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Expedition Information


This page is intended for all SANAP participants who will be taking part in any of the expeditions to Sanae (Antarctica), Marion Island or Gough Island.

It gives general guidelines on how to prepare and what to expect on the voyage to arriving and living on the base. These guidelines apply to the relief period and the overwintering expeditions.

What one is responsible for...

Essentially this amounts to your personal effects.. While all visitors are responsible for the supply and packaging of their personal effects, the onus is also on each individual to inform themselves of the regulations concerning visits to Antarctica and the Islands, and the conditions that can be expected (e.g., climate).

What is provided...

Team members and other personnel are provided with virtually all of their basic requirements for living and working at Antarctica and Islands. (Exceptions do exist, but personnel will be notified of the arrangements by DEA on application to visit the island).

The following are items that will be provided by DEA:

- Accommodation and domestic supplies (including food)
- Basic medical care (as well as search and rescue services)
- Clothing:

  • Protective rain or cold weather garments such as waterproofs (Jackets and pants);
  • Gum Boots or Snow boots;
  • Polar Fleece jacket;
  • Thermal underwear (shirts and pants);
  • Work over-alls (jackets and pants);
  • A few sweaters;
  • Thick socks;
  • Gloves;
  • Balaclava;
  • Snow goggles (for Sanae only);
  • Zippered bags to transport all this gear;
  • Bedding (sheets, blankets, and a sleeping bag);
  • Pocket knife (overwintering personnel only);
  • Sunglasses.

Some of these items (such as bedding) must be returned at the end of the expedition. In the case of personnel visiting only for the relief period, all of the protective clothing must also be returned. A contract between the DEA and each person stipulates which items may be retained and which should be returned on completion of the expedition

Some of the most important items not provided by DEA...

  • Toiletries (e.g., toothbrush and paste, soap, shampoo, shaving gear (optional), towels, etc.
  • Clothing items (general in and outdoor clothing, footwear underwear, etc.)
  • Hobbies/recreation (Materials and specialised tools, games, etc.)
  • Music (musical instruments, sound-systems*, tapes, CDs, movies, etc.)
  • Photographic equipment (Cameras, enough batteries/chargers etc... Binoculars/Telescopes/underwater cameras)
  • Technical equipment (Computers/Laptops other than that provided for official use and communication)
  • Alcoholic beverages and tobacco (Alcoholic or specific non-alcoholic drinks, brewing kits, cigarettes etc.)

Prohibited items...

  • Animals
  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Polystyrene beads and other small pieces of plastic packaging
  • Motorised, amphibious or air-cushioned vehicles
  • Firearms
  • Radioactive material (unless authorised in writing by DEA)
  • Poultry (including eggs)
  • Any biological material (unless the necessary quarantine control permits have been obtained)
  • Soil, water and geological samples (unless authorised in writing by the DEA)

The Voyage...

Most personnel that are given permission to visit Antarctica or Islands either as a staff member of, or by the DEA, are usually responsible for arranging their own transport to the port of departure (Cape Town). From Cape Town, transport to Antarctica, Marion or Gough Island is by ship - usually the mv S.A. AgulhasII.  Because the ship has to cross international waters, all personnel must be in possession of valid passport documentation, and for overwintering team members travel documents should not expire in advance of the return date (usually 14 months later).

The S.A. Agulhas II is a well-equipped research and supply vessel, measuring 134.2 m in overall length and 21.7 m in breadth, with a draft of 7.65 m, gross tonnage of 12897 ton and net tonnage of 3840 ton. The ship was built by STX in Finland to the latest passenger specifications and to the highest possible standards and is rated as ice class PC-5.

Sleeping quarters are in the form of cabins with single, double or two double bunks, a small table with chairs, a small desk and cupboard. An en-suite shower and toilet are provided for each cabin. These cabins can become quite crowded if personnel travel with large amounts of personal effects. The ship has recreation facilities (bar* and lounges) with a television, video and dvd players and a music system. A very small gymnasium is available (for use by passengers and crew) as is a laundry room with washing machines and tumble dryers**. A small library is also available. All meals are provided on the ship (dress code applies at dinner) and a limited canteen*** service is available. Small kitchens in the passenger lounges is available for making tea and coffee at all times.

*The bar only opens at specified times (i.e. an hour before dinner and 2 hours after dinner. Alcoholic and other beverages can be bought then.

**Each passenger is responsible for their own washing powder on the ship (it will be provided on the base, but not on the ship.

***The Canteen holds several items including sweets, chips, basic toiletries, washing powder, badges and shirts etc...

Ship-to-shore communication is available by means of email, telephone and internet facilities are also available but with limited bandwidth.  This is mostly provided to allow work to be done and social and private use has to be limited. Every passenger will be billed according to their usage of this service. It is therefore important to make sure that enough money (South African Rand) is carried on board to cover all expenses (bar, canteen and communication).

