Thursday, November 7, 2013

Some Photos of the Trip

We had a nice party last night with a couple other boats here in Stanley. We're here until Saturday when the weekly plane will hopefully take us to Santiago. Now that we have a bit of bandwidth, here are some pictures of the trip. More to follow at some point, but have to go exploring now.

Setting Sail to South Georgia

Arriving King Haakon Bay, South Georgia

Coming Ashore to Meet our First Fur Seal

Starting the Traverse

First Night Camp at the WindScoop at Trident Ridge

Putting Skins on our Skis

2nd Night Camp Over Possession Bay

Coming Down to Possession Bay

Amy Through the Avalanche Debris Field

Back onboard for a Night

Sailing to Fortuna Bay (Laura and Gretchen)

Starting up the Fortuna Glacier

Getting Steeper - Crampons On

Julian belaying Larry at the top of Breakwind Ridge

Breakwind Ridge from Fortuna Bay

King Penguins at Fortuna

Cresh of King Penguin Chicks

Ed Wading Barefoot Across the Konig Glacier Outflow - Very Cold!

Up to the Stromness Col

Ready to Ski Down to the Stromness Whaling Station

Traverse Team Photo from Left: Larry, Skip, Julian, Amy, Georgio, Ed, Gretchen, Cam

Back on Board

Celebration Dinner aboard Pelagic Australis

Whaling Station at Grytviken

Skiing up to Mount Hodges Col

Ridge of Mt Hodges

Overlooking Grytviken

St Andrews Bay King Penguin Colony ~300,000 Penguins

Prion Island - Nesting place of the Wandering Albatross

Wandering Albatross Fledgeling after about 11 months

Fur Seal

Leaving South Georgia

Albatross Following Us

Heavy Weather Sailing upwind in the Southern Ocean

Amy and Gretchen Taking in a Reef

Arriving Stanley

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 6 Land Ho!

By Larry Wed, Nov 6

As predicted, the wind went from ahead of us in the West to our beam in the North allowing us to sail much more quickly the last 12 hours. We arrived in the harbor at 12:45 UTC (7:45 EST) . 5+ days back compared with 3+ days downwind to South Georgia. It was foggy all the way in and the sea birds have left to find another boat to follow. The last 12 hours were a bit of a washing machine sea, bouncing us around, but steadily clicking off the miles at 9 knots.

We've now landed just before a 30-knot squall hit. The weather is certainly unpredictable when we get near land! We're here on Wed morning with three days to spare before our plane leaves on Saturday, so we'll enjoy each other's company and begin to think about what we need to do when we get home. May get a little Falkland Islands touring in as well.

We'll spend some of the day cleaning and some looking at our photos to share and I will post some when we get to the internet café on main street.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 5 Dawns on the Southern Ocean

By Larry, Tuesday, Nov 5

It's all upwind. Amy wants to know if we'll ever get to Stanley. Others wake up for their watch and say "good morning, are we still at sea?" The instruments count down the distance to waypoint (Stanley). Yesterday we were 350 miles, this morning we're under 200.

Somehow, I'm thinking different thoughts. I like it out here. I won't get to see the Southern Ocean again for a while and it's been great to be allowed passage so far by Neptune. I prefer another week or two at sea. I feel like we're just beginning to get into a good rhythm and in my experience it just gets better, the longer we're offshore.

We've navigated right on the edge between the South Atlantic High Pressure which is relatively stationary and the northern extents of the lows streaming through the Drake to our South. Skip's other boat, the 54 ft Pelagic crossed the Drake and was hove to for 2 days in 40-50 knots of wind. That's what happens when you have to go through the lows. The other advantage of staying with the high is the sunny weather. The wind has been up to about 40 knots but most of the time in the 20s and 30s for the past two days. We just made what I hope is our last tack for final approach from 150nm out. If the forecast continues to be as reliable as it has been, this should give us a nice close reach into Port Stanley by around 1pm UTC tomorrow (Wednesday, about 8am EST).

The birds were spectacular today. We had again about 50-100 birds following us. Many Black-Browed Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Sooty Albatross, Giant Southern Petrels and lots of smaller Cape Petrels. All day they would soar right up to the side of the boat to check us out and say hello. They would fly along sometimes within 6 feet of the boat. But the boat was going to slow so they'd have to soar away to keep above their stall speed and then they would circle back to have another look. When we hoisted to full main and jib, the birds started playing in the pressure wave just in front of the boat, often just flying in front of us like guides, telling us which way to go very much like dolphins who play in the pressure wave of the bow. We did see a few of them land on the water, contrary to popular belief that they never do so. I even captured a movie of one landing on the water.

We also have had a number of visits from Cape Porpoises, which are small dolphins that are very playful and curious. Still waiting to see the whales, but it may just not be the right time or the krill may be in another part of the Southern Ocean at this moment.

We're now just about to have dinner as the sun sets on presumably, our last night at sea. Amy and I are on watch until just after sunset, but everyone is up and enjoying the camaraderie and the smoother seas.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 2 on our Southern Ocean Crossing

By Larry, Sun Nov 3

We've now been at sea about 50 hours and have only45% or 350nm left to go on the Great Circle route. The seas have been moderate and we've been able to power into them without too much pounding. We have only the 2nd reef in on the mainsail and but we are not using the staysail since it would mean sailing further angles from the wind. With the motor in 20 knots of breeze, we are able to sail 35 degrees from the wind at about 7.8 knots or about 5.5 knots Velocity Made Good on Course (VMC). The forecast is for the wind to increase to about 35-40 knots from the West, so making good time prior to the arrival of the front will pay off in less miles sailed when we have to start tacking back and forth to get to Stanley.

The waves and wind are picking up a bit now (white caps every where) and spray being blown onto the doghouse where we sit comfortably bouncing up and down. Its fantastic to see about 50-100 Albatross, Petrels and Terns following us and swooping low to see if we have any food that churns up in our wake. Earlier we sat outside in the cold just to watch them soar so effortlessly. I think I saw the Albatross flap its wings 3 times yesterday when I watched for an hour, but the wind was under 10 knots. Now they don't flap at all, just glide up over the wave tops, catch some up drafts of air currents near the crest of the wave, pop up about 30 ft and then use that potential energy to accelerate further away until they come back down to the water and use the water as a ground effect to get better lift, soaring through the trough to catch the next up draft. They do this for hours and days and weeks at a time! Such a contrast to sailing to Bermuda and having one very tired bird landing on our boat 200 miles out and hitching a ride home to Bermuda. There just aren't these kind of birds out in the open ocean in the North Atlantic.

The forecast says the front and more wind and waves will come to us from the Drake Passage mid afternoon and then the wind will go from West to WNW. We'll be changing our course to stay about 35 degrees from the wind and then eventually tack back towards the SW. We tack on about 75 degrees with the motor on and about 120 degrees with the motor off. As the wind and sea state come up for the next few days we will be doing much sailing at the wider angles and sail a lot more distance. So despite the fact that we've come more than halfway in 2days, we still have at least three days to go.

