Good times on board the ship
Live on aboard the French research vessel Marion Dufresne is pretty comfortable. Food is served in the restaurant three times a day and there’s of course French wine for lunch and dinner, cheese and fruit for desert. In the evening people meet in the bar for a drink or two and talk about what is to come or listen to stories from the veterans who have been in the French south-territories before. The remaining hours of the day are spent preparing field equipment, which in my case means programming 54 automatic acoustic receivers and calibrating and testing 52 electronic fish tags.
On the fourth day of our trip we were all gathered at the bar and informed that the French sailor Kito De Pavent, who was racing in the “Le Vendée Globe” regatta, had broken the keel on his sailboat and had therefore sent out a MAYDAY signal. As we were the closest (and only…) motorised boat in the southern part of the Indonesian ocean, our course was set to his last known position. Five hours later, right before dark, we could just glimpse his mast against the horizon. With 8-10 meter high waves, gale winds, and seven degrees water temperature, the situation was far from ideal and there was a tension on the bridge. The relief was considerable when it became clear that he was still on board his boat and was able to endure it there until daybreak, when both the wind and the waves had abated. The rescue itself then became a simple matter.
King Penguins! A dream come true. I have long been hoping to see penguins in their true element. And here, at Crozet Islands, there were plenty. Diving, swimming majestically through the water like it’s all they’d ever done (which is more or less true actually). Even though my French colleagues tried to convince me that in just a few days I’d get much better photos when we get to shore and there much close to the colony, I did not listen and used the camera intensively. Just like when we at our virgin trip to Svalbard first spotted a polar bear at 1000 meters distance. But before we could to get ashore, the researchers and technicians who are to remain at Crozet research station are flown in with the helicopter along with all the gear and post we are carrying for the islanders. Most of tomorrow will be spent doing this, so the penguin colony will have to wait just a little bit longer.
(Translated into English by Anders L Kolstad)