The Ushuaia is steaming towards Antarctica, carrying the 78 women in STEMM who form the second Homeward Bound cohort. We’ll bring you the stories of more than 20 of those women, in their words and pictures: our #TeamHB2018 correspondents. You’ll hear from them about how the past 12 months of working together has influenced them. You’ll get a visceral sense of life on the ship as we post stories crafted from some of the most remote and fragile parts of the planet, by some of the most talented women scientists on the planet. And you’ll hear what happens for them when they return.

Our seventh correspondent, Marie Clark, has managed to leave her rolling cabin long enough to update us on the trip so far, with a humorous take on surviving the so-called “Drake Shake”. Marie is a a PhD in immunology and, while taking an intermission from a medical degree, leads the science team at Maffra Secondary College, in rural Victoria, Australia. \


There’s this thing in physics called Bernoulli’s Equation.  What this equation basically says, is that when fluid has to squeeze through a small space, like a narrow section of pipe, the pressure and speed in that bit of pipe increases.  (At least, that’s what I think it says.  My husband, who is a physics teacher, is probably shaking his head as he reads this.)

Bernoulli’s Equation pretty much explains the Drake Passage, that infamously rough and rolling stretch of water you must cross to reach Antarctica. The entire Southern Ocean squeezes between the relatively small distance between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula, and often results in washing machine-like conditions known as the Drake Shake.

So the question on the Homeward Bounders’ minds was: what would our Drake Crossing be like? Would we all be making friends with seasickness?

Our expedition leader Greg Mortimer described the forecast conditions as “moderate”, which didn’t mean a much to a bunch of landlubbers. Julietta, Greg’s counterpart, added during our safety briefing that “the ship is going to be moving”, a fact that many of us were happy to hear, as it seemed it would be difficult to reach Antarctica otherwise.

The ship’s doctor, Delia, was more forthright, presumably because she’d be the one dealing with a bunch of vomiting women: “For you it is going to be bad”.  She also informed us that the seasickness drugs many of us had taken upon boarding were next to useless and that if we did not wish to be closely inspecting our toilet bowls at regular intervals, we needed to take her special white seasickness pills every twelve hours during the Drake Passage.  

At around midnight I was woken by the sensation of being on a ride, one of those uppy-downy rides you go on at an amusement park and immediately regret because you just ate a dagwood dog, which was definitely a mistake as well, and all these mistakes were culminating in an urge to grip the scrabbly beard of the bored man driving the ride, and shout that you wanted off the bloody thing now, please.  I considered heading up to the bridge to have a quiet word with the crew about the whole situation but thankfully common sense prevailed over a misguided idea clearly cooked up by Delia’s little white pills.

In all seriousness though, the trials of the Drake are, I’m told, a small price to pay for what we are going to see: the last untouched wilderness on our planet. It’s like a weird initiation ritual to a very exclusive club.  Well, as a member of another club – Homeward Bound – a group that after only three days already seems incredibly close-knit, connected and caring, I can guarantee this: if you are sick, there will always be someone to hold your hair back.

You can read a Weekly Times article about Marie here.

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