library which is always nice and quiet. After lunch activities would vary from board games to chilling on deck and often for me going for a run around the ship. A lap of the ship was 260m, 19 laps gave me 5km which was what I aimed for, my record was an 8km run then I got bored. Running on a deck that is pitching up and down over a large swell can be quite a challenge. Evenings started with the bar opening from 5 to 6, then dinner and again two hours of bar time from 7 to 9, and the bar was cheap. R14 doubles, R8 beers etc. It got wild. Many an evening involved some form of raucous partying, very challenging in heavy seas as we were to find out. I woke up with many a hangover on that trip. The most hilarious and horrifying early morning post party moment I remember was being on my way to breakfast with a hangover in a stormy southern ocean and upon enquiring from my cabin mate whether he was joining the only two words he could utter was “Hangover” and “Seasick”, I fled.

Sailing into a mysterious world.

Late night sampling operations.

Side door open and the rosette being prepped to sample ocean water.

The rosette. Each bottle has a lid on top and below that is held closed by a strong elastic. When going down the lids are held open by attached triggers. As the rosette descends water flushes through each tube effectively cleaning and priming it. When the rosette is retrieved the controller can trigger bottles individually letting the lids snap shut giving you depth accurate water samples.



Poker time, many a night.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2016, 12:22:17 am by Kortbroek »
- you reckon that thing will pop a wheelie? We're about to find out, SLAP that pig!
 

Offline Kortbroek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2016, 12:23:16 am »
So after a week on board we awoke one morning to the sight of Bouvet Island on the horizon. Now for a challenge, will the weather be good enough to land a team? Bouvet Island is the most remote island on the planet at 1600km south of Gough Island, 1700km north of the Antarctic coast and 2200km from the closest habituated land at Cape Agulhas. The island is owned by Norway and is 90% covered by a glacier. A landslide some years ago formed a peninsula where in 2010 (I think) the Norwegians build a tiny base for researchers to use. We dropped of a team of 5 here by heli who would spend the next two months on their own, unable to access 90% of the tiny island. Then we turned and headed for the ice.

Bouvet Island, the base is center right on the tiny peninsula. They expect it to fall into the ocean soon as the coast erodes.

Cargo slinging supplies to the base on the island.

Cheers for now, see you in two months.
- you reckon that thing will pop a wheelie? We're about to find out, SLAP that pig!
 

Offline Kortbroek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2016, 12:23:47 am »
A day south of Bouvet we spotted our first pieces of loose brash ice, soon followed by the first icebergs on the horizon. These are the most photographed pieces of ice on the planet. At about 62 or 64 deg south (can’t remember) we hit the ice proper. It was still thin but now we were navigating through ever thicker ice floes hunting channels that would take lead us south to the Ice shelf. At the crossing of the Antarctic Circle (66.5 deg S) we were called to the court of King Neptune to account for crimes committed whilst at sea in the southern ocean after which we had our first braai on the heli deck. From the first ice it also never got dark again. We had entered the realm of the never ending day.

Starting to get into the ice but nothing much yet.


Braaivleis on the heli deck at 66d33”S.

01h00 in the morning, some proper ice by now.
From here on the ice became more serious and detouring and route finding around areas of thick ice build-up became more common. We also started getting stuck more often. To break through the ice the ship effectively charges at it and rides up on top until it collapses. Sometimes this doesn’t work and you get stuck. They would try many ways to get unstuck including reversing (which they can only do if no loose ice is floating behind the ship as this will damage the props) and in extreme cases, lowering a container over the bow of the ship on the crane and swinging it from side to side, rocking the ship until it works itself loose. Eventually after two and a half weeks on board we were at the ice shelf, well almost. We first had to offload the cargo at ATKA bukta near the German base Neumayer 3 and SA summer station but the ice here was too thick to get to the shelf so we ended up offloading onto the sea ice from where the cargo was hauled to the shelf. The heavy shipping containers get offloaded here as the ice shelf elsewhere is too high. From here it gets hauled 300km on sleds behind adapted challenger tracked tractors to SANAE IV.


Iceberg near ATKA Bukta.


Parked against the sea ice ready to start cargo operations in the morning. Ice shelf on the horizon in the background.

Time to unload.

The transport. Modified challenger tractors hauling steel cargo sleds.
From here we sailed east to RSA bukta which is 150km from SANAE IV. The fuel that has to go to the base will get pumped into bowsers on sleds here and personnel gets flown in to the base from here by helicopter. We have finally arrived in Antarctica and after 3 weeks on board I was taking of on the next part of this great adventure.

