Status Report

Berrimilla Down Under Mars Status Report 30 April 2008

By SpaceRef Editor
May 1, 2008
Filed under , ,
Berrimilla Down Under Mars Status Report 30 April 2008


0002.27N 16340.26 DownunderMars becomes TopsiderMars

We crossed the equator at 20.25.53 UTC at 16339.931E on what, my diary tells me coincidentally, is Ascension Day, National Day of Prayer and Workers Day. That seems to cover quite a lot of us. Neptune was properly placated with a couple of tots from Brian Shilland’s little plastic bottle of S2H Bundy and we opened Kimbra’s goody bag to find a tiny bott of pink champagne, a party hat and a party whistle each. Yeeeehaa! McQ put a message in one of the little bottles and off we go again.

We toasted all y’all and moved on to thinking about half way. This leg of the journey covers almost exactly 90 degrees of latitude – a quarter of the earth’s surface – so I have arbitrarily decided that 11 N, 660 miles away, will be half way. Actually, great circles, tacks, island groups and all the other complications of navigation will conspire to move it all around.

Just had a lovely call from Speedy. Onya mate! He’s sent us a crossword – Kris, you’ve got competition! – so I’ll try and pull it in.

Anyway, Milestone no. 1, about 10k in the marathon – just warmed up!

Love yez all.


0013.18 16337.11

Instant return – just received an sms from Carla suggesting that my flashing light yesterday evening was an Iridium satellite. The timing fits – but the satellites I know I have seen don’t usually flash. So still a bit odd. This one’s even odder – the Rat finally loses it – was looking forwards past the forestay at the bank of murk that is always down there on the horizon and wondering whether it was solid or just fluff. I saw a flash – strobe like – just above the murk – say about 5 degrees elev – more or less dead ahead. It was so fast I’m still not absolutely certain I saw it. Bright white light, seemed to have area like, say, a parachute flare, not a pinpoint. Not lightning – just possible a freak reflection off some part of the boat – or what?

14 miles to go. Examiner has removed our wind, so motoring at 4.5 kts. About here, we can start to gauge the standard of planning. We are approaching half way and by looking at the various heaps and containers I can see how we are going. Medicinal Compound will be marginal but that was deliberate. We will have lots of food to spare, enough diesel as long as we don’t for instance, lost the mast, ordinary bog paper ok, elephant’s b.p. ok, McVitie’s digestives marginal, toothpaste, sailmakers’ twine and so on. This, of course, ignores the contingency factor – like loss of mast – and assumes progress more or less as we’ve been making.

Talking of elephant’s, must resurrect Alison Chadwick’s lovely descriptive metaphor for our sort of progress. Next blog perhaps.

Hi Matt – yep, McGyvery would be good to have around. I’m not bad at it, but there are some things that defeat me. All sailors need that capacity for intelligent improvisation based on planning and experience and lateral thinking and we generally do ok on Berri. Unlikely we’ll get to Devon before the eclipse – more like mid august – but, AGW, it will be quite a reunion!

Chris – definitely harder, but in subtle ways.


50 miles from the Equator 0050.22 16329.25

50 miles to the Equator, but the Examiner is poncing around with her stockwhip and slashing away at our tiny gradient so things have slowed a bit. Maybe another 12 hours. We’re almost abeam Nauru and about 200 miles west.

Life’s little mystery for tonight – I looked up towards the masthead and, just to the east of us, elevation about 80 deg. I saw a flashing light. Only about 4 or 5 flashes, seemed to be moving very fast just south of east, did not look like an aircraft strobe. Probably was, but could it have been anything else?

now 40 to go. will try to send this via iridium.


McQ: Feta Brain

I came in here to write a blog, but was immediately consumed by blasting heat that stagnates behind the Cone, so now I too have Feta Brain and am completely incapable of thinking of anything interesting and sensible to write. Instead, here are a selection of random thoughts that have passed between Left Ear and Right Ear recently:

Will we wobble when we step off the boat? I haven’t wobbled since Portugal ’02

The last time I was in a boot room (a real boot room in the arctic, but on land) there were lots of nice boots and a cabinet too. On the cabinet was a sign that said ‘This establishment prides itself on being a bear free zone, therefore please leave all firearms in the cabinet’

Can an onion, bacon, sweetcorn and a tin of tomatoes be used to concoct a semi interesting pasta sauce?
Can we assume that a tin labelled ‘Tom’ contains tomatoes? (No, of course for I labelled the cans!!!)

What was Hemi really afraid of and since there was one in the North and one in the South, was he stuck and unable to go anywhere?

Southern Hemisphere McQ Out…xxx


noon 0123.18 16316.42

dtd 3697 dmg 125
Too hot for bloggery. VoA 0.01. If you know what packaged cheese looks like when it’s been in the sun – that’s my brain. All the oil has leached out and I’m left with the crumbly bits. Imagination on slow time. I might try to fly this out later by satphone to test the system.

We will cross the equator around 0400 tomorrow Sydney time – 1800 UTC today if cheese brain is correct – unless we break something. I have just done a stocktake of the medicinal compounds available to sustain my addled soul – there’s enough, but only if I’m careful. I can have one consultation with one of my physicians daily, with a long Con thrown in at times of extreme stress. Physicians are Dr Pete, the Barber Surgeon (Google Mary Rose) who makes it in his bath, Drs. Jasper, the Apothecary, who makes it in his boat Antares ( I think, but you have to be able to read Dutch) and Dr Steve, the Alchemist, who turns water into gold in his lab. I think they all use Cooper’s home brew kits as their base and it’s remarkable how close each comes to perfection! But then, any juice in a storm…

Today, I consulted Dr J for the first time – his brew is the youngest – and I pronounce it Good. I think Kimbra may have another little treat lined up for us for the equator in the goody bag. Yeeehaaa!

Many thanks to Steve L at AMSA and to Gerry for prompt response and follow up.

Every day, I try to do a job for the boat and one for me. Todays for the boat was to try to fix the cheap and nasty 12v fan so that it directs air in the right direction. For me – I put the arse back into a pair of shorts with sticky back and sailmakers needle, and I had a go at getting my mp3 player to charge – limited success. And I will try to crank up iridium for this message when it gets a bit cooler.


On the hoof…..

We’re still very much on the hoof, making up lost ground to the East to give us some height once we get headed by the trades. MJC, water T has been 35 deg since pre Solomons – down to 34 in last 24 hrs. Another fishing boat a couple of hours ago – as before, steady bearing…these guys are lit up like PuDong for Chinese New Year and it’s impossible to find their nav lights and so work out who is give way vessel. We assumed we were and kept well clear.

Keith Cowing has just given me an acute attack of the stage fright willies by telling us where he is sending all this nonsense. Hi everyone who’s aboard via Mr C. In case you are not familiar with why – the story begins early 2005, way down at 45 S half way across the southern ocean to Cape Horn. Lovely clear night – unusual down there – and I was idly considering that we were probably the two people on earth who were furthest from any other human. And it occurred to me that perhaps once or twice a day, our actual nearest neighbours were the ISS 10 crew, 320 clicks or so above. I asked the question ‘Anyone know anyone at NASA?’ and the rest is history. We had huge fun trying to do simple science with Leroy going up the Atlantic. This gig is a direct result.

102 miles to the equator. I am now reasonably confident that we have enough diesel and water and it’s just a matter of grinding out the metres, one by one – we’re at about 6k in my version of the marathon.


SpaceRef staff editor.