Things to remember for the voyage...

Because of the ship's design and nature of the southern ocean (especially the roaring forties), the motion of the ship can cause unsecured objects to move around and seasickness of various kinds in people. Inexperienced passengers should inform themselves of the hazards of ocean travel in advance of departure and take their own medication for motion sickness. However, the ship always carries a doctor who can attend to these and other medical complaints.

On arrival at the final destination, ship-to-shore transport is usually by helicopter, but very occasionally boats are also used. In both cases personal effects and equipment are usually exposed to high winds and rain and these items should be carefully packed and waterproofed.

Arriving at the base...

To arrive at the base can be a very exciting but chaotic time, and while everybody is scrambling to settle in their space and get all their projects running.... people tend to forget that it has been the home of the old team for about 14 months and that this is the first time they see a different face. So please respect their way of life (the Island life...).

Once everybody is at the base, a house meeting will be called by the DCO (Departmental Coordinating Officer) and the station team leader to explain the rules, practices and activities for the relief period. This includes working hours, meal times, shower times (for Sanae) and skivvy schedules (cleaning duties) etc.

All the supplies will be offloaded from the ship within the first week, this will happen by helicopter or CAT-train (Sanae only). Once all the containers arrive at the base, everybody is responsible to help unpacking and organising these supplies.

Living at the base...

All the bases are equipped with the essential facilities to provide for a comfortable stay. These include, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, tv lounges, entertainment rooms, bar, library, gym, laboratories, offices, workshops etc. See the gallery of each station for photos of these facilities.

A Chef is appointed for the relief period and will cater for 3 meals a day. If any special meals are required, this should be mentioned during application (vegetarian, halaal etc..)

Communication is available at the base. Phone calls are allowed after work hours and each person gets a 10 minute phone call, twice a weak (depending on the amount of personnel on the base). These will be billed according to the communications policy on the station. Internet and email are also available free of charge and the communication officer on the base will assist with setting this up. If you require a network point (LAN point) please take your own LAN cables, as the base do not stock enough to supply everyone. There is also wireless access points throughout each base.

There are no TV broadcast service as all the stations fall outside the broadcasting footprint.

Washing machines and tumble dryers or dry rooms are provided at the base with washing powder and fabric softener provided by DEA.

After work hours activities can include organised excursions to well known areas of interest, lounging and watching movies, relaxing and socialising in the bar. Each relief period will also enjoy a take over function when the new team formally takes responsibility of the station. This might be a formal occasion with a dress code.

Information and advice from team members for team members(overwintering teams)