Everyone is feeling good onboard and enjoying our watches, talking, reading, reviewing our picture collections. It's a nice time for contemplation as we sail slowly home. It will be 10 days to get all the way home from South Georgia. In this day and age, that's pretty a remote.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day One back at Sea

By Larry, Sat Nov 2

We left Prion Island and Rosita Harbor yesterday morning and are now 24 hours into our sail back home. We sailed (and motor-sailed) along the rest of the North East coast but it got quite foggy and we couldn't more than a few boat lengths. We decided to go through the small cut at Bird Island. The waves were breaking white in the middle of the channel and we nearly backed out, but since Magnus had marked his track on the way through in calmer weather, we just stuck to that trail on the chart. Here in the south, the land and other features are never exactly placed on the chart. They are always a bit off as are the depths. So in a low visibility area, we have to be doubly careful running radar and charts to see the errors. But when it comes to close quarters there is no substitute for having been there in calm water and taken your own soundings for future reference. As we went through this narrows were able to see the land on both sides, but just barely. The sea state was worse than out side because there was a current charging through the narrows in the opposite way to the waves, making the waves steep and breaking. We made it through, saw a few more albatross soaring around the narrows and off we sailed, next stop Port Stanley in about 5 days.

The weather on our first day back at sea was 15-20 knots of wind nearly dead ahead, so I did a routing optimization based on our forecast and the boat speed for any point of sail and windspeed. It suggested we head a bit north of the straight-line distance. In fact in a sail of 750nm, the straight line distance is a misnomer, since it is really a great circle of the earth (defined by three points: the start, finish and the center of the earth's sphere). Where this plane defined by the three points cuts the surface of the globe is the great circle route or shortest distance. It appears to be curved to the south here by about 30nm from a straight line drawn on the map.

Luckily for now, the seas are down to only about 6-12 feet so we sail close to the wind or straight into it with our motor on for now. As soon as the wind comes back to about 70 degrees from the course we hope to achieve, then we can sail and turn off the motor. The forecast shows we are going to get 35-40 knots later in the trip and it will be blowing "straight from the pub door" to make a harder to get there. So for now we'll go straight along the great circle route until the wind is stronger.

We're each taking a 4 hour watch twice a day. We can really notice that the day has gotten about a hour longer since we sailed out. As we settle into our lives at sea, we see some penguins swimming and some fur seals sleeping with one fin up in the air and then when they hear us, they start flippering up and down over the surface like dolphins. The sun just came out and we're sailing in glorious conditions now.

Its time to get the next forecast file to see if there is anything to change in our routing. My job is to make sure we are in Stanley before Sat morning, Nov 9 since the planes only leave the Falklands once a week on Saturday afternoon.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Wandering Albatross Nesting on Prion Island

By Larry, Thurs Oct 31

Our last full day on South Georgia! It was another beautiful day of high pressure and we motored 4 hours against the wind with a magnificent view of the mountains and bays that we had seen or skied on the way south. We got some excellent pictures of the Fortuna Glacier and the Breakwind Ridge that we skied down and then Possession Bay and our exit off the Murray Snowfield. Our goal was the island called Prion which is one of the few known albatross nesting places. The big Wandering Albatross and many of its cousins like the Light Mantled Sooty Albatross come here to mate and fledge their young. They know Wanderers can live to more than 55 years old and start breeding when they are about 11 years old. They pair for life and take turns feeding their young. We were here at the end of the brooding period of about 11 months and the young Wanderers were everywhere on this small island. Their nests were spaced about every 50 to 100 feet near the top of the hill. They would turn into the 25 knot wind and spread their wings as if to fly, but they are not yet ready to fly – they are too heavy and have too much of the downy warm feathers on their bodies and leading edges of their wings. To unfold or refold their wings seems to take quite a long time and seems quite complicated. They are so long that they have to be careful not to get feathers stuck out of place. When they stretch their wings at about 9-12 feet its just amazing to see. Then swooping in, comes an adult Wanderer show us (and the fledglings) how its done. Just soaring on the wind currents, turning left, then right, then taking an updraft and diving down again, all without flapping its wings even once!

It's said that to feed the young albatross, the mother or father flies up to 5,000 miles and is gone for a couple weeks at a time. The books we have on board say that they have measured the energy expenditure of a Wanderer flying at sea and they are such efficient flyers that its no more energy to fly than to walk around on the grass at home. Luckily, the amount of albatross caught up in long-lining has drastically decreased in South Georgia and the rest of the Antarctic, but the mitigation measures need to be enacted and enforced in other fisheries further north in South America, Africa and India.

We motored into a nice harbor a few miles away in the shadow of the glaciers and had a nice last dinner on South Georgia in calm waters.

The weather forecast is for headwinds much of the time so we are planning to leave in the morning to catch a relatively calm period before the gales. The flights from Stanley are only once per week, so we don't want to miss them due to bad weather on the sea.


King Penguin Colony at Andrews Bay and Macaroni Penguins at Cobbler’s Bay

By Larry, Wed Oct 30

Today we went to the largest Penguin colony on the island. A rookery of about 300,000 King Penguins spread along a very wide St. Andrews Bay and the surrounding plain. We got off on the beach for a few hours and walked for miles through the Penguins. We saw all sorts of seals on the beach co-existing as they do with the penguins and petrels, and skuas. We saw the last of the reindeer herding further up from the beach. I could sit down on the beach and all the King Penguin chicks fully clothed in brown fluffy down, would walk right up to me, completely curious and unafraid. But if I did that near adults, they would walk slowly away! It was amazing to be in such a large colony and watch their interactions.

We then motored along the shore to Cobbler's Cove for the afternoon and evening. It is a beautiful, calm anchorage surrounded by hills on all sides. We climbed up the snow gully to the NW and over the top of the hill into the next bay. Many went on down the other side to see the Macaroni Penguins who were nesting in the hills. I stayed on top of the hill and watched the sooty albatross soaring and screeching along the large cliff above us. It was a relaxing afternoon, topped off by the ribs of one of our lambs for dinner that evening.


The Old Whaling Station at Grytviken

By Larry, Wed Oct 30

I seem to have lost a day or two. The day after the finish of the Shackleton Traverse we sailed into Grytviken and it was sunny and we were able to wash out our gear and dry it. Grytviken is the only whaling station we are allowed to explore. All the outer building shells have been removed and the equipment inside is now exposed to show how whales were processed. Whales were so plentiful here in 1900 that for the first five years, they never had to leave the little bay to catch a whale! We had dinner on board with Sarah and Pat Lurcock, who have been the government here for over 20 years and spend about 8 months a year on the island. Pat runs the fisheries and most other aspects of the government and Sarah has been working on the whaling museum in Grytviken. There are about a dozen scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) who are stationed nearby.

In the morning, it was sunny and sort of warm, so we took a ski up behind Mt. Hodges. It was a bit slushy at first and then got very nice. We climbed to the col on the shoulder and a few people continued up on shaky rock to the top, while Cam, Gretchen and I had a great ski down.

