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  • Experiencing the Southern Ocean?

    Hello all,

    I'm conducting research into people's experiences of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. We don't have a great deal of understanding about how people experience oceans on a personal or cultural level, and not much information has been documented about people's attitudes to oceans.

    I'm interested in exploring what kinds of attitudes we form towards oceans and what value we place on them. Most particularly I'm keen to hear what your experience of the Southern Ocean was like, if you've been there.

    Some possible questions you could think about:

    -- How much time did you spend on the Southern Ocean? For example, crossing it in a ship, flying over it, swimming in it (sounds very cold!!).

    -- What was the ocean like at the time?

    -- Did you get seasick?

    -- Did you see whales or seabirds, or other marine life?

    -- What sorts of activities did you do while crossing the ocean?

    -- How did the ocean make you feel?


    And for those people who have never been:

    -- What comes to mind when you think about the Southern Ocean?

    -- What do you know about the Southern Ocean?


    Any thoughts or stories you wish to share would be wonderful, no matter how brief. If you have any questions regarding this post or the research, please do contact me (via PM or in this thread).

    Thank you very much for your time!

  • #2
    Re: Experiencing the Southern Ocean?

    How much time did you spend on the Southern Ocean? For example, crossing it in a ship, flying over it, swimming in it (sounds very cold!!).
    2 years, I arrived by ship from the Falklands via the Peninsula, spent about 2 weeks sailing around before landing on Signy in the South Orkney's.

    My job was as a marine biologist so I had something to do with the Southern Ocean pretty much every day I was there. Mainly I experienced it by looking out of a window 30-40 yards away from the base where I lived, or more directly at sea-level + about 6" from a small boat, I also dived in it from time to time and skinny dipped in it (once only!). I could hear it as i went to sleep at night and when I woke up in the morning.

    - What was the ocean like at the time?

    -- Did you get seasick?

    -- Did you see whales or seabirds, or other marine life?

    -- What sorts of activities did you do while crossing the ocean?
    What was it like? like everything you'd imagine an ocean to be over a two year period.

    Whales - very few and then only in the distance, dorsal fins as they came up for air.
    Sea-birds - thousands and thousands (and thousands)
    Seals - many hundreds and hundreds, (actually many thousands)

    What did I do while crossing? I spent many hours looking at the ocean, I find the sea mesmerizing anyhow and when it is as constantly bumpy and exciteable as the Southern Ocean with ice bergs, pack ice and animals around it becomes particularly fascinating.

    How did the ocean make you feel?
    Mainly it made me feel alive. It's moods dictated much of my existence due to my job and also due to the fact that if it was calm or rough, liquid or frozen would dictate whether I could get off base easily (by boat, ski or skidoo) or via a hard slog overland.

    Like anyone who has ever worked with the sea anywhere, it makes you respect it, you can never take it for granted and you are utterly nothing to it.

    It brought pleasure when I could use it as a play-ground, for transport around the island, for diving, for the wildlife it brought to my doorstep and when in the evening of a dull overcast day we would set out to lay fishing nets followed by hundreds of sea birds swooping over the waves following our boat as it sped through the momentarily still oily waters - it was perfection.

    If it was made rough by storms I would go somewhere I could watch the full force of the waves breaking on the land and the penguins as they struggled ashore through the maelstrom it caused.

    When it froze it was magical - friendly and benign at first until you realise that this was just a new set of things to resepct. Ice bergs surrounded by sea ice that creaked, groaned and banged menacingly as the ice rose or fell against their sides with the tide. Bergs that you knew could tip up and would break all the ice for miles around you if they did, but usually didn't...

    Is that enough? I could go on. As a marine biologist living 30-40 yards from the sea on an island the Southern Ocean was as central to my life as you can imagine it was.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Experiencing the Southern Ocean?

      Thank you, Paul, that's brilliant. I really enjoyed reading your post.

      I have a couple of follow-up questions, although please don't feel obliged to answer them! Only if you feel inclined.

