Friday, February 16, 2007

15 February - at sea - 15 degrees Celcius - 47 degrees 21 minutes South

It's really starting to warm up now! We took a tour of the bridge this morning, which I found quite interesting. Most of the equipment is for safety rather than navigation, but the maps and charts are pretty cool.

Everyone is wondering when we will get into Hobart. I think a few of us would be pretty excited to get in the night before and look around Hobart. Still, an extra half a day in Antarctica would have been good too, but I guess you can't predict the weather well enough a week out to know we would have had such a good run back. Since Macquarie Island, the weather has been pretty calm and swells haven't been bad. The deck chairs are out and people are enjoying the sun.

We won trivia again, so we have now secured the title of overall trivia champions. Prizes, kudos and various hazzahs!

Now it's pretty much just a case of sorting out my photos, packing and relaxing before we get in. I am looking forward to warm weather, old friends and dry land.

At the end of the evening briefing, we got a call that whales were spotted off the port side, so we raced on deck to see three minke whales spouting and breaching through the water. The photos were pretty hard to capture, so it was more fun to turn it off and just watch the show. The captain cut the engines so that we wouldn't spook the whales and it was nice to have the silence and stillness of being at sea. I hadn't realised that I had got used to the vibrations of the engines.

In the evening, I wangled an invitation to the crew mess, which was probably one of the most fun nights I've had so far. Dad has come down with a little cold so he had to turn in early.

14 February (Valentine's Day) - at sea - 10 degrees Celcius - 51 degrees 38 minutes South

I woke up this morning and read the day's programme to see that at 3:30 pm, I had been booked in to lead a discussion on my adventure yesterday. I spent the afternoon whipping a Powerpoint presentation together, looking through my photos to find decent illustrations. I duly turned up to present it and got told it was a bit of joke and they weren't expecting me to do anything! I talked anyway and it was a lot of fun.

We got creamed in the trivia today, but our closest rivals didn't win either, so I think we are still tracking to be overall winners [smug look].

In the evening, we had a Valentine's Day masque ball. Some people put a real effort into their masks, so it was great to see what everyone was wearing.

13 February -Macquarie Island - 8 degrees Celcius - 54 degrees 30 minutes South

Dad thrust open the curtains this morning to the sight of Macquarie Island and king penguins porpoising through the sea. The weather was pretty drizzly. We skipped breakfast, kitted up and headed out to shore. Some of the rangers from the station met us and showed us around Buckles Bay. It is the site of massive condensers that were used to extract penguin blubber in the early twentieth century. There were also loads of elephant seals wallowing and lying in the grass.

One of the guests got a little too close to an elephant seal, who had probably been provoked by some up close photography. It reared up and bit her arm, tearing her jacket but luckily not reaching her skin. These seals are huge and about 5 metres long, so it must have been terrifying. I spoke to her later and she seemed fine

We wondered in and around the base and were treated by the rangers to Minties, Tim Tams and Mint Slices. They gave us a demonstation of a weather balloon launch and then we headed down to the beach to watch more seals and penguins. Their yellow and gold plumage is so much more than the Adelies in Antarctica.

After lunch we headed back out to another beach to see a massive Royal penguin rookery. Some chicks were still around and so cute! These penguins were much more inquisitive and I got my boots gnawed a few times. It was magical to be so close to them all.

We couldn't spend too long at Sandy Bay, as the permit only allowed half the ship aboard at the time. When we got back aboard, I checked and found out there were still some spaces left, so I jumped into a zodiac to head back out. This is where the adventure began...

The weather was pretty foggy and as we approached the shore, we couldn't see the landing site. Margie, one of the expedition team, leaned over and asked me "Do you remember the bearing to the beach?" That's when I thought something might be wrong. She got on the radio and called the beach "What's our bearing to the landing site?" The message came back that the fog was so thick that the beach was being cleared and we were to head back to the ship. We turned back and moved into the fog. Margie leaned back in. "Let me know if you can see the ship." That's when I knew something was wrong.

