Favel Parrett on researching When the Night Comes
In 2012, Favel Parrett won the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship, and was able to travel on Antarctic resupply vessel, Aurora Australis, in order to research her novel When the Night Comes. Here, she tells us about the voyage and shares an excerpt from her journal of the voyage.
It was a busy trip – a major re-supply of the base, plus passenger drop-off and pick-up. The ship carried over one million tonnes of fuel to offload, as well as machinery, trucks, a brand new Haglund, building materials, and a year’s supply of food. The ship was a hive of activity and I loved it absolutely. I asked the crew if I could do some work on board for research and many of them took me under their wing. I worked hard. I slept well. I woke up excited every morning and I learnt so much.
Antarctic is an incredible place and I’m very grateful, yet what I loved more than anything else about this opportunity was sailing on the Southern Ocean – the days at sea watching the world passing me by through the porthole in moments of light. During the journey, I kept a loose kind of journal where I wrote in big colour pencils on pages with no lines. I kept my computer off and instead, immersed myself in the experience of the voyage. I became a young man at sea, similar to my character Bo from When the Night Comes, a Danish sailor working on a ship much like the Aurora Australis.
Here is an excerpt from my journal of the time:
My character is with me all the time. I can feel him here, tired from his long days in the galley, cooking and cleaning on Nella Dan. One day rolls into another, and right now, he is staring out the porthole while he does the dishes. I am doing the same. I rinse the plates and put them in the dishwasher. I pull them out and stack them away. It goes on and on.
A special thing – to be this close to a character that only exists in my head and in my writing. Yet he is very real to me. This feeling makes me think I am on the right track. Perhaps. Following the right path. Where I am meant to be.
But for now I must wash these dishes. They pile up as the passengers finish dinner and start on desert.
And I can’t get enough. I don’t want it to ever end.