The high shelf at RSA Bukta. The crane can reach the top but not with heavy cargo.

Packed and ready to go.


And we’re off. SANAE here we come.

Coming up is glaciers, ice, riding (oh yeah), mountains and more ice. Hope you lot enjoyed it this far. The next instalment will follow soon.
- you reckon that thing will pop a wheelie? We're about to find out, SLAP that pig!
 

Offline JonW

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2016, 06:37:49 am »
So awesome, thanks for sharing this.
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Offline ClimbingTurtle

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2016, 07:58:46 am »
Awesome!!

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Offline lpj

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2016, 08:10:30 am »
Must say the cabin looks a lot more comfy than those of Agulhus 1.

Keep it coming...
 

Offline Sprocketbek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2016, 09:27:06 am »
Fascinating!
Lovely pics  :thumleft:
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Offline Oupa Foe-rie

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2016, 10:05:35 am »
This is now a report of something very interesting ................ :thumleft:
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Online Offshore

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2016, 10:25:01 am »
Thanks for sharing. :thumleft:
 

Offline Tom van Brits

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2016, 11:14:57 am »
Must say the cabin looks a lot more comfy than those of Agulhus 1.

Keep it coming...

Great thread Kortbroek, I have seen you on a photo somewhere in the SANAP collection. Maybe on Vincent Rademeyer's photos...can't recall.

Great Experience and unfortunately the furthest South I could go as paramedic was Buvet Island with dr Greg Hoffmeyer and Nico De Bruin. Fortunately at the same time I was offered the job for Gough and a 14monts vs 2 month contract....well that is why I ended up on Gough the second time and now the third time around!
Still and awesome experience and why do you not shar photos of the initiation on the ship? It is all over the net in any way so please share here as I find it very fascinating or entertaining!

lpj I am a very easy going person, please do not think I am trying to be funny as one can easily by accident get the wrong impression when typing!

WRT the SA Agulhas 1....there is not such thing, there is (still is operational training seamen by Smith Amandla) the 'SA Agulhas'' and then there is the SA Agulhas 2. Tristan da Cunha made the same mistake and printed a series of postal stamps by accident as 'SA Agulhas 1' and before they could withdraw it was sold out. Now it is worth a lot of money as it is a once off print and a big laugh and even slight embarrassment for some....  :peepwall:

WRT the cabin: Yes the new ship rolls a lot less partly because of a more intelligent ballast tank setup and a wider keel with a different design.  So that allowed the cabins to be more 'friendly' in design but I prefer the SA Agulhas....and why?

1: On the new ship the curtain is one piece, so if you want to sleep on the bottom bunk and want to pull the curtain around the bed to isolate yourself from the light, the top guy gets annoyed because he wants it open.
2: When you do get stormy weather with a side swell of 5meters plus the ship do roll a fair bit and you can not tug yourself in like on the SA Agulhas. The beds was 'deep and boxed in with a plank preventing you from rolling off'. I simply put my duffle bag next to me and was tugged in safely. It has already happened on the new ship where passengers did roll off the beds.On the old ship it was impossible...
3; The new ship has got card access like a hotel, the old had a dood which we kep open and there was a curtain which you eiter close of left open as well...way more practical.
4; Lastly the best attribute that I miss most was the opening windows (Afrikaans - patryspoort) It allowed fresh air and not this simple air con sinus inducing system they run....climate contoll :patch:

Thing I hate about the old ship.....the lavatory system was just old and outdated design and one day I shouted like a girl while taking a shower.....a turd appeared from the drain hole - everything was connected. The new system on the new ship is at least vacuum.

Which ship do I prefer? I am old school - given the choice I would prefer the old one because I trusted that red lady, we have been through 12 gale force storms and I have done my sea rescue from her....I loved the bar area more and even the smokers lounge upstairs (although I am a non smoker) was awesome. The dining facility was a better layout and there was no silly rushed 2 seating.

The SA Agulhas 2 has a few flaws, she will need to go back to the shipyard because of the moon pool which you guys also did not use I see but also went over the side with the oceanographic equipment. The design was stretched to accommodate the moon-pool and the issue now is that the aft deck (poop deck) gets flooded even in moderate swell....Overall a nice ship, I knew the main designer personally well and I did not share his idea on a couple of things. His main aim was to get it a 'dry' ship as he was a non drinker - sorry that will never work.

Bigger she is....better in some ways. Still proud to be in the program!  :thumleft:
 

Offline lpj

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2016, 11:32:14 am »
Hi Tom, not a problem. Didn't know of the Tristan stamp story  :lol8:

Although I only sailed on her twice, I agree with your sentiments re the "SA Agulhus". Also really enjoyed the aged/weathered feeling she had - as if she's been through a lot of storms and big seas, and proved herself (if this makes sense  ???). And not trying to be a cruise liner, just another workhorse.