We could see nothing, so turned and tried to strike for the island, which we found again. We cruised up and down for a bit to try to find a recognisable landmark. Having no luck, we set the anchor and waited in a bay to save fuel. The bridge contacted us and told us they needed us to move to help the radar to work better. This still didn't work, so they used the foghorn. We heard nothing, so they tried again. Margie was on the radio "Negative, we cannot hear the foghorn" while the rest of us were tugging her jacket "Shut up, you can't hear it cause you're on the radio". It was too far away though and they didn't want to leave the sight of the shore, so we sat tight. We anchored again near some big rocky outcroppings called the Nuggets with a penguin rookery at its foot. Margie described this to the Macquarie Island rangers aboard and they recognised it, so they sent out a zodiac and we waited 10 minutes before we saw them come out. They had a GPS receiver and we followed them down the coast and then back out to the ship. We got a little cheer, but Dad looked like he had pooped himself :-P

We had veered too north of the landing site initially and when we were found, we were 3.2 km north of the boat, even though the landing site was to the south. With the radio contact, I never felt unsafe, even though we didn't know where we were. To be honest, I was hoping we would have to land and camp or something. It was really exciting!

In the evening, we had the guest talent show. I had mouthed off earlier in the cruise about my Suspicious Minds cover in karaoke, so one of the musicians put me down to do that. Another guest, Anke, was going to play guitar for me, but as we were practicing, we couldn't really get it to work, so we ended up reworking the lyrics to In The Ghetto but made it about seals and sharks instead. It ended up being a cute duet, although during rehearsals we got a little tired of it and worried it mightn't be funny anymore. It went down well and we ended up getting the highest score of 14/15 from the three judges. Although one of them was Dad and he obliged with 5/5. Yay for nepotism! Any hopes for prizes, kudos and various hazzahs were dashed later that night though, when Dad informed me that the scores were to be normalised so no one really won. Boooo!

12 February - at sea - 4 degrees Celcius - 56 degrees 18 minutes South

The weather has been quite choppy, 12 metre swells and 20 degree lists. It gets quite tiring and I'm really anticipating some calmer weather and terra firma at Macquarie Island. The good news is that we should arrive early tomorrow.

In the afternoon, a charity auction was held for the Antarctic Heritage Trust, that manages and conserves the huts of Scott, Shackleton, Mawson, et al. The first item up was a Gold Explorer Membership to the Trust, accompanied by a natty plaque signed by Edmund Hillary. Dad had his eye on it and its face value was $1000, so Dad and I were expecting a hefty price to be paid. After bidding, it all came out at $1000 though, and Dad was on top. Going once. Going twice. I was having none of that. The whole point of a charity auction is to make money for the Trust, not let them break even. So I placed a bid. It was a little controversial and Dad raised me, while giving me the dirtiest look I have ever seen and muttering that I better not do that again. In the end, I also picked up a Scott Base cap and a couple of old first editions of Antarctic adventurer's books. There was also some neat old maps that were bagged as a bargain. I think I'll have to explore some of the old map stores in Amsterdam when I get home. In the end we raised over $8 000.

11 February - at sea - 4 degrees Celcius - 59 degrees 18 minutes South

Another quiet day at sea. I worked on the blog and we were going to have an ice cream party on the top deck. Unfortunately the ship was rocking all over the shop so we had to move it inside. Dad looked very confused by it all.

There is still a lot of cloud cover, so there has been no chance for aurora spotting :-(

Sunday, February 11, 2007

10 February - at sea - 1 degree Celcius - 62 degrees 54 minutes South

I am getting photographic withdrawal syndrome and itching to get to Macquarie Island. Sitting around on board is getting dull.

Apparently there has been some drama in the Ross Sea over the last few days between Sea Shepard and some Japanese whalers. One of the zodiacs went missing and we could have been asked to redirect to help the search, which led to some debate from some people as to whether we should be obliged to do so. There is also a potentially missing kayaker just short of New Zealand, having left from Tasmania.

The swells have picked up and we are getting tossed around a bit more. However, we are still making good time, so we should get to have a decent look around Macquarie Island.

We won trivia again, and now we are letting it get to our heads and sledging the other teams. Dad is also looking quite smug with all the comments coming in to me from girls the world over about how cute he looks. Maybe Trish should be worried...

We are in the aurora and comet zone again, so I have had a few little looks but it is still cloudy. Hopefully it'll clear tomorrow.

9 February - at sea - 0 degrees Celcius - 67 degrees 08 minutes South

I had a haircut today. Dad was very happy with himself.