When we got back to the boat, Sarah gave us a wonderful tour of the whaling station and explained how the whales were processed. In the early 1900s a law was passed to require all whalers to process the entire contents of the whale, rather than taking just the baleen and oil from the blubber. The whale catchers would come in with up to about 14 whales and they would pull them up the processing ramp or plan, one by one. As they were pulled up, the meat was cut off and pulled up the ramp to the left to the boiling pots which extracted oil from the meat. To the right a bit further up was where the blubber was chopped up and sent to the top of another set of boilers. Then the remaining bones were boiled down (they found out that 30% of the whale oil was in the bones). Whatever was left over was ground into fine meal for fertilizer. They would process 12-20 whales a day on one processing line when in full production. Over the 60 years they ran the station they more than took 100,000 whales and made 9 million barrels of oil (500 million gallons). The whales that were so plentiful when they set up business in the late 1800s and early 1900s were completely gone by the 1950s. When they left the whaling stations in 1964, they thought the whales would be back soon and so they left caretakers to keep the place ready for a return in a few years. Sarah said she had seen a two whales last year in the bay but it's a very infrequent sighting. We saw no whales so far on our journey here, whereas 13 years ago we saw dozens of whales on the Pacific side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

After our tour of the whaling museum, we had a nice visit with Sue and Daniel at the BAS fishery labs. They are very proud of the work they have done to ensure the sustainability of the fishing in the area. I then stopped by Shackleton's grave where both he and Frank Wild, his right hand man are both buried. Shackleton died of a heart attack on shipboard in Grytviken in 1922 at the age of 47 at the start of a new expedition. Wild died in 1939 having been one of the most experienced people in the Antarctic exploration.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The End of the Shackleton Traverse – Fortuna Glacier and Stromness Col

by Larry, Sunday Oct 27

Yesterday we did 10 hours on skis and hiking, skiing up and down more than 6,000 vertical feet. Even though we were not able to do the Crean Glacier due to avalanche danger a few days ago, we decided to start from Fortuna Glacier where Shackleton inadvertently went before he figured out the right direction. We got on the beach at about 5:30am local time and put on our boots and skins and roped up. I was on Skip's rope this time with Cam. Julian, Amy, Georgio and Ed were on the second rope. We started up the Fortuna Glacier in clear, crisp weather with some low clouds coming in the bay as we climbed out of it. We were climbing up and around the ridge on the glacier to gain the ridge top from the backside. It gradually steepened for a while and then flattened into a wide snowfield below the Breakwind Ridge. It was the first time Skip had approached from this direction and it was not obvious which part of the rocky ridge was going to be the right place to cross over to find a skiable route down the other face. There were a number of crevasses on the way up that looked small at first, but I soon realized we were just very far away from them and they were actually quite large.

After about 2 and half hours of slogging we got to the top of the ridge at about 650 meters (2,100 feet) in the spot that Skip was sure was right. We changed to crampons for the last steep part and belayed up to the ridge. It was blowing harder and we were in a cloud, so not much time for glory shots. We belayed off the ridge top and down to a slightly flatter spot where we could change back to skis and take off the skins for the ski down. The first few turns were in low visibility and the surface was breakable crust. Then it opened up into a snowfield but we still had to be careful about where the crust was breaking on our turns. Some places that were wind crusted allowed us to make some decent turns. The run was beautiful with Fortuna Bay below us and the ridge on the other side of the bay rising above the clouds. If only the snow conditions matched the view! The snow got heavier and hard to ski but flowing down through the gullies was fantastic. It was important to have Skip point the way. It would be easy to go down a gully that ended in a cliff rather than a slope to the sea and have a long walk back uphill to find another gully.

We stopped for a short salami and cheese on some rocks. It was decent visibility and Georgio wisely said we might want to keep skiing. At which point a cloud reached up the gully and made the skiing a bit more difficult again. We made it down to within a few feet of sea level on the snow and had a very short walk out to the beach. We thought the next phase would be an easy walk. Then Skip said, yes we've got another 5 hours – first an hour's walk around the head of the bay, across the Konig Glacier outflow and then a hike/ski up to 300 meters again on the Stromness Col and a ski down into Stromness Bay. It was very tempting to want to go back to the boat after our first run up given it was cold and windy, but if Shackleton was doing this at the end of his 36 hour journey on little rations and after a 14 day torture in a 21 foot lifeboat across the Southern Ocean, what's a little discomfort to us. So off we went with Gretchen and Mike joining us.

The beach was full of groups of elephant seals and king penguins and we stopped for a while to watch a bull fighting off a probe from another male who wanted to challenge for the domination of the harem. They both stood up and growled at each other, shooting hot steamed air at each other, and then the bigger one bit the smaller one in the neck, the smaller one cowered and shrank back to the water's edge and slinked away. We then waded across the outflow. The approach most of us took was to find a shallow spot and wade tentatively across the river and hope we could link enough shallow spots to get across without getting our calf-high muck boots wet. Julian, Gretchen and Ed decided it would be better to go barefoot and walked through the freezing cold river with stoic resolve. It was lucky the river wasn't running any bigger.

We then started up the ridge on the other side. We walked up through the tussock grass and then the moss and a very thick green mat with an amazing capacity to soak up water coming down from the hills. I asked Julian if this was similar to Wales, to which he said it was quite similar to the large bogs that are huge reservoir of water and carbon in Wales.

We finally got to the snow line about halfway up to where I thought the col topped out and put on our ski boots, skis, skins and started trekking upwards on the soft snow. The wind was behind us and it was only lightly sprinkling at times. We got to the top and as often happens, there was another top and another before the real top. So up and up we went, past Crean Lake where Tom Crean fell in on Shackleton's journey. At the top, Shackleton and his team heard the 7am morning whistle at the Stromness whaling station and then they knew which way to get to safety.

We stopped for a short picnic at the top and had a really nice ski down. First, through a wide snowfield and then down a river gulley. We avoided the waterfall that Shackleton had to rope down and found a snow gulley that took us to the flat plain, an hour's walk into Stomness.

We were tired but happy to have done the route and had a much better idea of the impressive achievement of Shackleton, Worsley and Crean. It was 10 hours when we got to the Stromness whaling station. We sat on the beach and waited for as Pelagic Australis came into the harbor and picked us up. We motored around to Grytviken, past the abandoned whaling stations at Husvik and Leith, had a well-deserved dinner and went to bed, tired and happy.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Larry's account of our Shackleton Traverse Attempt

Posted by Larry

Shackleton Traverse – Day 1 - Tuesday Oct 22

We got to the beach at 4am local time and then hiked up to our cache. It was windy but not too cold. We got to the sleds, repacked, put our skins on our skis, roped up and started our climb up the snow. Our skis have alpine touring bindings which hinge at the toe which makes it easier to climb up and when we go downhill we can lock the heels down like a normal downhill binding. We are our own dogs, pulling the pulks (or sleds) and we put most of our weight in the pulks rather than our rucksack. We climbed up the first slope with Skip in the lead on the first rope with Gretchen, Cam and Georgio. On the second rope was Julian in the lead, Larry, Amy and then Ed. As the slope got steeper we put on our ski crampons to dig into the wind blown crust and allow us to go up sure-footed. Then Skip slipped on an even steeper traverse and we stopped to take off our skis and put crampons on our boots to scale the last slope to the top of the col and the beginning of the Murray Snowfield. The weather cleared and we were able to look back at the boat and the length of King Haakon Bay out to the open Southern Ocean through the mountains lining the Bay. To our right was beautiful glaciers coming down from a ridge and onto the edge of the snowfield. In front of us, a few miles ahead was the Trident ridge rising to its peak at 4,400 feet (1,337 meters).

