Who is Uncle Russ?
Uncle Russ was a National Geographic photographer that had a assignment on the USS Atka & later on the USCGC Polar Sea. He is the uncle of Jay Kerney, Atka navigator 1965 & 1966. Below is his recollection of Antarctica.
The Antarctic is a wonderful place and attracts a lot of scientists, and recently even a whole bunch of tourists. But when the sun sets it stays down for 6 months. So there is a lot of pressure to get all these folk off the Ice before sunset - and seats on aircraft are really at a premium. So when I’d finished my work on the South Ice and volunteered to sail back to New Zealand, the Big Brass was happy. And so was I!
I boarded the ATKA in McMurdo, and we had a nice smooth sail for the first day, since we were in loose pack ice - no waves, no matter how hard the wind blew. But of course that couldn’t last, and it didn’t, as we headed across the Southern Ocean. With no bilge keels, and since the Atka had no modern anti-roll equipment; she rolled like a witch.
Which to me and the two helicopter pilots I shared a cabin with, was just entertaining. ATKA had a lovely motion, despite the huge roll, and felt ’friendly’. Old sailors will know what I mean. Her roll was smooth, and we could sleep pretty well, but sometimes our arms were sore in the morning because we had been holding on to something while we slept.
We went through a bunch of taped movies, as there wasn’t much else to do – and the theater area was just aft of a big thwartships water-tank that acted – quite well too – as a passive but effective ballast-shifting anti-roll deice. Simple. Brilliant! - and welcome. But it did make a huge gurgle as the water went through the baffles. Kind of odd to be watching a scene set in the desert and hear a lot of water sloshing around.
Taking a shower was interesting. Luckily the stalls were fairly small, and you could brace yourself with a foot on each side-wall and your butt against the bulkhead, leaving both hands free for washing. BUT – as she rolled, the shower-stream swung from side to side, hitting your bod only briefly. So showers took longer than usual.
We docked on the western side of New Zealand, and then came the only dangerous part of the whole trip - the 20-mile taxi ride to Christchurch.
Twenty years later I made the same trip, but on the POLAR SEA - vastly bigger and a vastly different experience.
I’ll take the ATKA