“A grey sky with snow showers about and a grey sea – except on looking down into our wake the real colour is a crystal clear icy blue, the shades of blue seen in the inner depths of old glacial ice.”
– Sir Peter Blake
- Location: 6 miles from the eastern end of King George Island in the South Shetlands
- Course: 140 deg True
- Wind: Variable 5 knots
- Sea: Smooth with a long, low, NW swell.
- Air temp: 6 deg C
- Sea temp: 1 deg C
- Barometer: 993 mbs and rising
It’s 0730 and the visibility is not great. A grey sky with snow showers about and a grey sea – except on looking down into our wake the real colour is a crystal clear icy blue, the shades of blue seen in the inner depths of old glacial ice. The birds are back this morning – light mantled sooty albatross, cape pigeons, wilsons petrels, and a few penguins popping their heads above the surface to watch us go by.
Late yesterday afternoon there were 3 minke whales only 200 metres away to starboard, unconcerned by our presence. And the night… well, there wasn’t one. By 11pm a twilight had set in, and by 0230 it was fully light again. The glow of the sun travelled along the horizon ahead of us during our midnight to 0300 time on watch.
We are not sure of the ice concentrations ahead of us, as the latest set of ice figures received yesterday on one of our satellite links was missing the page for our area, and there isn’t another broadcast for a further week. So we will probably move to 3 persons on watch from later today, with one being on permanent ice lookout on the bow, linked to the pilot-house by radio.
The island of King George can be seen on the radar, fine on the starboard bow. We are closing in, but are not sure if we will stop here at Admiralty Bay, or continue on to Hope Bay, another 80 miles or so further south at the top end of the Antarctic Peninsula. At Hope Bay the Argentine Government has a base, and this is where we will be leaving the 3 kayakers for the start of their marathon adventure paddling down the west side of the Peninsula over the next few weeks.
Much of our planning and decision making now depends upon the weather, and with winds freshening from the north-east forecast for 24 hours time, we want to make sure we get them ashore while we can. Hope Bay is not the place to be in this wind direction. The Antarctic Pilot states: Especially in the early summer, the approach to the anchorage is liable to be found blocked by bergy bits. It is exposed to the very strong katabatic winds which blow down the bay with little warning.
We will wait until we have new weather information later this morning before making a decision. This is not a part of the world where one can stick to schedules at any time. And being our first time here means that we will naturally be rather cautious until we get a feel for local conditions.
Photo credit: Don Robertson