Our goal was just this side of the ridge at the lowest gap on the left. Shackleton went first to the right, we think because that was closer to the direction of the whaling station at Stromness, but then realized it was too steep on the other side and checked the middle gap and finally crossed the left gap. We stopped for a quick lunch break and then got going again. We had a long way to go and a couple hours of digging in at our camp before dark. It got windy and cloudy after about an hour of skiing up the relatively flat snowfield. Luckily the wind was at our back. The visibility got worse and the slope got steeper. We climbed up to the base of the middle gap – a really steep bit in heavy snow where the pulks were really beginning to feel the end of the day, extra heaviness. At the top of the slope there was an enormous wind scoop 200 feet deep down to the base of the rock. We then traversed left over to the base of the left gap and set camp 10 feet from the edge of the next wind scoop that was only about 150 feet deep. The reason to be that close was that it was flat at the edge and not far up to the left gap in the morning. We dug in our three tents, put all our wet gear in the tent and got in for some well deserved tea. Ed, Amy and I tented in together and Ed did a great job of making a noodle and tuna mixture followed by a tin of peaches and chocolate and more tea to rehydrate. It blew 50 knots on the boat in King Haakon Bay that night. It blew mighty hard up high as well, but we were protected by the windscoop and rock face above us. It snowed heavily all night long and we could hear a few big serac (ice block) falls echoing around the peaks.

I then re-read Shackleton's account of his traverse in his book "South". While they are incomparable efforts and consequences, I felt blessed to be able to experience some of the same topography in such a remote part of the world known for its wild weather which we would get to experience more in the coming days. We were asleep by dark and all slept soundly given how hard we had worked to get there.

Day 2 – Wednesday – back off the Trident ridge and onto the Murray Snowfield

When we awoke before dawn there had been about 18" of new snow covering everything. We had our porridge and tea, got our kit ready, stowed our tents and then started to look up at our route and the condition of the snow. An assessment of the snow left us feeling that the leeward side of the Trident ridge was going to have extreme avalanche danger due to wind slabbing at the top. Meanwhile, even the windward side was sliding as a big ice fall reported from someplace nearby and higher up. We decided that we could either stay here at this camp for a few days and wait to see if conditions improved or cross the island to Possession Bay directly to our North. Since the weather has been such a series of low pressure systems coming through without a break and the forecast showed no breaks in the next week, we decided to move towards Possession Bay. It was disappointing to not continue to follow Shackleton's route, but it was clearly the right decision. It also brought home how absolutely lucky (if you can call any part of Shackleton's ordeal lucky) he was to have the clear weather he did to get across the ridge and the moonlight to guide him across the Crean Glacier on the other side. If he had the weather we did, he would most likely would not have been able to cross.

We skied down about a mile, roped up in very low visibility. We decided, since we'd be up here for a couple days to camp on a flat spot in the middle of the snowfield leading down to Possession Bay. We pitched camp again. It cleared for about an hour and we could see the bay about 1300 feet below us and about a 1.5 miles distant. The big question would be where to come down to the bay. Some of the bays are completely surrounded by cliffs and from above, what looks like a gentle slope often ends in a 600 foot ice fall or rock face. Such a face itself would not be hard to rappel down with our ropes, but the danger of ice falling would be too great to take a route like that and the crevasses on the way to the edge would be extremely dangerous as well. So we chose to wait until the boat came around to the bay to have a look from the bottom. It's a good thing they did!

The wind picked up, the visibility crashed our aspiration to do a bit of skiing or scouting out of the route down and we spent the rest of the day in the tents, reading, talking and sleeping. That night the southwesterly kicked in hard and the katabatic winds from the peaks came flooding down too as the air cooled and flowed down the snowfields to the sea. At about 1am, with the tent a bit deformed and making a huge racket from things flapping and around and my side pushed in hard from the wind. The gusts felt like 50 knots. There would be a short lull and another blast. This went on for hours. In the morning the tent vestibule was full of a few feet of snow covering the stove and food and Ed's boots. All that snow got in through a few small holes – showing once again that nature strives for entropy.

Day 3 – Thursday – Snow day on the Murray Snowfield

We dug out, fixed the tents to make them snow proof and wind proof. We built a wall on the windward side of our tent, but then Cam and Gretchen built a wall twice as high with snow blocks that looked like an igloo wall cut with the ice saw in Cam's shovel. It's hard to keep up with the neighbors! The visibility was bad and the snow continued to accumulate and the wind was giving us no break. So another day of reading, sleeping talking, and a tea. Cam had some spare battery in his ipad, so we got to watch the latest Bond movie, Skyfall – a bit of a break from our reality. The boat came around the north tip of the island and planned to overnight in Prince Olaf bay, just down from Possession Bay. We learned that Possession Bay was the first landing place of Captain Cook in 1775 where he took possession of the island for the King.

Our snow walls and better burying of the tent flaps made the wind much less effective at blowing down the tent the second night on the snowfield.

Day 4 – Friday – Down from the Murray Snowfield into Possession Bay

The next morning the wind was up and visibility was poor and it was snowing. Skip radioed the boat and had Magnus take a look from below where the visibility was better. Magnus could see the right side of the bay was completely cliffs and glacier fronts. No place to ski down. It's was really good that he could see this as the slope seemed gentler to the right from above. We had about 1300 feet to descend. He suggested way off to the left so we began. Its always hard to describe a route precisely from another viewpoint but we angled our way left and found a ramp down. The problem was the huge cornice above it. We decided that this was at least the most reasonable way down even though there was significant danger but things had stabilized a bit. So we went down the ramp left and then it intersected a ramp down right and back left over an avalanche debris pile. We finally got off our skis as the pulks were pulling us off course and running over our skis. We walked through the debris field down another 500 vertical feet with everyone a bit tense to hurry out of the dangerfield. We got down to the bay and Magnus and Laura were waiting with the dinghy and a bottle of champagne. Skip knocked the neck off with his ice axe, sprinkled some for the snow and sea gods and passed it around. We got back to the boat and had a relaxing time drying off, having a shower and thinking about how to continue the route.

