Wednesday 7 February 2001
Peter Blake history
March 19, 2020

“To be alone on watch and hear the sharp blows of the whales nearby, and to have them return time and time again.”
– Sir Peter Blake

  • Location: George VI Sound
  • Latitude: 69.54S
  • Longitude: 68.57W
  • Wind: Light southerly
  • Sea: Smooth
  • Air temp: Minus 4 deg C, minus 7 deg C at night
  • Sea temp: 0 deg C
  • Barometer: 990 mbs and falling
  • Conditions: Foggy

1000 hrs: We decided to move at around 2330 (11.30 pm) yesterday. I was asleep when Alistair came and suggested that it might be a good idea to depart, as the huge iceberg that was off our stern all day was on the move and was closing in on our berth alongside the ice. We quickly retrieved the shorelines and steel stake and eased away to the east. Where we were moored is now completely obliterated by the berg.

So, with the sun setting we motored along the ice edge until we reached a spot that looked friendly. We drove Seamaster’s bow onto the pack so that Alistair and Janot could climb down and sledgehammer the stake back into the ice to act as a securing point for our bowline.

Immediately a large leopard seal cruised by, the crabeater seals were everywhere, but are very wary of the leopard (and I am not surprised). Then a few minke whales came right alongside and went under Seamaster – disappearing under the sea ice for quite a while – probably to feed on the krill. All this activity, and more, has continued overnight.

Even though the air temperature stayed between minus six and seven degrees C all night, the surface of the sea has shown no signs of freezing – due we think to the current coming under the ice from the south.

To be alone on watch and hear the sharp blows of the whales nearby, and to have them return time and time again. To see a leopard seal try and catch a crabeater seal by chasing it out of the water and following it onto the ice right next to our bow, with the crabeater hissing and bubbling at his larger foe. To follow the seven or eight seals as they frolicked along the edge of the ice in the misty early morning light right under our bows and show no hint of concern. It was just perfect.

There is a thick mist this morning – spreading ice onto the upwind faces of all of the rigging, the masts, the ropes and the dinghy. Any water on the deck is slick ice.

Yesterday four of us had a game of scrabble at the table set up on the ice alongside Seamaster, just before dinner. Don, Janot, Alistair and I braved the bitingly cold breeze to have our farthest south game yet. Some of the words allowed were quite doubtful, but none of us wanted to sit there any longer than necessary. The cold gradually ate in through even our thick thermal layers so that we were very glad to get back onboard and down below to the now heated interior. The big diesel stove in the saloon is working well, 24 hours a day. It is only set on a very low heat as we can stand far lower temperatures than this. But summer here on the Antarctic Peninsula is usually quite benign so this is probably about as low as it will go. It is the wind chill factor that really tells…

Photo credit: Don Robertson