Skip to content

9 Minutes

Updated Wednesday 28th March 2007

The loss of daylight during the Antarctic winter makes everything harder for Mark Brandon, our man in the Antarctic.

I can do a lot in 9 minutes on this ship. I could have a few showers, I could go and do some hand washing (no the laundry still isn’t fully operational because of water shortage!), I could eat dinner, I could even go to the gym.

But right now I choose to spend my 9 minutes a different way – I stand out on deck and stare at the sky.

Today is poor weather. I couldn’t see the sun for the clouds. It was grey and cold – like a UK November day. The sea was steel grey with 3-4 m swells rolling past. The only colour in the whole scene was the white of dozens of icebergs scattered around the ship, and a few of my favourite bird – the snow petrel.

I like the snow petrel for three reasons – the first of course is because it is a true Antarctican. You know you are south and amongst the ice when you start seeing the snow petrel. Once you head north – that’s it, snow petrels gone until you come back next year. My second reason is because it eats fish. Everyone knows that real birds eat fish! My third reason? The snow petrel is for memory not photography. I mean anyone can take a picture of a seal on a beach, or a penguin. But standing on a moving ship trying to take a picture of a fast moving white bird, on a white background …. Sure its lots of fun, but the results are less than spectacular.

snow petrels [image © copyright Mark Brandon] Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Mark Brandon
Snow Petrels

I know that they are not so impressive, but this is my best attempt in 9 minutes yesterday.

Can you see the two snow petrels?

It's better to just enjoy them.

 What was I saying? Oh yes, 9 minutes….. why do I keep going on about that?

We have just passed the spring equinox and in the UK the clocks have just gone forward. You have summer coming. But because of the tilt of the Earth's axis a northern hemisphere summer obviously means a southern hemisphere winter.

Now winter traditionally brings two things doesn’t it. The first is it gets cold – but where I am working it is not going to get too much colder. Remember last week we were working in -18°C, and whilst being a bit uncomfortable – its OK. Actually the problem with working in those conditions for me isn’t the cold – its overheating. You see you have to wear enough of the right clothes to not be cold when standing around, which of course means once you start working you end up sweating a lot.

No winter doesn’t mean cold to me, it's the second thing that is the problem.

We are losing daylight.

Every day since the equinox we get 9 minutes less Sunlight per day down here.

And the loss of light makes everything harder. It makes the science harder, but it even makes travelling harder.

Imagine: You are driving at night through a blizzard with three torches and two radars to see where you are going.

  Ice-breaking at night Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Mark Brandon Ice-breaking at night

You have to respect the skill of an icebreaker captain don’t you?

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Frozen Planet: Off to the Cold Coast Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Mark Brandon article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

Frozen Planet: Off to the Cold Coast

Mark Brandon is heading North - once more into the icy extremes of the planet.

Article
Will the cold winter check the spread north of global warming species? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: M E Dodd article icon

Nature & Environment 

Will the cold winter check the spread north of global warming species?

As global warming species have been gradually spreading north, Mike Dodd asks if they'll now be vulnerable to a cold winter?

Article
Eating the planet Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: photos.com activity icon

Nature & Environment 

Eating the planet

What impact does your diet have on the planet? Is your fast food contributing to global warming? Explore the true costs of your diet.

Activity
Science and the Process of Restoration Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission article icon

Nature & Environment 

Science and the Process of Restoration

The science behind the restoration of damaged habitats

Article
Understanding the environment: Problems with the way we think free course icon Level 2 icon

Nature & Environment 

Understanding the environment: Problems with the way we think

There is increasing recognition that the reductionist mindset that is currently dominating society, rooted in unlimited economic growth unperceptive to its social and environmental impact, cannot resolve the converging environmental, social and economic crises we now face. The primary aim of this free course, Understanding the environment: Problems with the way we think, is to encourage the shift away from reductionist and human centred thinking towards a holistic and ecological worldview.

Free course
12 hrs
Is your trip killing the planet? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: photos.com activity icon

Nature & Environment 

Is your trip killing the planet?

Use this interactive to compare journeys and their environmental effects

Activity
article icon

Nature & Environment 

Ship of fuels

The topic turns to responsibility, as Joe Smith blogs from his Arctic climate change expedition.

Article
Frying or Freezing: Talk The Talk Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

Nature & Environment 

Frying or Freezing: Talk The Talk

How to sound like an expert. It’s easy enough to chat about the British weather ... but global climate change? It’s so much meatier as a subject - and so much more controversial. Make sure you’ve got the following bits and pieces of terminology confidently tripping off your tongue so you can put your points with force. No more "nice weather for the time of year" - now you can launch in with your evaluation of our chances of growing wine-worthy grapes in the back garden by the year 2010

Article
What do you need to restore a habitat? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission article icon

Nature & Environment 

What do you need to restore a habitat?

The starting point for the restoration of damaged habitats

Article