Saturday – Fortuna Bay - Oct 26

After a very windy night in Prince Olaf Bay, we motored around in the morning to Fortuna Bay. It's a long beautiful bay with mountain ridges on both sides. We got off the boat and walked the length of the bay enjoying the seals and a large King Penguin colony. Skip kept looking for the baby penguins all covered in brown fur but we didn't see them for the longest time and kept walking along. Finally we were rewarded by seeing a large group of them squawking, walking around and flapping their flippers. The Kings are some of the most colorful penguins with bring orange and yellow markings on their heads and necks. Many of them were molting and trying to shed old feathers so they could go in the water and fish for more food. Skip pointed out that the ones that were early molting were still generally fat and the ones that were nearly done molting were much skinnier. When their finished molting they go fishing and bring back food which they regurgitate for their chicks.

Thomas made a fantastic meal on board this evening and we got ready for stage 2 of the traverse which we will do tomorrow (Sunday) morning. Up from Fortuna Bay on skins and skis with a final push up a steeper part with ice axe and crampons to get to the top of the Fortuna Glacier where it meets the Crean Glacier. Our plan is to then ski down a couloir from the Breakwind Ridge and then to walk to the hill at the head of Fortuna Bay and finish the last part of the traverse into Stromness. Hopefully the weather will be good and we can complete it in one long day. All packed now for an early start....


Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 3 of the Shackleton traverse

Magnus Day, skipper yacht Pelagic Australis reports:

We finally upped anchor and left King Haakon this morning at first light
after a restless night. Our snuggish anchorage had turned into a 50 knot
lea shore and all the ice in the bay had blown in with it. The anchor
slid and then held firm as I sat with the motor on and my heart in my
mouth sipping tea made by my partner and first mate Laura Hampton. We
were but yards from the shore for some hours.

Leaving our home of 6 days (is this some kind of record in King Haakon?)
in a mixture of snow, fog and sunshine felt like leaving an old friend
but with miles to make for the next safe anchorage and 30 knots blowing
in our faces we had to keep the hammer down. A very steep, short sea
kept our speed down until we snuck thought the tiny Bird Sound and were
able to bear away on the north side of the South Georgia and pick up
some good speed eventually anchoring in Prince Olav Harbour.

Prince Olav is in the mouth of Possession Bay just an hour or two from
our pickup point and we will be able to come round and help the guys
pick a safe route down the glacier, scanning it from the bay with our
binoculars. We learned last night that all is well and Laura has
prepared a giant 'Armenian' lamb stew to welcome them home.

I'm sure there'll be more first hand accounts of the last few days on
the hill coming this way soon.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 2 of the Shackleton traverse

Magnus Day, skipper Yacht Pelagic Australis reports:

Another day in King Haakon Bay for the crew of Pelagic Australis and a
beautiful one of light winds and heavy snow. We made a long hike ashore
to check on the elephant seals and their pups some of whom were born
just this morning. The goings on of a seal colony never cease to amuse
with the beachmaster bulls making a nuisance of themselves and the cows
barking and the pups mewling and the weaners snorting. There are groups
of King Penguins standing by affecting a disinterested air and odd
singles looking baffled or just plain lost. Giant Petrels and Skuas
prowl the beach in search of placentas and sickly pups for a gruesome lunch.

Commodore Novak called at 2000 as arranged to report heavy wet snow for
our friends up on the hill. Though safe and well in their tents he
reported them as 'piss wet through' and requested a pick up from
Possession Bay at our earliest convenience. This is the only escape
option before committing to the rest of the traverse and the guys fear
avalanches of heavy wet snow on top of older icy layers. A good call but
one which must have been hard to make.

We will attempt to make our way round to them tomorrow. The forecast is
fair with winds of 20 to 30 knots in the west and we hope for better viz
as the low overhead moves away to the east but it may still take us two
days to get round to the pickup. Moving in this ill charted area at
night is not advised.

We're looking forward to getting them all warm and dry aboard and
hearing tales of ice and wind and risotto with parmisan and salami.

I'll keep you posted..............


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

First report from Shackleton Traverse

Magnus Day, skipper yacht Pelagic Australis reports:

We finally got our intrepid mountaineers off the boat this morning about
0700 UT after a reasonable ammount of last minute delays and a huge
ammount of breakfast (Cam).

Weather was somewhere just above freezing with light westerly winds and
very poor viz in frequent snow storms.

Cam made a big splash (literally ) when he fell into the water getting
out of the Zode onto the beach. Too much breakfast?

Two Pelagic Australis crew accompanied the guys up to the gear cache at
the snow line about a mile inland to bring down welly boots and other
unwanted gear and reported a smoothish departure hampered only by a 60kt
gust as they were sorting gear.

Back on the mothership we were able to watch the progress of 8 ant like
figures in two rope teams of four as they made their way up and right
across the west facing slope of the Briggs glacier. They called from the
top before losing radio comms to say all was wel and then were gone.

This evening's 2000 satphone sced went smoothly, I was able to relay the
overall picture and the details of coming weather patterns. The news
from the top that they were well, safe in their tents at the Trident
camp by 1830 and had enjoyed supper after a good day's progress in
blustery conditions and mainly poor viz.

The forecast is good so we hope to see them safe and sound in Fortuna
Bay in a few days.

We wait with baited breath...............

Monday, October 21, 2013

We think we've got a weather window

by Larry, Monday Oct 21

We spent the day around the boat, better than snowbound in a tent getting blown off the Trident Ridge. Half the group went up to check on the equipment cache and see if the snow routes had been washed away in the hard rain low down last night. They found the cache and made a GPS waypoint for it before the hail storm set in. It was blowing hard all day and most likely quite difficult to travel up high. I've been reading Shackleton's account of the his crossing in "South". We've been able to identify most of the landmarks here in King Haakon Bay and up the first ridge. We'll be up at 3am (local time) tomorrow morning and get going right away. Just at dinner time we were treated to a half hour white-out snowstorm snd then a beautiful evening light shining on all the new snow in the mountains around us.

We had a really nice and quite day exchanging stories, reading, learning from each other experiences. Julian and Ed hvae been many tiees to Tibet which is fascinating to me. Amy and I tried to go to Tibet in 1983 but only made it to China and Nepal but not through Tibet. I could listen for hours to them talking about things they've seen there. We've also been interested in learning about the exploitation of the wildlife here in South Georgia. Like the whales that were driven completely from South Georgia along with the Fur seals and King penguins. Its amazing to think of the amount of industry in such a remote area of the world in the late 1800s and early 1900s that drove such plentiful species nearly to extinction. Its a testament to the strength of conservation efforts that these species are on the rise again.

Its ten o'clock now and its just getting dark, so we'll go to bed and be ready and rested in the morning. Magnus may relay some news from us as we're crossing the island over the next few days.


The only thing constant is change

By Larry Monday Oct 21.

We woke up this morning to a howling gale. Our weather window was no more. South Georgia is one of the most exposed places on earth in terms of weather. As the winds of the circumpolar low circle Antarctica unimpeded by any land mass they build strength. Then the thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean weather systems get funneled through the 600 miles of the Drake Passage below Cape Horn and North of the Antarctic Peninsula. After getting squeezed and accelerated through the Drake as a series of low pressure storms, they come through the other side and the first thing they hit is South Georgia Island! We're hoping for a slight window Tuesday through Thursday. We'll see tonight.


Traverse departure: imminent

Posted October 20, by Amy

We got up early today to ferry gear ashore for tomorrow's traverse departure. Skies were overcast with light winds for the trek up to the snowfield where we stowed the pulks, skis, stoves etc. Carrying the pulks over the rocky terrain is awkward—we will be glad to be pulling them on our skis from now on. The plan is to get up at first light, have a light breakfast, and hike up to the gear in our mud boots where we'll don our ski boots/skis and begin the trek up the snow face to the ridge that leads to the inner mountains to camp at the foot of the Trident. The forecast is not favorable but we will try and hope that we hit a good window of lesser winds and decent visibility. (Right now it's raining and blowing 25 knots—yuck).

This afternoon we went back ashore to walk the beach and observe the elephant seals, king penguins, and birds. The hanging glaciers that ring the bay are spectacular. One elephant seal had just birthed her pup. Next to him was a pup that has apparently lost his mother—he tried to nurse with various moms who all rejected him. He appears to be undersized and his prospects are not good. I went and hung out with some king penguins; once they get used to you they'll stand around to preen, squawk, and stare. Those that have finished molting are beautiful.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow's trek!


Fingers crossed for tomorrow’s trek!

Notes from Skip Novak, owner of Pelagic Australis

The hell with a 'light breakfast!' It's porridge, fried eggs and bacon for me tomorrow morning. God knows we will need to be fortified. This is my fifth Shackleton Traverse and I rate this one, as all the previous at this stage, as 'an attempt.' The forecast is anything but auspicious; generally the forecast indicates a west to northwest pattern of moderate to strong winds for the next few days. There is a lull tomorrow morning so we are hoping to be away and up high, out of the rain zone and into the snow zone at least, in order to stay dry. If we can make the first camp on the Trident Ridge by tomorrow evening, then come what may. We might be there a day or two before continuing on and at least committed to the route. With five days, stretched to six of food and fuel, we should be able to find an easing in the weather to get through the critical second day across the Crean and Fortuna Glaciers. But nothing is certain—and that is what this is all about.


Standing by to Stand by

By Larry Sunday Oct 20 King Haakon Bay, SG

It blew 35-50 knots all day yesterday. The boat was heeling 20 degrees just from the windage. We had planned to carry most of our gear up to the snow line about 600 ft above sea level. But it blew so hard, it wasn't worth even launching the zodiac. Even though we were anchored behind an small set of rocks, there were plenty of waves and the boat was sailing on the anchoring, back and forth. Sitting in the pilot house, we got a great view of all the peaks around us and the glacier fronts falling to the sea. Friday night before the wind came up, I wish I had a recorder as it was amazing to hear the elephant seals grunting and calling all night long ½ a mile away on the beach. We went to the beach and walked around for an hour. About 160 elephant seals all hanging out on the beach in one spot on the beach. There are at least 4 of these groups on this beach and others along the bay. Probably a few thousand in all. Mostly females with pups and one bull. The pups breast feed for about 22 days and then are on their own.

This morning it was quiet and we got the zodiac in the water early and carried all the sleds, skis, sled bags, food, tents and outer boots to the snow line. It took a couple trips to do so, but now all that's left is to carry our packs up and put on our skis and go. We have the skins on the skis so we're ready to climb up the first snowfield called the Shackleton Gap. We'll climb from 300 ft where are gear is now to 2200 ft during the day and hoping to pitch our camp at the Trident Gap just below Trident Peak (4,200 ft). Our weather forecast shows a break in the wind at 6z (GMT). Sunrise is at 7:30z, so we'll probably get going as early as possible in the dark to take advantage of the small break. This break will likely only last about 3 hours so we'll have pretty strong winds and white-out conditions once we get to the Murray Snowfield at 1500 ft. Let's hope the GPS's are working…


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Preparing for the Traverse

by Amy, Saturday, October 19

We remain at anchor near the head of King Haakon Bay. Everyone slept in and awoke in good cheer. Breakfast included banana muffins and French toast. The day dawned with a light breeze which has developed into a stern 35+ knot wind—too much to ferry equipment ashore in preparation for Monday morning's departure. Unless the wind abates we will have to transport everything tomorrow (Sunday). After breakfast we took the opportunity to pack our food stores per tent occupants: Gretchen, Cam and Skip will be in one three-man tent; Larry, Ed and I in the other; Julian and Giorgio will be in a two-man tent that Julian brought along from the UK. The general food stores were all laid out in the salon and each team thought out what they would like for breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. Items are stowed in ziplock baggies and then put into a waterproof food bag for each pulk. Each person pulls a pulk that also contains their sleeping bag and personal gear (extra clothes, tooth brush, book, etc.). We will each wear a backpack with an extra layer of warm clothes, crampons, head torch, ice axe etc.

Right now everyone is working on their own to-do lists: sewing up holes in pockets, deciding which book to take (in case we're tent-bound in a blizzard for a day or more), putting skins on skis, checking harnesses, ropes, bindings etc.

I spoke with Skip this morning about the plight of Adelie penguins, whose colder habitat is shrinking as temperatures rise. The northern colonies must go further south and relocate where they can find room away from other established colonies. Gentoos, on the other hand, have more options for their colonies since they inhabit warmer climes. My new personal favorite is the King penguin with its beautiful orange/yellow neck and gray/black back feathers. I look forward to exploring the north side of the island after the traverse to see all the wildlife.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Landfall: South Georgia!

by Amy Oct 18th, King Haaken Bay

Our passage from Stanley, Falklands, to South Georgia Island was completed this morning at sunrise. The mountains facing us on the southwest side of the island are remarkably big and raw; the immediate sense of the place is that it remote and powerful. During the day we've been through several weather patterns ranging from blasting wind, cloudy and snowing to sunny and spring-like. We're enjoying everyone's company and pitching in for chores to make things move along each day. The boat is well prepared and serves as a very comfortable sailing vessel/home for us.

We're presently anchored at the head of King Haaken Bay in preparation for the island traverse. The weather pattern looks favorable for Tuesday morning, when we'll have to lower the pulks (our sleds holding our gear) over the Trident pass. This means that we'll depart early on Monday in order to make our way up to the Trident by Monday night. If the weather starts to turn bad by Tuesday mid-day, we may have to retreat to the tents until it blows over but we'll be over the pass which is the most challenging part of the traverse.

We went ashore today to see the sea elephants, their pups, and some King penguins whose feathers are beautiful. They march in a row and bump into each other if the leader stops. Their calls are quite different from the penguins we spent time with in Antarctica. Surrounding us are mountains and glaciers. We scouted a route from the beach up to the snowfield where we'll begin the ascent to the Trident (Monday). Tomorrow and Sunday we'll organize our loads, sort out food and gear, and make a stash on shore to pick up early Monday morning as we make our way from the shore up to the snow. We'll be busy! The traverse will be challenging in terms of distance traveled each day on our skis hauling our pulks, but we'll keep the pace reasonable and take a break every hour to rest and make readjustments.


