Long time anarchist Ashley Perrin gives us the latest on her world, one most of us can only look at longingly from our desks. Ashley is only 31, but has amassed over 70,000 ocean miles on everything from IACC yachts to Moore 24s, and has scored big in the Newport Bermuda, the Round Britain and Ireland, the Rolex Transatlantic Race, the Caribbean 600, and the Fastnet. She decided to take a ‘sabbatical ‘ from racing yachts this year, and is now working in Antarctica for the British Antarctic Survey running a fleet of RIB’s at a base on Adelaide Island.
I looked back over my blog for the last month and half since I wrote for SA last to see what I had got up to down South besides the daily diving and boating in support of the scientific research that is going on.
We have had two visits from the US Antarctic program ships the Gould and Palmer. The Palmer supported the Larissa Project that was partly based here on station with their Twin Otter flying them onto the Larsen Ice Shelf and bringing back ice cores. The Gould took 20 of us on a day cruise out into Marguerite Bay and calibrated our CTD (chlorophyll, temperature and depth) instrument. I was able to get permission from the captain to climb the science mast (it has been a while since I was able to get up a mast) and I took pictures of the ship from 80 feet up. The Gould also participated in our Oil Spills Exercise where we pretended to contain an oil spill coming from the ship with booms and set up a skimmer to suck the fuel off the surface into tanks onshore.
At the beginning of February my mother talked to my friends down here and persuaded them to carry on the family tradition on my birthday of throwing me in a cold bath in my PJ’s. They took it to the next level and attacked me after the morning boating meeting throwing me fully clothed into the dive store bath which was full of -1C salt water from Ryder Bay. Thanks guys! 15 minutes later still salty I was on the RIB supervising a dive and never really got warm that day.
Mid February I was flying the twin otter on instruments in the cloud back from my week in the field at 71S concentrating hard – it takes a lot for a beginner! Flying reminds me of sailing in the fog except you have the added dimension of controlling not only heel and direction but your height. A call came through on the aero HF from the operations tower on base asking me about my sailing experience. Apparently Skip Novak was sailing past base in his yacht Pelagic and the guys in our operation tower started telling him about my sailing but realized they didn’t know too much about what I did.
As I landed the plane at base (under instruction from Steve the BAS pilot) I saw a yacht tucked in between two of the islands in the bay. After lunch we had a dive to do at Rose Gardens a half mile from the yacht. Getting the name Ada II off the stern we called them on channel 16. Out popped a woman who straight away I recognized as Isabelle Autissier and we ended up on the boat for tea and biscuits in our dive kit! It did feel a bit surreal to be sitting in on a real boat for so many months talking to one of the legends of yacht racing. Nobody on base really understood what I was going on about!
As I was away from station when the ½ marathon was run for charity I participated by skiing 29.1km on the flat runway at Fossil Bluff in mountaineering skis finishing at 9pm after stopping to refuel two planes as they came through. It was hard work but we ended up raising around 500 pounds so it was well worth it.
With the wharf being rebuilt the crane that we normally use to launch the boats was in use so we had to beach launch using the tractor. Launching off the beach sounds so easy however down here it requires a bulldozer to first clear the beach of the large pieces of brash ice before you can even get the trailer to the water.
My primary dive buddy Terri (the marine assistant) and I beat the season record with a dive of one hour long. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet for a few hours after that one. Who says I am not competitive! We were collecting latanula’s which is a mollusk that buries in the sediment requiring a lot of digging to remove. Diving has continued to be disrupted by Leopard seals in fact one day we had five sitting on ice floes off the wharf. The Orca pod is still in the bay which again stops diving we witnessed the parents showing the young how to hunt – they took out a crabby seal 100 feet from us. That’s a seal skeleton in Ryder Bay.
I am trying to stay fit for Round Britain race in June with my little brother so I have continued to summit as many peaks as possible at the weekends my favorite being Leonie which is an Island out in the Bay. Learning the new to me sport of ice climbing and alpine mountaineering has been a lot of fun. I have had to dodge fur seals on my daily 6:45am 10km bike rides – it is pretty surreal to have a seal biting at your bike tires. The fur seals were not as prevalent this year thank goodness as they are much more mobile then the elephant seals, weddells and crabbies.
Winter is closing in, gone is the 24 hour sunlight of the mid summer and it now gets dark at 9:30pm and isn’t light until 7am. In the evenings I have been spending more time in the woodwork shop learning how to turn bowls on the lathe and making kids toys for my nieces and nephews. The planes have all left for Canada where they spend the southern winter. We are now down to 48 people on base it will go down to 22 for the 6.5 months of winter.
In three weeks I will be leaving Rothera on a 14 day cruise aboard the RRS Ernest Shackleton heading to the Falklands via all the other stations including Signy Island, Bird Island, South Georgia and one of the German Bases. Amazing to think I am being paid to do this! In the meantime I am busy answering copious emails as I organize to do the Double handed Round Britain and Ireland Race with my 23 year old brother and the Pacific Cup on a Quest 33 from the Bay. The outside world and yacht racing calls me back.