Written Monday, 24 December
I look out of the window and I see snow and ice. We will have a white Christmas in the literal sense, except that the days are bright rather than dark and grey like they are at home.
The benthologists have a break today, as the “large station” was sampled the day before yesterday and yesterday. Today the planktologists are working, employing a whole array of gear in the water column to collect krill, arrow worms, copepods, salps and other animals for their investigations. Several types of nets are put into the water, such as the multinet, which brings samples from different depths to the surface, and the large RMT which is towed througt he water column, a huge net that fascinates me as this is my first expedition together with planktologists. The physical oceanographers are on station since 5 am, measuring parameters in the water column, including temperature, salinity and density. The CTD takes water samples at the same time which are filtered in the lab and analysed for chlorophyll. This gives the planktologists an idea how much food is available in the water column for their animals.
Those who can find the time make themselves available to decorate the Christmas trees. We brought three of them in bales in the +4° cool room to the Southern Ocean. This morning they had their big appearance. The crew put one tree each in the crew’s mess room, the scientists’ mess room and the blue saloon, our library, where later tonight there will be a Christmas reception.
After that the program books with lyrics for the choir and the reception in the blue saloon and the celebration in the large equipment room have to be printed and stapled. After two hours we are done and I wait for the time to pass until it is 3 pm. For that time (which is 4 pm. in Germany) I have arranged a telephone call with my family — just to be on the safe side as yesterday there was a long queue of people wanting to call home in front of the radio office. I could hardly wait to hear their familiar voices, and I was strangely excited when the radio officer established the connection.
We are surrounded by gleaming whiteness, the ship breaks its way through the ice to the next station, and our track takes only a short time to close again behind the ship.
After a quick dinner, traditionally wieners and potato salad (the big feast will take place tomorrow), the time has finally come. Everybody dresses up for the big reception in the blue saloon. The Christmas committee has prepared everything well. Songs were practiced, and to give everybody on board a feeling of home, we sang “Silent night” in seven languages (some of which we had translated by experts;-)). The translation into Russian was a bit more challenging than others. I therefore wrote to my Russian friend and colleague Marina Malyutina in Vladivostok and asked her for a translation of the first verse. However, she did not know the song, and she asked her colleague, who did not know the song either. But, as her son was a musician living in New York, she asked him if he could help. He could. He translated the lyrics, sent it to Vladivostok, and then Marina passed the message on to the ship. What a small world indeed!
In the blue saloon we listen to a short introduction by the choir setting the mood by singing festive and joyful German and English songs, and then we hear official addresses by Captain Pahl and the expedition leader, which are complemented by lectures and songs. The blue saloon is filled to capacity, as 53 scientists and 44 crew are on board. After about an hour and a glass of champagne everybody moves to the large equipment room which has also been decked with Christmas decorations and equipped with several chairs. A sketch named “Erna, the tree is losing its needles” is performed in German und English, and the choir sings the song “The twelve days of Christmas” with customised lyrics.
In this traditional Christmas song the loved one sends a present on each of the twelve days of Christmas (Christmas Day through Epiphany). We changed the text so that everybody gets something. The persons given a particular present have to raise their hands each time it is their “turn” in each verse. Each group of scientists and crew is given a present this way, causing a joyful chaos lifting everyone’s spirit. And last not least, there is “yulklapp”.
It is really amazing how thoughtful some people were in preparing a gift, ranging from photo collages to handcrafted items and beautiful small presents. Santa Claus, looking suspiciously like Michiel from Holland, spread good holiday spirit all around! Afterwards there was dancing until after midnight. However, then everybody had to sleep very fast, at eight the following morning we are back on station. The work has been interrupted only for a short while and is resumed during the holidays.
Angelika Brandt, University of Hamburg.
Photos: A. Brandt and M. Schueller, University of Bochum
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Tuesday, 25 December 2007 06:42
Polarstern: Christmas EveWritten by Polarstern Expedition
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