8 February - at sea - -1 degree Celcius - 72 degrees 03 minutes South

I was about to write that not much is happening today as we are at sea, but then the computer slid out from underneath me. We are travelling north thorugh pack ice and the captain has pulled the stabilisers in so we are rocking quite a lot! I have just put all our valuables and breakables on the ground, but Dad is up in the gym, so I hope he hasn't lurched off an exercise bike. A call came over the system "Hello, everyone [cue crash and a squeal in the background] Uh, yeah, obviously we are experiencing some swell, so please secure your cabins..." I was spreadeagled over the desk holding laptops, glasses and cameras. Our biggest roll was 20 degrees.

Today has mainly been attending lectures and trying to post to the blog. Whenever I turn up in the lounge with my computer to use the internet, someone comes over to compare photographs, so it has been taking a while.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

7 February - Inexpressible Island - -4 degrees Celcius - 74 degrees 54 minutes South

Dad. Shuffling in ski pants. Opening curtains. This is 3 am for me. I can dig it now.

The weather really closed in today and we had snow falling. We had arrived early this morning at Inexpressible Island in the western Ross Sea. It is home to another Adelie rookery as well as a snow cave where Scott's Northern Party wintered over in 1911 when they were stranded after the Terra Nova left early due to pack ice.

Dad and I walked up a hill to see the bay. It was very cloudy today and the landscape was covered with snow-coated rocks.

We walked down to the rookery. When I changed lens on my camera, I flicked the setting dial without realising, which set the exposure to some stupid level. The upshot is that a whole lot of photos come out underexposed. Picasa was rescued them, but a lot of detail is gone. Unfortunately, this included an Adelie being chased into within a metre of me and then feeding a chick.

However, I did get some nice shots of another adult who was tired of being chased by another chick and decided to retaliate.

We went to visit Mario Zuchelli Station in Terra Nova Bay, an Italian research station. However it looks like it has already closed up as it is only a summer station. It is located next to a big glacier.

We entered the trivia competition again this afternoon and won for the third time in a row, so now we have two bottles on ice behind the bar. In the evening, Dad and I were both done in, so we turned in early and watched a DVD. It has been a busy few days but now we are headig directly for Macquarie Island, so we can relax for a while.

6 February (Waitangi Day) - Franklin Island - -3 degrees Celcius - 76 degrees 9 minutes South

Dad was up early again this morning. We were in the second group out to Franklin Island, a massive Adelie colony. It has a population of around 100 000, and all these penguins have been pooing there since spring, so you can imagine the smell.

Some chicks were still in the rookery, moulting their longer grey feathers. They run after adults, squawking and chasing them for food.

One penguin was still trying to construct a nest. Males build nests from pebbles and the larger nests attract females. It is pretty late in the season, so I guess this fella hadn't been having much luck...

A leopard seal was patrolling the shore and watching for groups of fledglings making for the pack ice of the beach, learning to swim. Apparently the first group in saw him catch a penguin. The seal will hold the catch in his mouth and throw it back and forth to skin it and to lose the feathers. Everyone felt sorry for the little penguin, apart from Dad who was rooting for the leopard seal.

On the way back we cruised around a couple of massive icebergs, where I got my Antartic Money Shot. In the distance we could see a massive iceberg that had broken off from the Barrier, measuring about 40 km by 20 km. You can see it from Google Earth!

Once we got back to the boat, the call went out for the polar plunge. Dad backed out, muttering about heart somethings, disappointing a lot of people. The water was exceptionally clear and once you hit the water, all the air gets knocked out of your lungs. No matter how nonchalent you want to be in there, you can do nothing but swim for the ladder with grim determination on your face. The blood rushes from your fingers and toes, so they feel very cold, but nothing a sauna didn't fix.

That evening, we had a talk about Waitangi Day and we rocked out our haka. Dad had been practicing the words constantly (ie, when he was asleep) so I think he was quite nervous. It was kinda fun, although we received middling accounts about our fearsomeness. Someone said they thought Dad looked so cute, they wanted to go up and pinch his cheeks :-/ We gave the other guests a hongi as they came down to dinner and it is always amusing to see how some people react to having to do that.

5 February - Cape Royds/Cape Evans - -3 degrees Celcius - 77 degrees 38 minutes South

We came into Cape Royds on Ross Island first thing in the morning, cutting across an area where the ice had drifted away. Dad got giddy and was rustling in and out of the cabin at 3 am, gushing about it all. Soon enough, I was up and we boarded zodiacs to get onto the ice shelf. Mt Erebus rose in the background and across the bay, the dawn sun was hitting the Transantarctic Mountains.

We were greeted by penguins and then trekked across to the Cape. It was a walk of about 2 kilometres which was nice after so long confined on the boat. We crossed a small rise and looked down into Cape ROyds. There is an Adelie penguin rookery here as well as Shackleton's hut. We wandered off amongst the hills to get a view across the bay.

It was very windy but the view was amazing, especially back onto Mt Erebus.

After walking among the lava fields for a bit, we headed down to Shakleton's hut. It doesn't seem too small, but with a large group of people and spending all winter there, I am sure it would have been claustrophobic. A lot of the supplies are still in there, so the place is a real time capsule.

I wandered down to the penguin rookery and watched the Adelies. There were some younger ones down on the ice foot and watching them waddle along was loads of fun. They are so awkward.

On the walk back to the ship, a little penguin kept straying onto our path and attracting a lot of attention. I lay down and he came right past me. It was pretty exciting. A gang of his friends came up the other way and also passed by.

Just back from the launching spot, there were some seals lounging in the sun. They are my favourite, cause I like lounging in ths sun too. When they open their eyes, they are so cute, but most of the time, they are napping.

During lunch, we sailed down to Cape Evans, the site of the main hut for Scott's Last Expedition. Our group had to wait before we could into the area, which was protected. Dad and I walked through the hills nearby and scrambled and slipped our way through some snow to a ridge and had a breaktaking view across McMurdo Sound. It was absolutely amazing and the photos will not capture the breadth of the view. Behind us, Erebus rose right up with the clouds clearing, allowing a view right up to the top. Sometimes a puff of smoke from the crater could be seen.

We came down and found another lazy seal (a Weddell, I think) lying in the sun, so I lay down and hung out with him on the snow for a while.

By the time I made it back, I was the last person into the hut, so I got to look around all on my own. After reading "Worst Journey in the World", it was great to see their base for that trip. Like Shackleton's hut, it was littered with tins, London newspapers from the 1910s and various old scientific equipment. Of the side is a small stable where the ponies were housed, each stall marked with its name.

Dad and I then walked up Windvane Hill for more spectacular views before heading down to catch the last zodiac back. Before we turned around, we sailed into the mouth of the ice channel to McMurdo Base and Scott Base. This is kept open during the summer by an American icebreaker. It marked our furtherest south point; 77 degrees 43 minutes.

That evening while I was in the bar, someone appeared on the back deck and motioned me to come out. It was one of the Russian engineers and he had spotted a big pod of orcas off the port side. I raced back in to tell everyone and grab my camera. The photos didn't come out great, but it was fun watching them. Straight afterwards it started chucking down massive balls of snow, so we finished up with a snowball fight. Perfect end to a great day.

4 February - at sea - -3 degrees Celcius - 75 degrees 17 minutes South

After lunch, it was decided to skip Franklin Island and head straight for Ross Island. We should hopefully arrive tomorrow morning. It is a bit frustrating to have to keep missing landings, especially as I am quite keen to get onto solid land after a week on board. Still, that is the nature of where we are, so there isn't much to be done but be patient.

Dad and I got some photos of a brilliant blue iceberg during the day.

Tonight, we've practiced the haka with the bunch of other Kiwis for Waitangi Day day after tomorrow. Hmmm...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

3 February - Cape Adare/Cape Hallett - -1 degree Celcius - 71 degrees 41 minutes South

My alarm went off at 2, but it was far too befuddled to get up for an hour or so. Dad was up and out, but back in the cabin every five minutes for another scarf, hat or shirt and letting me know cold it was ("Not in bed, Geoff"). However, there is something about a crack and shudder when you are on a boat to massage your curiosity, so I got up to find us pushing through some light pack ice, surrounded by massive tabular bergs, Adelie penguins scampering over the ice and orcas surfacing and hunting around the bergs. It was so cold and my head was still in sleep mode, so my camera work was pretty shoddy, but there are some nice shots of some icebergs and I managed one of some penguins diving. This is much more like what I expected Antarctica to be like. Although it is freezing, it is hard to go inside; there is always something more fascinating to keep you outside a little longer.

Cape Adare was blocked by icebergs. Massive hulking icebergs. So we have had to skip it and started heading down to Cape Hallett. Adare has Mawson's hut and Borchgrevnik's hut as well as an Adelie penguin colony, so hopefully we get to visit on the way back up, as long as a wind comes along to shift the ice away. At the moment, I think we want to leave as much time as possible to get to Cape Evans and the hut from Scott's last expedition.

Once we got to Cape Hallett, we discovered bergs grounded up on the shore, so we have cut our losses, and are heading for Franklin Island in the Ross Sea, hoping to arrive tomorrow evening. From there, we will head straight to Ross Island and hope to land there on Monday night.

I also found out in the afternoon that during the night, we had passed the Farley Mowat, a Sea Shepard anti-whaling vessel that was patrolling and looking for whaling ships. I also snapped some shots of a Korean longline fishing boat in the afternoon.

Now we are below 66 degrees south, the sun doesn't set below the horizon, so even at midnight, it is bright. It's very weird, especially after the short days back in Amsterdam.

2 February - At sea - -1 degree Celcius - 68 degrees 23 minutes South

Snow was all over the deck today which facilitates snowball fights and breaking off icicles, creeping up on Dad and trying to drop them down the back of his shirt. The swell has settled right down and the surface is very flat. It's very eerie. Apparently this all indicates the start of pack ice.

Another quiet day. In the afternoon, the wind was down enough to create proper snowflakes. They are slightly out of focus, but looked so pretty!

In the evening we were warned that we were likely to reach Cape Adare tomorrow at 2 am, so we would start heading ashore around 5 or 6 am. Also, the light in the middle of the "night" is supposed to best for photography, so it was suggested we get up early to watch the approach to the Continent, the icebergs and the wildlife. We went to bed straight after dinner and I set my alarm for 2 :s

Friday, February 02, 2007

1 February - At sea - 2 degrees Celcius - 63 degrees 23 minutes South

Crossing into the Convergence (below 60 degrees South) has made all the difference. Now it is proper cold.

It was a quiet day, but the late afternoon and evening was packed. First up, Dad and I saw our first whale standing out on the deck. It was just a fin and a spume of water, but they are obviously lurking out there, so I hope to send some photos soon.

Secondly, we have started to see icebergs. I got some nice shots of a couple of massive tabular bergs in the evening. I hope the fog and cloud clears so that we can get some photos of them with the sun reflecting off. On the horizon, you can start to see "iceblink" which is patches of light on the dark horizon, indicating pack ice or icebergs. Before the radar and satellite technology that we use now, this was the most effective way to navigate through the ice.

Thirdly, we were told that during the night we would be crossing 66 degrees South. This is the Antarctic Circle boundary. Apparently there were "traditions" to perform, so we were to come to the aftdeck when we got the call during the night.

Finally, as we are making good time, we are expecting to arrive at Cape Adare about 2 am on Saturday morning. Because the sea ice can come across and block the Zodiacs at anytime, we may get a call to kit up from 5 am on. I am really looking forward to hitting the continent proper and it's not far to go now.

Sure enough, at 2:30 am, we got a call over the speakers and turned out on the back deck in our togs to find it covered in snow. The expedition leader was waiting for us and we got sprayed by a fire hose. Afterwards we bundled back inside for hot chocolate. Modesty forbids the posting of these photos :P

It's odd, but standing outside beforehand was worse than when the water came. Either way, it woke us up and we didn't get back to sleep for an hour.

31 January - At sea - 8 degrees Celcius - 58 degrees 27 minutes South

Another quiet day travelling south. The big news was that we crossed 60 degrees south during dinner, so that we are now in waters covered by the Antarctic Treaty. We toasted Neptune after dinner.

My jetlag is pretty much gone now, so apart from waking early, I am normal again.

If you haven't noticed, not much is going on at the moment. We should arrive in Cape Adare on Saturday morning, so we spend the days attending lectures on board about Antartica, its history and its ecology. They also feed us constantly and the food is very rich and swish, so I am probably going to be rolled off in Hobart.

The boat has about 100 guests and around 75 staff, so it's kind of like staying in some hotel at sea. Some people seem very used to this, but it is far less adventurous than I expected and I am getting a bit tired of fielding the same questions ("Where do you live?" "What do you do?") Most people seem to be retired or nearly there, although there is a group of GPs who have a lecture on Hypothermia or something related once a day, so they can write off the trip as a tax expense. I think I am the youngest person here by quite a way.

We are in the middle of the ocean with nothing around, so it is a new experience to be so isolated. The swells calmed down yesterday, and although some people have been hit by seasickness, Dad and I haven't had any problems. The weather is generally foggy and overcast, but the sun does come out sometimes. It rains a little but nothing too strong and not for long.

We have passed through the area where you can see auroras without seeing any, which is a shame. Hopefully we will catch some on the way back up.

I am taking the time to learn how to use my camera, read and nap. It is a little frustrating to be sitting around all day. At the same time, it's nice to have enforced relaxation.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

30 January - At sea - 10 degrees - 53 degrees 47 minutes South

I got up early again to photo the comet, but the only part of the sky in cloud was the part where it was supposed to be. My jetlag is lessening, so I am integrating a bit better now, although I do enjoy having naps in the afternoon.

Dad and I took some photos off the back of the ship this morning of some albatross and pintados.

29 January - Auckland Islands - 12 degrees Celcius - 50 degrees 8 minutes South

I woke early and went out to try and see the comet that is in the southern skies at the moment. The dawn was rising so it was a little faint but still impressive. I had no luck getting a photo but I will try again tomorrow.

It's exciting to me right in the middle of the ocean. The swells are about 3 metres, I guess and the boat is definitely rocking around. This feels EXACTLY like being drunk, lurching around the room to find something to hold on to. I am careful to leave all my valuables on the ground so they can't fall.

We had a call that whales were off the port side, but I had no luck seeing them. It is pretty and fresh up there though, with clear blue skies and the birds flying around.

In the afternoon, we kitted up and jumped into the zodiacs for a trip around Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands.

The sun came out especially from the clouds for our ride and seemed to darken as soon as we got back in. Enderby is a major breeding sites of Hooker Sea Lions and as we approached Sandy Bay we got a great view of the beach, with the hulking beachmasters, paler females and dark pups. Some had ventured up onto the grass and tussock as well. I tried to get some photos of them diving in and out of the water, but wasn't fast enough. It is odd how sleek they look in the water, but so clumsy on the beach.

Further around the coast we came across some Auckland Island Shags clinging to the rock face.

As we headed back, we got beaten back to the boat by another zodiac, so we cruised back to Sandy Bay for another look. We were lucky enough to see three Yellow Eyed Penguins hiding in the tussock. They were pretty shy, but it was exciting to see my first penguins! I can't wait to see some more.

28 January - Invercargill 15 degrees Celcius

Dad and I spent a leisurely breakfast at the local cafe and then went for a walk around Invercargill. We played some pool and won two games each. I'm glad to know there is someone out there who is as poor as me at it.

We climbed onto the bus at 2:30 and left a cold and wet Invercargill behind. The other passengers are much older than me, so I'm feeling slightly awkward, although they all seem very friendly and nice. We boarded the Orion in Bluff.

It's pretty much a five star hotel on a boat. Apparently there is something like 100 passengers and 75 crew, including waiters, porters, bar staff, and so on. So this isn't quite as adventurous as I might have hoped. We had a lifeboat drill, orientation and dinner and then I pretty much passed out. The jetlag is still hitting me and I start fading pretty strongly from 5pm on.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

25 January - Amsterdam - 2 degrees Celcius

It was cold and dark when I left the house and caught a taxi out to Schiphol. Everything went smoothly on both the flight to Singapore and from there to New Zealand. I was far more entertained than I expected on the flight and didn't experience the boredom I normally do on long haul.

I was drilled by customs coming into New Zealand wanting to know why I was there for only two days and how I could afford to go. The laxity of Heathrow has never been more attractive.

27 January - Auckland - 25 degrees Celcius

The jet lag has me out by four or five hours, so I woke early. I had breakfast with Mum and Jack and then Mum showed me around her garden, which is looking fantastic.

The weather is warm and a little humid. We drove to Mission Bay to meet Richie and I instantly regretted not bringing togs - I can't wait to hit South Melbourne Beach.

One thing I miss already about Europe is an ozone layer. After three hours in the sun at Mission Bay, my arms and face are sunburned.

Richie's puns are as bad as ever ("Juno much about Alaska?") but it was great fun to hang out. I also got Richie's Christmas presents, mainly consisting of Hasbro toys. Glad to see his employer contributing to the spirit of Christmas. Still more than I can say about ABN AMRO and their flash Christmas party.

I passed out on the flight to Christchurch and was woken by the steward to turn off my iPod as we were landing. Dad was already there and we grabbed a quick beer before the flight to Invercargill. That night we went to a nice local seafood restaurant then I went to bed as I was exhausted. Woke up during the night a couple of times to Cory and his girlfriend in Room 407 kindly revealing the close and personal intimate details of their relationship. :-/