South Georgia Sails into View at Sunrise!

By Larry Oct 18th arriving at South Georgia

We had the watch from 3-7am local time. What a treat to see the mountains and glaciers of South Georgia emerge out of the darkness and fog. At first we could only see some dark shapes but as the sun the mountains in front of us were in silhouette and the craggy peaks to our port side had a beautiful alpen glow to them.

The waves are still moderate, pushing and rolling us on their way in a hurry, only to crash on the rocks in front of us. Everyone got up, not wanting to miss the spectacular views, continually change as we sail up towards King Haakon Bay. The same bay that Shackleton sailed into. All around us, we can see the amazing turquoise colors of the glaciers with thousands of years of compressed ice flowing into the sea.

Directly ahead of us, we can see the Murray snowfield and Briggs glacier. This is where we plan to ski up. It's a lower ridge on our skyline, meaning that it will be the right place to cross the island, but that doesn't mean it will be easy! We'll be at the top in a few days I hope!


Last Night at Sea - South Georgia just out of sight

By Larry Oct 17
just off watch at 10pm UTC (2200 Zulu) Pos: 80nm west of South Georgia Island.

We've had a wonderful sail all the way so far. Downwind with the double headsail rig and only one or two adjustments for days. The low pressure systems keep marching through the Drake and their northern extents keep changing our wind direction. So we keep following the wind around to stay steadily downwind taking a bit of extra miles but no worries, we don't want to approach King Haaken Bay at night anyway. There are reefs marking the entrance and we'd like to see the boiling water hitting the reefs on either side so we know where to enter the bay safely. The bay is about 4 miles long and has another very shallow area in about 2 miles so Skip and Magnus think we will be reasonably protected in the head of the bay, especially if the wind has a bit of north in it.

Tonight's sunset lit up the sky even though we didn't actually get to see the sun set the light was beautiful as was the snow that was dropping on the deck when we went out to do a sail adjustment. I was on the bow trying to guide the furler line around the drum properly with ice on deck and on the bow pulpit that I was hanging onto. The waves are decent size, still the 15-20 ft max heights. We now have a bit of cross swell from the changing wind direction. The water temp is -0.5 degrees C (31 degrees F). The air is a bit colder. But being outside is a real treat. We definitely have passed the boundary into the Convergence Zone. Its cold and the water is a beautiful clear color at the top of the waves. It almost looks tropical.

Life on board has been very easy. Ed made a great bread and toffee pudding for desert tonight after Skip had made risotto al funghi. We are definitely eating well while the stores last. All the wine is staying chilled under the floorboards of our cabin.

Julian has been telling us about his work in conservation groups on South Georgia. Reindeer were introduced in the early 1900s by the Norwegians. Between the rats that have firmly grasped many areas of SG and the Reindeer, they have been hurting the populations of birds nesting on the island. One group has undertaken to get rid of all the rats, but they are waiting on Julian's group to get rid of all the reindeer first. They have transplanted some reindeer and have corralled the others and are now getting them ready for market. They sold off the first 2000 last year and this year will be the last remaining 2000 of the herd. As an end result, it is hoped that SG can be put back to the way it was before man started to interfere and that SG will once again be able to support the huge numbers of birds within the Convergence Zone that it did historically.

On we go into the night, with a nearly full moon on our bow, taking turns watching for icebergs and bergy bits, size of houses or trucks. Also, trying to keep our speed under 10 knots so we don't reach the island until after sunrise.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Iceberg Watch

By Skip Oct 17 Position: 54-15 S / 41-48W

24 hours to landfall on the island. This last day is critical in keeping a sharp eye out as the risk encountering ice is a given. This means tonight will be a very different story to the last three nights doing our four hour watches in the pilothouse, shuffling about in our slippers, drinking endless cups of tea while monitoring the radar. Quite likely we will have to slow down as the light fades and I will bet the visibility will 'crap out' with the northwesterly airstream setting in. Tricky business – needle in a hay stack situation with growlers and bergy bits just awash – waves look like ice, ice looks like waves . . . . . so its full gear; mittens and goggles for half hour turns in the cockpit staring into a grey soup, ready to hit the 'standby' button on the autopilot . . .

Tomorrow we have to decide on whether to go straight into King Haakon Bay to prep for the traverse or shelter in Elsehul Bay on the north coast for the two days (at least) we are likely to spend waiting for a settled period to begin the traverse. Not ideal conditions for sure, but lots to do 'scrapping and bagging' of equipment (how many pairs of sock?), fuel (I like plenty of brews!) and provisions (you take the salami, I'll take the cheese . . .).

Skip Novak, (expedition leader and owner of Pelagic Australis.
This will be Skip's 5th time on the traverse.


Back in the South!

By Cam Oct 17 Sunrise: Day 3 onboard Pelagic Australis

– rolling along with the westerlies down here in the rollicking furious fifties – latitude's that is. The roaring forties to the north and the screaming 60s to the south. We are eastbound and earthbound along the 52nd south highway. 2 headsails wing and wing held out by carbon poles and main lashed to centered boom is our sail configuration. Simple, Surfs in the 20 knot range, winds sometimes over 40 knots, seas, well seas, big and powerful seas and happy to running before them.

– Elegant sail configuration, no trimming required and the autopilot handles the rest as those on watch pass their time marveling at the seas, birds and surroundings. Conversations vary from the mundane topics, small banter to fill the voids, what might be the passing ship up to? Of the ends of the earth and high latitude explorations and climbing, crevasse rescues, to the end and beginnings of the human race, global warming, over fishing, terrorism, over population or deploying a new set of foils and flying to our destination of South Georgia in similar manner as the recent America's Cup cats seared down the San Francisco waterfront airborne on wings of carbon and of course food is discussed and prepared and eaten with lots of enthusiasm by those feeling well enough to partake.

The great birds, I consider my friends, the wandering sea birds of the southern oceans greeted us 3 days ago as we departing Stanley with the typically impressive aerial acrobatics that only the roaming seabirds of the southern oceans are capable of. Birds, big mysterious, beautiful and magically majestic, similar in many ways of my salty friends, who only return to land to breed.

I spend hours in awe, watching, wondering how I too could fly like an albatross or petrel. Soon, for my first time, I will get to see Albatross on the ground, on their nests and hopefully with eggs and young born soon to be aviators feeding, off regurgitated fish, preparing for a life roaming the vast oceans in elegant nomadic flight.