      Firstly, I'm wondering how the Southern Ocean is different or unique to people who have experienced it, compared to other oceans or seas.

      - Did it give you a sense of place, in terms of being so far south, in Antarctica, etc.? I'm imagining that being on a boat in the Southern Ocean would be a different thing to being on a boat in the North Atlantic, for example.

      And secondly:
      Originally posted by Paul Ward
      Like anyone who has ever worked with the sea anywhere, it makes you respect it, you can never take it for granted and you are utterly nothing to it.
      I've come across this idea before, from people who have spent a lot of time with the sea such as yourself, and I find it really interesting. I'm wondering where this understanding of the sea comes from. Would you say it's tied to the sea being powerful, or you felt you had to work with it's conditions or moods, or because it's not our native environment, or perhaps something else?

      Any thoughts you (and others) have would be welcome, thank you!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Experiencing the Southern Ocean?

        How is it different?

        Ice and animals - mainly charismatic megafauna at that.

        The southern ocean it is permanently cold, but it is a very rich and productive sea. Ice in the form of endless pack, towering bergs or just everyday bergs and bergy bits can turn up from no where - they are reminders of how restless and unpredictable the southern ocean is.

        Seals and penguins - whales if you are lucky - turn up in mid ocean on their way to fishing grounds or back to land. It reminds you that you are in a large active ecosystem. Other oceans don't have such readily visible activity, especially a long way from land.

        Would you say it's tied to the sea being powerful, or you felt you had to work with it's conditions or moods, or because it's not our native environment, or perhaps something else?
        It's because that's the way it is. The sea does what it does and everything else fits in with it. The nice thing about the southern ocean though is that it has more variety in terms of ice, weather and wildlife than other oceans. I see the word "moods" as being unwarranted anthropomorphising, the sea responds to the physics of the weather and everything fits around it as nothing can alter it.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Experiencing the Southern Ocean?

          Hi jillh,

          It's a tall order you've set!

          How much time did you spend on the Southern Ocean? For example, crossing it in a ship, flying over it, swimming in it (sounds very cold!!).
          Unlike many current members of BAS I sailed from Southampton through the Bay of Biscay, down the Atlantic to Montevideo then on to The Falklands. From there to South Georgia on into the Weddell Sea to Halley Bay back to the Falklands then to Punta Arenas in Southern Chile before heading to Signy Island (Paul's base) then on down the Peninsula to Marguerite Bay. This whole journey took several months as I left UK in January and reached Stonington Island in March. As a result I experienced not only the Southern Ocean but also most of the Western North Atlantic. Doldrums and South Atlantic. Prior to that I had already 'enjoyed' the North Atlantic and some canoeing around the coast of Greenland. As far as 'over' the Southern Ocean is concerned I've flown over some of the coastal areas around the Peninsula but not the Ocean per se. I am a member of the Antarctic Swimming Club both voluntary and involuntary, and yes, it was damned cold. I suppose one thing we have to agree on is where the ?Southern Ocean? starts and I suppose the Antarctic Convergence? is as good as any. I found the Convergence startling. It was a clear line on the surface where the water colour changed quite dramatically. Shortly thereafter the first tabular iceberg appeared and Mr Kodak must have been rubbing his hands together in glee as all on board shot off rolls of film.

          What was the ocean like at the time?
          With the exception of the Bay of Biscay the Atlantic was calm, sunny, warm and most enjoyable. Activities included sun bathing on the heli-deck, routine ship maintenance and standing wheel watch during the nights. There were several wildly contrasting sections of note. Montevideo to The Falklands, Falklands to S Georgia and Falklands to Punta Arenas each involved lumpy water. The Roaring Forties do roar! Watching waves of 40+ feet passing under the stern of the ship is invigorating to say the least. From the heli-deck I recall looking up at the wave crests looming behind the ship and wondering (in a semi-detached way) if the ship was going to rise to them. Another favourite pastime of mine was watching the waves breaking over the bows of the ship (ideally from the comfort of the bridge) in torrents often accompanied by multiple rainbows if the sun was shining. On one occasion the wind was so strong that the surface couldn?t form real waves, it was simply torn into masses of spindrift and driving spray. The raw power of an ocean storm is awesome in the true sense of the word rather than its current usage.

          The ocean is totally neutral; it just ?is?. Flat calm or in its full stormy glory it has none of the emotional traits people seem to like attributing to it. It neither threatens nor treats kindly. It?s simply the combination of weather, currents and tides albeit fascinating and damned spectacular at times. Yes, it can be dangerous but a good ship and an experienced crew can cope with most conditions if they are aware of the ocean?s potential and prepared for it.

          Did you get seasick?
          Slightly queasy in a Bay of Biscay gale but nothing thereafter.

          Did you see whales or seabirds, or other marine life?
          As Paul has said the Southern Ocean abounds with wildlife. Sea birds by the million, albatrosses, skuas, antarctic terns, petrels, penguins, sheathbills, snow petrels. Whales I sadly saw little of. Some distant, fleeting glimpses of a dark hump and dorsal fin rolling out of and back into the water with a slow, smooth motion or a ?blow? cloud of condensation. The only identifiable whales I saw were a few pods of Orca which are easily recognisable from their dorsal fins. Mind you I didn?t need to go south to see them as I have also seen Orca off the west coast of Scotland.

          Marine mammals by the ?barrow load?. Seals, and dolphins mainly. On my first run into Port Stanley along the north coast of the Falklands had the joy of dolphins playing (porpoising) in the bow wave of the ship and leaping effortlessly, clear of the water and penguins ?porpoising ? away from noise of the ship?s engines. This lasted for several hours. Seals were mainly around the base, Weddell seals, Leopard seals (a few) and Crabeaters.

          How did the ocean make you feel?
          Mainly feelings of wonder, fascination and amazement whilst on the ship. Irritation from time to time when the motion of the ship in a gale meant I couldn?t sleep and bounced from one end of my bunk to another.

          Once I was on base the sea took on a different meaning. In summer it brought the ships and fleeting contact with the outside world to which I had a rather ambivalent attitude. The news, letters and supplies were welcome but at times I recall a mild feeling of resentment for the intrusion but I can scarcely blame the sea for that. Open water also brought some of the most amazing, sculpted icebergs which if you hadn?t seen them, you could never have imagined.

          Once if froze over it?s character changed totally. From the rather comforting, sound of waves on shore less than 100 yards from the base it became ethereally quiet and serene on cold calm days. From time to time the quiet would be dramatically broken by sharp bangs like artillery or gunshots as pressure waves split the surface or by thundery growls as currents moved the frozen in bergs or caused flows to rub together. It?s one of the things about the Antarctic I most appreciated? the real quiet. When sounds do happen the contrast and impact is multiplied. The frozen and freezing sea also offered some truly amazing sights. Frost smoke, ice flowers, pancake ice.

          As I was also a dog sledge driver I did a fair bit of sea ice sledging and it became a highway and means of access to areas otherwise inaccessible. It also became a source of real danger, significantly more so than in its liquid form. Sea ice breaks due to wind and currents, There are thin bits which just bend under you and the team if you are lucky and leads which can open up rapidly. The Antarctic is the windiest place on earth. Sea ice, strong winds and sledge travel are not conducive to peace of mind, especially if you have to camp on the ice overnight. This combination of factors is a wonderful natural cure for constipation!


          Hope this helps the research.


          drummy

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Experiencing the Southern Ocean?

            Thanks, drummy, I found that fascinating. You create some vivid pictures for someone like myself who hasn't gotten down to the Southern Ocean or Antarctica.

            Thanks, also, Paul, for the clarification!

            All of this will be useful in my work, so thanks again both of you for taking the time to write up some of your experiences.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Experiencing the Southern Ocean?

              Cruise is well worth every moment and will surely be a life-long memory.

              Comment

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