Sanae
  • If you suffer from sea-sickness… get pills, enough of. Also remember the return voyage. Avomine seems to work. Also ginger have been proven to work, glazed ginger, ginger preserve… take your pick or binge on em’all.
  • Remember prescription meds.
  • Remember drivers license and banking issues. If you can, organize a person back in the states who can break knee-caps of tenants and buy booze for bank managers.
  • There is a cash bar on the ship, open from 20:00 to 22:00 each evening. There is also a small tuck shop, mostly soft drinks and sweets. Also duty free liquor can be bought onboard the SA Agulhas II according to strict quota rules and will be delivered on disembarkation. BRING CASH FOR THE VOYAGE.
  • There are no shops or cash bar at SANAE, once you get to the base for Take-Over money is beautifully worthless.
  • Take some warm clothes and a good pair of gloves with you on the voyage. Its gonna get cold on the way down south.
  • Due to capacity constraints of the water treatment plant and the size of the standard SANAE take-over you will probably be lucky to get a chance to wash clothes once a week, take enough clean clothes.
  • During take-over you will probably shower once every 2 days.
  • You ARE going to do hard, physical work. Off loading containers, smelly duty, waste room, kitchen skivvy… you will get dirty and sweaty but still only shower every second day, deal with it.
  • Take a sense of humour, you will not survive take-over without one.
  • Take enough booze and smokes… if that’s your thing.
  • Take at least 2 pairs of good polarized sun-glasses (ESSENTIAL). You probably will loose at least 1 pair. Bondi-Blu is a good sponsor to pursue. Their products are great and have been used extensively. They’re cheap relative to the larny brand names but they work very well.
  • Take 2 pairs of good durable polar quality gloves(CHECK WHAT YOU GET ISSUED WITH AND PLAN ACCORDINGLY). You will be doing smelly’s and all other work with these in winter and they will take a beating. Mild frost bite is the worst pain I have experienced, take good gloves.
  • In my year (SANAE46) the shades and gloves where the only extras that I needed for survival. The DEA issue is quality and you can survive with what they supply plus shades and gloves.
  • There are crampons at the base, mostly in bad condition. I took a new pair, truly needed them only 3 times and where extremely glad I took them. There are places you will not be able to go without crampons… and these are some of the most beautiful places.
  • Take toys, hobbies… but do not waste your money on gadgets. Gadgets are things you brag about in bars and rarely use. Unless you like bragging, then take your own bar…
  • There are good workshops with enough tools and material if you want to build something… ask the diesel macs and mechanical eng. before you use their stuff, give tools back and leave workshops clean and tidy.
  • Static is a techno-killer down-under. Keep this in mind when you pack those expensive electronic stuff.
  • Antarctica is a very, very dry place, if you’re wondering… wood generally does not do very well down there… guitars deform, pencils bend… find out about the humidifiers.
  • Take a good camera if you’re into photography. Batteries do not last in the cold. Speak to the current team and get advice on photographic equipment before spending 3 months’ salary.
  • Take some happy shiny people clothes… even if you’re a hardcore goth and think clinical depression is the happiest state of mind, you will eventually pine for colour in the great white.
  • Cooking is a big thing. Each team member will get his/her turn to cook.
  • At the moment you get R100/month telephone calls sponsored by DEA. Find out what the comms policy is and comply.
  • Current Sat system works very well, compared to previous system. Use responsibly.
  •  You will probably need to design and get team t-shirts printed. Do this as soon as possible, do not procrastinate.
Marion Island
  • Marion Island has no trees (except for the self made Christmas tree!)
  • There are 8 Island huts around the Island, spaced conveniently at great sceneries like penguin colonies, and within fair distance from each other to make a round Island trip possible in 5 days.
  • You got to be prepared to work physically, like cutting vegetation around the base with a weed eater, unpacking of containers and pushing-pulling trolleys up or down hill to get the food rations in the stores and kitchen.
  • There is a gym, more of a hardcore gym with no luxuries, just the essentials.
  • Orcas visit the base on a daily basis during September to November – peak season. Before and after that just occasionally.
  • Fishing is not permitted, leave the rod and real back home, but even if it was you’ll be having great difficulty on catching anything other than a very small example of the arctic rockod.
  • There are automated washing machines and dryers, as well as 2 dry rooms; you do your own laundry. Washing powder and Stay Soft supplied by DEA.
  • Order more than your normal quota of beer and liquor, for example, birthdays are big on the Island.
  • Make sure your teeth is in good condition, there is limited dental care available from a medic who done a one week crash course in only dental emergencies.
  • Medical backup is quite good, wide range of antibiotics etc. Just note, the medic is not trained to remove an appendix, you will be treated with antibiotics, or casevaced back to the RSA, help will only arrive within 4-5 days.
  • There is no chef; each team member will get a change to cook for roughly a team of 14 members once every two weeks.
  • There is a workshop where one can make use of various tools and power tools to make e.g. birthday presents for fellow Islanders.
  • There will not be any fresh produce like apples or veggies, all frozen goods or canned products.
  • There will be more than 80 people during take over; therefore you will have to share a bedroom, normally with your outgoing team member.
  • Bring some costumes, as it is a tradition to have a Made Marion contest every year, and all to participate. Marion is well known for the dress up parties e.g. once again on birthdays.

 

Gough island
  • If you suffer from sea-sickness… get pills, enough of. Also remember the return voyage. Avomine seems to work. Also ginger have been proven to work, glazed ginger, ginger preserve… take your pick or binge on em’all.
  • Remember prescription meds.
  • Remember drivers license and banking issues. If you can, organize a person back in the states who can break knee-caps of tenants and buy booze for bank managers.
  • There is a cash bar on the ship, open from 20:00 to 22:00 each evening. There is also a small tuck shop, mostly soft drinks and sweets. Also duty free liquor can be bought onboard the SA Agulhas II according to strict quota rules and will be delivered on disembarkation. BRING CASH FOR THE VOYAGE.
  • There are no shops or cash bar at Gough, once you get to the base for Take-Over money is beautifully worthless.
  • Take some warm clothes and a good pair of gloves with you on the voyage. Its gonna get cold on the way.
  • Remember a sense of humor, you’ll need it for take-over.
  • The Leader on Tristan annually, and in good spirit grants the over wintering team a fishing license. Use it, its fresh fish which is the only fresh food you will see for a year. Bring spoons, plenty of. You can catch snoek from the side on hand line. Speak to your local fishing guru and bring enough tackle, its great fun on a nice day and its fresh meat.
  • Hiking, find out from current team what camping gear are available in the camp store. You need a very good tent, 4 season. Gusts on Gough can rip tents to shreds. Most of the ground surface are soft, buy extra long and secure tent pegs, the 90+ degree bent peg works well.
  •  Hiking, bring a comfortable quality back pack. You’ve not hiked until you’ve hiked on this beautiful island, its difficult, you’ll appreciate a good pack.
  • Bring good sleeping bag.

It is always a good thing to contact the team on the base, they will gladly answer any questions and give valuable tips, there is also the opportunity to buy or take over some of their equipment.

If you are an old expedition member and have some valuable tips, please contact us and we will expand this page.