Update on situation down here: no news.
We are out at sea somewhere, clear of the big ice. Grey stormy weather, nothing major, but no possibility of flying today. The wind will be increasing to about 35 knots (70km/hr) and the bad weather might only clear by Saturday. Yesterday, the pilots reported seeing a clear band of water near the ice shelf but no way for the ship of getting there, as the ice was too thick between the ship and the clear water.
There is some cargo aboard ship that must be offloaded onto the ice shelf and there is plenty of cargo on the ice that must be brought aboard. Yesterday, the pilots managed to fly three round trips. It could have been more, had it not been for the fact that the ship was about 12 miles from the ice shelf and the Summer Station where many of the goods are that need to be collected is a further 8 miles from there. That means that each trip was 40 miles (about 70km), return. When slinging a load of about 1,5 tons under the chopper, the going is rather slow. It also requires frequent refueling. This takes time. Good weather does not always last as long as one needs it to.
Nothing is simple in Antarctica. No, that is incorrect, let me restate that: Human activities and human attempts at mastering Nature in Antarctica are never simple and I dare add, seldom successful. I think that Antarctica itself is very simple in many ways: water in different forms, rocky mountain outcrops, sky, wind. Wide open space. Simple, perfect beauty.
I watched the chopper as it hovered above the ship's front deck while the ship's crew hooked a load of cargo onto the end of the cargo sling, a steel cable of 7m to 10m in length. They flew off to the ice shelf and more than an hour later, came into view again as they approached the ship with a different load dangling below. Watching them fly over the ice and ocean with a load swinging beneath them actually made me feel anxious for their safety. It just seemed that there was too much that could go too wrong, too easily. What if they had to land in an emergency? The water is not an appetizing landing spot.
One of the other pilots (whose chopper is broken) was also watching the flying operations. I asked him if it that type of flying was as scary as it looks. His response was that it looked scary to me because I am not a pilot. Ha, ha. I did not really believe that. Seeing my look of disbelief, he conceded that such flying is intense and quite challenging, but enjoyably so. Are these guys adrenaline junkies or what?