Re the cabin, I agree that the deeper bunks on the first one was great in stormy weather, I just struggled to get tucked in, being as tall as I am. With the low beds, my knees can at least stick out.

Any case, back to the topic.

Kortbroek, keep it coming. Missing the ice dearly  :-\

 

Offline StofVreter

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2016, 11:34:43 am »
Awesome! Please don't stop!  :thumleft:
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Offline Tom van Brits

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2016, 11:56:26 am »
Thanks lpj  :thumleft:

Yes please keep it coming Kortbroek!!  :deal:  :laughing4:
 

Offline Clockwork Orange

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2016, 02:39:52 pm »
Loving this report!!
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Offline Kortbroek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2016, 03:06:41 pm »
Thanks for the input Tom.

Ja I've heard many stories of the old SA Agulhas but have not been on her.

Regarding meeting King Neptune, I know many people share photos and the like but I feel it is made special by the fact that only those in the program know the what and why's and while others may choose to share, I rather don't. Childish maybe, I don't know.

About the design flaws of the ship, there are a few obvious ones that limit the science capabilities. The poop deck flooding is not such a crucial issue as it is very important for research and practical purposes having it low on the water like it is, the issue there is that the underside of the rear part of the hull underneath the poop deck is flat leading to slamming as I'm sure you've experienced. This causes issues for the ship as well as the comfort of passengers. But the flooding did knock out a window in one of the science lab containers during a storm so ja.

The moonpool issue is interesting in that it works fine but being a metal schute, it causes Fe contamination in water samples which is a serious issue if you are doing a study on Fe concentrations in seawater. The other issue is the cable rubbing against the sides of the schute if the ship is pitching or yawing.

The second major stuffup is the coring facility on board. This was meant to be used by geologists for retrieving core from the ocean floor. The problem is that they designed the ship so that only a 10m corer can be used meaning it is too slow/expensive and not suitable to retrieve longer useful sections of core. Idealy a 20/30m corer would have been nice or even longer if they could accommodate it.

There are a few other small issues but mostly it is a great vessel. The labs are well equipped, the lounges are ok although the layout is stupid. I hear that was quite nice on the old ship. The smokers got a raw deal though, but I guess that is the modern trend.
I was lucky enough to be in a twin cabin centre ship on deck 6 so pretty comfortable and got the same cabin on the return voyage.

Today and tomorrow is a bit hectic work wise but will try to write the next part over the next two days or so when I can spare a moment.
- you reckon that thing will pop a wheelie? We're about to find out, SLAP that pig!
 

Offline Tom van Brits

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2016, 03:35:48 pm »
Yes you have a much better way with words that I have, and knocked the nail with your description of the ship design issues. :thumleft:

That hammering caused by the underside of the aft is very problematic and will most definitely cause serious problems if not addressed in time.
The discomfort of the passengers....well yes, but the main thing is did you hear how the ceiling on all the floors rattles and moans while it happens?
Remember all the cabling, piping and whatever is running in that space and there is a possibility of metal fatigue, and similar issues with regards to other materials.

Funny though, apparently the 'model' did not present this problem which just shows you that one can get close with simulations but not necessarily spot-on! 

The layout of deck 6 and 7th bar/lounge area give the overall impression that they did not want people to have fun and big gatherings like on the old ship. However, it depends on who the people are on the ship. We were having great times without any out of control incidents. There is unfortunately always 'the one' that can't handle his booze or does not know when to stop which in the end ruin it for everyone else.

I do like the formal and cocky staff of the ship, the stewards reminds me in a way of the military although most of them are too young and would not have served.
I do not know who your voyage captain was, in my eyes capt Gavin Syndercome (Hope I did not misspell) is one of the best out there.

I get what you say about the initiation, it is your choice mate  :thumleft:
 

Offline Kortbroek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2016, 05:41:29 pm »
I forgot about the noise the ceilings make. Sounds like a herd of buffalo running up and down the length of the ship.

Ja we also had Cpt Gavin. Solid guy.
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Offline lj111

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #18 on: November 03, 2016, 10:38:19 am »
Sub :sip:

Great pictures and thanks for sharing :thumleft:
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Offline Tom van Brits

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #19 on: November 03, 2016, 07:43:21 pm »
Kortbroek tell the WD's how you make 'water' for the base, and maybe share some more if you'd like and get a change please!  :thumleft: