Introducing The Antarcticles: 75 Days At Sea, The South Atlantic, And Me

I’ve been under the radar a bit for the last week or so, deciding not to write a post until everything was confirmed and 100% happening.

I had woken up, my eyes focused on the rectangle of daylight from my only window and I climbed out of bed to start what seemed my like my 1000th grey day. I dressed in my thermals and stretched my black work uniform over the top, popped my sweet potato slices in the toaster to be topped with banana, peanut butter, agave syrup and cinnamon and sipped at my green tea, bored. If living day to day in a constant state of frostbite and grey skies isn’t bad enough, working for minimum wage and just managing to make ends meet really is the cherry on top of a shit English winter. Don’t get me wrong, I am nowhere near as unhappy as I was and/or could be. I reckon I’m a good 80% content, which is pretty good going for someone who is in life more restless than a cat being forcefully hugged by its alcoholic owner. London is weirdly cosy to me, a city that I used to be so intimidated by has turned into a familiar all-bark-and-no-bite ‘home’, a place that I feel both embraces me but keeps me on my toes with it’s unpredictability. It’ll always be the place I come back to when living in England.

So I headed to work. I had no plans but to go to the gym later that day and was unexcited by the thought of spending a cold evening in bed watching Netflix for the 5th night in a row. I haven’t had a ferry job since August 17. Having splashed out a bit in South America I came home confident in the knowledge that I’d be able to earn it all back before the season ‘went a little quiet’. Little did I know that it goes COMPLETELY quiet and I would be given no work at all. So for those who don’t know, I’m a stewardess (and no, not air hostess, most people get the two confused). I used to work on a Super Yacht, but I came off because I was isolated, lonely and felt under constant pressure to be ‘perfect’ all the time. I then went travelling with my also seafaring partner at the time and settled in Airlie Beach, AU where I hoped to get a hostess job on sailing yachts to the Whitsundays. He got the job, I didn’t. After coming home last May I was looking for something to do that would pay the bills and make the most of my qualifications, so I followed in my ol’ mans footsteps and joined commercial shipping, so now I am in the Merchant Navy (not to be confused with the Royal Navy!). I work for a few agencies that crew for passenger ferries, mostly in Scotland and Wales but I will usually be sent to wherever I’m needed for mostly a week at a time.

But yes, as I said in the winter the whole industry dies along with the sun and warmth- so I’ve been left stranded, poor and cold, (pity me).

However this particular day, my 1000th grey day, I received an email from one of my agencies and my increasingly dull London lifestyle became a whole lot more interesting. I had been offered the chance to be put forward for a position onboard a government scientific research vessel with company BAS, British Antarctic Survey. Leaving the Falkland Islands on Feb 20th, travelling to Tristan Da Cunha and St Helena before heading back to Southampton where I will disembark on the 5th of May. Two and a half months at sea, my longest voyage so far.

After A LOT of ‘what should I do’s’ and ‘surely I can’t do it’s’ I decided to apply and I bloody well got the job didn’t I. So, I am delighted to inform you all that I will be flying to the Falkland Islands, further south than I have ever ventured before, to join RRS James Clark Ross. Unfortunately a trip to Antartica isn’t currently on the cards, however if something interesting were to happen our route may change so I have had to undergo a polar sub-zero medical and extra training to be prepared for the conditions. I will be working with some of the best minds who’s research is crucial to the environmental studies of Antartica and visiting parts of the world most people will never have the chance to see.

For a vegetarian/vegan, highly gluten intolerant, overly expressive bookworm who likes a cuddle and a good Netflix documentary to embark on such an expedition is almost comical, but if you all care to join me I will be (despite the dodge wifi) blogging my entire trip and perhaps even vlogging if I can. Expect desperate ‘first world problems’ whining, eye opening epiphanies, manic rushes of cabin fever and hopefully some damn good stories as I, Charlotte-Jayne Ray spend 75 days at sea.

C.J.R xox

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