200 miles to go. Skis and camping gear ready for landing and the Shackleton traverse.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We set sail! Update from 310 miles east of the Falklands (450nm west of South Georgia)

by Larry Oct 15/16 early morning,

We set sail about 6pm Falkland Islands time. We were concerned that Skip, our expedition leader might not have landed on the RAF flight from the UK due to high winds, but luckily he did. It was blowing less hard outside the islands and as soon as we bore away onto our course direction of 105 degress (ESE) we were almost directly downwind and rolling a bit. Its such a privilege to be in the Southern Ocean again. Its hard to convey the number of birds following us and playing in our wind stream. Petrels, Albatross, terns and other birds. We have a number of bird guides on board and a few people like Mike and Julian who seem to know the birds well. They are all so graceful, almost never flapping their wings. Just soaring along the wave tops and then flipping up 30 feet and swooping back down to almost touch the waves. The waves are about 15-20 ft high. Its now about 34 hours since we cast off and we've made a good 300 nautical miles already. Its pretty cold outside, but Skip's new boat, Pelagic Australis at 74 ft, is quite a bit bigger and heavier than the original Pelagic at 54 ft. (Pelagic is the boat Amy and I and our two boys went to Antarctica on in 2000 along with Skip & Julian).The main new features are auto-pilot, so no one has to steer for hours at a time out in the cold and a pilot house with steering and great visibility all around without having to go out except when one wants to be out in the wind.

We have our mainsail put away on the boom right now and have two of our three headsails out, one on each side of the boat led through long poles for a very stable double headsail rig. Its like a parachute catching all the wind while also riding the waves downhill. This afternoon was sunny and about 30 degrees (water temp is about 40 degrees here and will hit 32 degrees when we cross the convergence zone. Inside the Convergence Zone, the wildlife population grows immensely due I think to the greater amount of krill. THis is where the whales feed as do the smaller fixh and birds and seals. We sat outside by the mast for a couple hours fixing some rigging that had needed repair from UV damage over the years. When it was fixed we came in for tea and biscuits and after lots of continued catching up with each we had supper. Amy and I are on the 6-10 am and pm watch (using GMT), which is really about 3-7 am and pm local time. so one watch is in the aftenoon light as the sun is going down and the other watch is the wee hours of the morning before sunrise. Each of us does 4 hours on and then 8 hours off unless there are sail changes or other things that need more hands. Georgio is on our watch along with either Magnus or Laura and Tom (the boat's professional crew and Skip stagger their watches to keep some continuity between the watches.

The weather forecast shows winds at nearly 40 knots in the next day or two as a low pressure system moves through the Drake Passage (around Cape Horn) and then contineus on its way unimpeded around the bottom of the world. These systems bring more wind and often a change in the direction of the wind for half a day or more while they pass to the south of us. In the southern hemisphere the wind around low pressure systems go closkwise instaed of counter-clockwise as in the northern hemisphere. So the tops of the lows give us stronger westerly winds which is great for the outbound journey but will make it a direct upwind slog coming back from SG.

Its so great to be on our way after all the hard work of everyone in preparing for the expedition, we can relax and enjoy our time at sea and beyond. I easily slip into a routine at sea, feeling very much back home in the Southern Ocean.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Couple pictures from Pelagic Website

Waiting for Skip to arrive on the RAF flight this afternoon and then we'll leave. Blowing 35 from the NW - Course is ESE, 4 days sailing

Here is a picture of the boat we're sailing on - Pelagic Australis

and where we're going on South Georgia Island:

The remains of Great American I, the trimaran that saved our friends Rich Wilson and Steve Pettengill

by Larry - preparing to leave Stanley

I sent out an alert to many friends about following our adventure and got back from Rich Wilson, who is preparing for his second Vendee Globe, round the world, non-stop race in his mid-60's the following email before we left the internet cafe:

You may or may not know that our 60' trimaran Great American, that was lost in the double somersaulting capsize 400 nm west of Cape Horn on November 22, 1990, and then drifted around the Horn after Steve Pettengill and I were taken off by the giant refrigerated containership New Zealand Pacific (their logbook read swells of 15 meters, sea train on top of 5 meter, 85 knots of wind), ended up on the west coast of South Georgia Island about 20-25 miles south of where Shackleton landed. Should you see her, tell her thanks for being strong enough to not break up in those 2 capsizes. She was found a year or so later by someone cruising who said she'd been washed up over the rocks, bottom ripped out. This was confirmed by Tim and Pauline Carr, who lived on their boat in S. Georgia for 7 years I think and wrote Antarctic Oasis. I never wanted to see her in that state so never visited. She was a great boat.

We all remember his adventure and stories that he lived to tell so many about. Rich, I asked Magnus about it and he said he did see your Great American I exactly where you said when he was sailing past with a kayaking expedition last year. Center hull of the trimaran was still there on the rocks 23 years later. Nothing degrades inside the Convergence Zone! He'll give her a good word from you next time he goes by. We'll probably be too far north.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

In the Falklands, Preparing to Leave tomorrow for South Georgia

Amy: October 13, Stanley, Falklands 

Greetings from the Falklands,

Yesterday we flew from Chile via Argentina to East Falkland Island. Julian, Ed, Michael and Giorgio were also on the flight; this means our team is complete except for Skip, who will arrive on Monday. The airport is the GB military base, located about 20 miles from Stanley. The terrain is quite desolate with pete bogs and rocks left from the last glacial episode. Sweeping vistas include yellow short grass with occasional herds of sheep and rolling hills. There are fenced off areas designating land mine fields; a constant reminder of the 1982 Falklands War between GB and Argentina.

We were greeted at Pelagic Australis by Magnus, Laura and Thomas under sunny skies and a mild breeze (by Falkland standards). After loading all our gear on the boat, we all sorted and reorganized sailing clothes and stowed the ski/traverse equipment. Larry and I have been assigned to the starboard forward cabin--I've taken the top bunk. Down below the boat has a wonderful salon with a heater, cushioned seating/table area, and well-designed galley. There are three cabins and a head on the port and starboard sides. Up front is a workshop and the forepeak holding supplies and gear. Up above is a pilot house with seats, the nav station, and a hydrolic wheel to steer if the auto pilot needs help. The boat is sturdy, well cared for, and ready to go.

We all had a nice walk through town on our way to dinner at the Malvinas Hotel. Several of us had Shackleton beer with delicious reindeer from South Georgia, where they're being eradicated and sent to the Falklands for eating. Reindeer were introduced to South Georgia by the Norwegian whalers, who wanted fresh meat. The reindeer did thrive, but over time their grazing habits have been very damaging to the island's delicate ecosystem. The reindeer are corralled on SG and then killed and shipped on a freezer ship to the Falklands.

Back on the boat, we settled into our bunks as the wind picked up, rattling the rigging. Everyone was quite happy to not be out sailing!

Today dawned cloudy with big breeze as we awoke to the smells of fresh coffee and Laura's tasty apple muffins. Michael, Larry and I went on a short tour of part the island with Tony, a Falklander who was able to explain some details about the Falklands War and the local history. We visited a sheep station at Fitzroy where the young sheep, just sheared, were quite cold without their coats.

Tomorrow morning Magnus will give us the safety and sailing briefing. In the afternoon, after Skip arrives, we'll set off for SG. The weather report is generally favorable with possible 60 knot winds once we arrive. That will make landing for the traverse quite difficult. We'll see!