There are very few places in the world where there are no roads and the Antarctic is one of them. Even today the best way of getting around is by boat. Having the three-masted, 51-meter long SEDNA IV as our home base was ideal. Besides being very practical she turned out to be a 'romantic' way to travel. Even though we were using all of the latest high tech equipment for our communications and filming, when we sailed through the Antarctic's pristine landscapes, I felt as if we had taken a step back in time to that of the early 19th and 20th century explorers.
One place that was guaranteed to give you that nautical feeing was in the crowsnest at the top of SEDNA's 30 metre mast. From there you could see minke and humpback whales doing their underwater ballet or penguins torpedoing through the water. The remoteness, isolation and living with the elements have a way of making you very focused.
Of course it was not all easy sailing. Wind, waves and ice can make sailing and living on board quite challenging at times. Several crewmembers discovered that they were prone to suffer from seasickness. There were nights when you would be thrown from one side of your bed to the other and simple tasks, like making a cup of coffee or taking a shower, were impossible. Waking-up to the sound of ice banging against the hull made for an exciting start to the day – especially if it was a large iceberg.
For the most part life on board was very comfortable. We had a short window of opportunity in the evening to send and receive emails - bringing our computers to the dining table to log-on became a daily ritual. Our reverse osmosis water-maker turned sea water into fresh water. There was usually enough for everyone to have a quick shower everyday, do laundry once a week, and for all the cooking. Unfortunately plankton (single celled plants that float in the water column) multiply during the long summer days and they tended to clog the filters so checking the posted water reserves was essential before starting a load of laundry. Even with all 16 of us carefully watching how much water we used it was amazing to see just how much water we could go through in a day.
Joelle, our cook, was responsible for making lunch and dinner, and we each made our own breakfasts. The food was great. The food storage area in the aft and the many freezers onboard were jammed full at the beginning of each section of the voyage. After a few weeks we would run out of fresh food, but there were still lots of options. On Sundays, Joelle's day-off, we took it in turns to cook. It gave everyone a chance to show off their special recipes – with some creative substitutions for any missing ingredients.