Wednesday 31 January 2001
Peter Blake history
March 19, 2020

“Man has the ability to change the environment of the world we all live in, and is doing so, with little regards to the consequences. Man has the ability to correct the problem.”
– Sir Peter Blake

  • Location: At anchor at Thorne Point
  • Latitude: 66.57S
  • Longitude: 67.12W
  • Wind: Fresh southeasterly (katabatic)
  • Sea: Calm at anchor but rough at sea
  • Air temp: 6 deg C
  • Sea temp: 0 deg C
  • Barometer: 998 mbs and falling
  • Conditions: Fine and sunny

1830 hrs: We have just anchored behind a couple of small islands which are shown as dots on the chart – at Thorne Point at the end of the Arrowsmith Peninsula.

The evening is now blazingly fine and quite warm. There are three bergs aground in 40 metres of water just to starboard, and an ice cliff just to port. The slight current is holding us facing southwest and straight into the sun. There are two enormous glaciers, in deep bays each side of this peninsula. They are very, very wide and stretch way back into the distance without narrowing at all – vast, moving masses of old, old ice. All around is high ice and snow-covered jagged mountains as far as the eye can see.

The view is extraordinary yet again.

But the day started a little differently – generator on at 0530, main engines at 0540 to warm up, and into our full deck gear. The wind was peaking at 15 knots and we were dragging the anchor chain across the rocky bottom of Mutton Cove, making quite a loud noise thru the boat.

Once we were out into the Sound and southward-bound the wind eased back to a calm, before building quickly again from the east. Looking at the mountains not many miles away to windward, we could see the telltale wispy clouds curving from the tops of the mountains down to the sea. They covered the peaks for miles. The sky went a pale purpley-grey at the same time, and the land became very hazy – disappearing into a weird coloured mist at times.

The wind was quite moderate for a katabatic wind – the very cold air off the high snow plateau of the Antarctic Peninsula rushing down the mountainsides and out to sea. The closer to land, the more violent the wind.

We stayed well clear and made good speed with just a section of headsail set and both motors idling away. The wind then dropped and came in much harder from ahead as we turned south-eastwards towards our present anchorage. It took a few hours with the wind increasing as we neared the land, along with the wave heights. Our speed dropped to only four knots in the stronger squalls. And there was a lot of free ice amongst the bergs that suddenly increased tenfold.

To dodge the bergy bits meant being on deck, two on lookout all the time, with no part of our bodies exposed to the wind or spray that came right over when Seamaster shoved her bow right in, now and again. Balaclavas, ski goggles, full Musto gear, thermals, boots, gloves, etc.

But the anchorage we are now in, just a gap between a couple of small islands and the shore, is very peaceful.

This anchorage is normally solid ice at this time of the year. The large inlet leading southwards down the narrows inside Adelaide Island is normally not navigable. But this year it is for the first time, according to a ships captain we met two nights ago. He has been in this part of the Antarctic (on passenger ships) every year for the past 25 years and has never seen it like this. He told us that the temperature here on the Peninsula was now 1.4 degrees C warmer than 25 years ago. We also understand that there is little ice further south towards King George VI ice shelf at latitude 70 deg south – our destination. But we will have to wait and see for ourselves.

Atmospheric warming is definitely happening here, like everywhere else.

We can halt it if we want to. That’s the crazy thing.

Man has the ability to change the environment of the world we all live in, and is doing so, with little regards to the consequences. Man has the ability to correct the problem.

But does he want to? Does he have the will??

Photo credit: Don Robertson