|Tuesday, December 22, 2009|
Captains Blog: Icebergs
"Hey there's an iceberg up ahead."
Mike is on the early morning shift, and his eager voice wakes me from a deep sleep. The crew was all exhausted after the previous 24 hours of no sleep and the skirmish with the whalers, and none of the others can be bothered getting up right now. I clamber out of bed and climb into the Navigators seat beside Mike.
"It's over there", he says, pointing at a berg a few miles ahead of us. It’s probably a few hundred meters long, and as we get closer, lots of smaller bergs show up in the water. I've told the crew 20 times to be super careful when on watch. We hit a single berg, even a small one, and our season is probably over. I can't help myself saying it again though.
We slide silently past the big iceberg. Birds circle around it, diving and weaving to pluck little scraps of food from the frigid waters. Icebergs like this act as fish aggregation devices, a bit like a reef. Only here the reef gradually decays away. Small fish, bigger fish, birds and the occasional unlucky penguin all share this shrinking ecosystem.
"You know, a lot of people talk about the amazing colors down here", says Mike thoughtfully. "But I can't see it."
I look over at the iceberg, with big waves crashing up on its northern edge. It's just white, and the water is green. "You know, I reckon the real beauty down here is in the barrenness of it all. We've been at sea for nearly a week, and the only thing we've seen above the water is a couple of shrinking icebergs. Romantic, photo shopped pictures of blue skies and icebergs are used to lure tourists down here to make money, in some respects just like the Japanese come here to make money. But the reality is there is bugger all here, above the water at least. It's nature's way of telling us we shouldn't be here. It's made this the most inhospitable place on earth."
We sit there in silence for a while, a couple of simple blokes trying to think deeply. Mike's brow in furrowed, "Yeah but under water is a different story though aye."
Indeed it is almost the complete opposite underwater. These waters are amongst the richest on earth. Over summer, massive amounts of plankton are harvested by the krill, which in turn base load a massive ecosystem. The whales come down here and pig out over the summer months, fattening themselves up in a three month feeding frenzy.
"Do you think the Japanese will ever stop whaling down here?” Mike suddenly changes the subject.
"I hope so. I wouldn't be down here if I didn't think we had a chance of stopping them. And I hope after this year they call it quits. We don't belong here mate. The Japanese don't belong here. No one belongs here. We should just leave this as the one place on Earth that man hasn't stuffed up.”
Mike nods his head in agreement. He's been to UK a few times.
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