I hope you were able to download Justin's report on our trip across the Drake Passage and our first few days in the Antarctic. He did a great job in putting together a slide show with narration that we will not attempt to match. This picks up after we left him at King George Island.
January 12, 2006
Antarctic Peninsula 65 00 S 63 30 W
We have just turned back. We are heading north in the Lemaire Channel at 65 degrees south. The sky is low and the ice is getting pretty thick-all brash ice but lots of it and going through it is constant stress. The big bergs are easy to deal with but the small stuff can ruin the propeller and make anchoring a nightmare. When we reached the channel it was 100% ice. We pushed into it for a few boat lengths but decided not to risk it and are now heading back to Port Lockroy.
The wildlife, glaciers, mountains and icecap is amazing. We weave between floating ice the size of cars and houses. We feel that we are in a forbidden place.
After Justin flew off, Oleg, the manager of the Russian Bellingshausen Base, invited us back for New Years Eve. We arrived to find the Stars and Stripes flying beside the Russian flag. After much dancing, vodka and a two AM firing of flares we made our way back to Onora with a promise to come to the 'traditional Russian Barbecue' the next day. This included beef eaten off the skewers, swimming between ice chunks (we declined) and vodka. It was wonderful to be included.
Two days later we left King George Island and backtracked to Deception Island where we repaired sails. After a brief rest we headed south across the Bransfield Strait to the Antarctic Peninsula. The sun appeared but brought fog with it. Fortuantely our radar warned us of the big stuff. We throttled down and were able to push through the small bits. Finding a secure anchorage was impossible until we found the wreck of an old whaling ship in the snug sheltered bay on Enterprise Island.
We were blessed with a week of settled weather with just us and the vast mountainous snowcapped land. We rode our inflatable among the whales in Bancroft Bay. Antarctic terns dove at us. The sun came out and warmed us.
We began our third week by moving past the ice choked Piccard Bay and into Waterboat Point of Paradise Bay where we tied up in front of a Chilean base. They invited us to their barbecue. Compared to the Russians it was tame. No Vodka. No swimming. We ate inside.
Here we entered the land of cruise ships and bases. Now, not a day is unbroken by one or the other. This is a surprise. After the solitude of the Chilean channels and our first two weeks here we expected this harsh land to feel more isolated. Instead we find that the waters are busy with huge ships and zodiacs filled with red jacketed tourists. Every good anchorage is occupied by a base.
Where there is no base the anchorage is marginal. It is always beautiful but when the wind shifts the ice comes in and we must move.
Anchoring is difficult. The ice has scraped the bottom to smooth rock leaving little for our 220 lb anchor to grab onto. We drop the anchor and back down. With the boat in reverse, hanging on the weight of the anchor, we launch the dinghy. I jump in; take a line to shore; find a big rock; wrap a steel cable around it; tie a line to that; and, Jeannie winches us in. Depending on the wind and space, we lay out one, two, three or four lines. It is a lot of work, especially if the wind is blowing. However it is absolutely necessary to insure that the boat will not be blown up on the rocks.
We will leave here in five to seven days and head for the Falkland Islands. We have used fuel faster than planned and it would by unwise to go straight to South Georgia and then north. The bad news is that an 800 mile trip has become a 1600 mile trip.
I told Jeannie that we could skip South Georgia and head to Buenos Aries. I thought she might have had enough of the cold. I was wrong. She feels, "It would be a shame to miss South Georgia when we are so close!"
January 29, 2006
Drake Passage 55 56 S 61 30 W
We left Arthur Harbour on Anvers Island three days ago after waiting for more than a week while lows pressure systems swept through. It was dead calm and almost fifty degrees last Sunday. We almost left but a dropping baramoter changed our minds.
Sunday night the winds exceeding 60 knots. The howling and fear of lines breaking kept us up most of the night. Our narrow inlet had rocky walls and leopard seals. The nightmare was the lines would part, we would swing into the rocky walls and the leopard seals would eat us.
The next day the winds dropped. Then the brash ice broken from the glacier flooded our inlet. Growlers, small ice bergs, scarped and banged the hull. We tried to go on with our lives on board, reading, fixing, and most of all waiting for the parade of lows to break and let us head north. Finally we watched "Six Feet Under" from a CD on the laptop computer. This show is so bad it made me glad we were being crushed by ice and surrounded by hungry leopard seals if the option was to be an undertaker in Los Angles.
Even though it is now blowing 35 and gusting to 40 we are running downwind in the general direction of Port Stanley. Jeannie is making pizza, always a good sign. Our neon orange storm sails are pulling us along as the four meter waves pitch and roll us.
The retreat of the glaciers and reduction in the Adelie penguins on Anvers Island are alarming. It is dramatic to compare pictures and chart positions of glaciers with the receded current conditions. The cold weather Adelies are in steep decline. We talked to scientists at the bases who are compiling the data. They are convinced this is not a cyclical event. Global warming seems very real.
January 31, 2006
Stanley Harbour, Falkland Islands
We arrived in Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, at 7:00 this morning and dropped the anchor in this gray austere place. There are no native trees here and the few planted imports permanently lean to the east. It is blowing 25 knots now. We told customs that we would wait until the wind drops to launch the dinghy to land and clear in. We were told that might take a few days.
The journey was good-no headwinds and nothing broken. The trip was divided into thirds, with the first being motor, the second being perfect sailing on the beam, and the final storm sail leg with winds going from the low 20's to 40 knots. Onora works well under all conditions. We work best under easy conditions and so we are tired. We need unbroken sleep.
- Click here for Part 2 -