The voyage continues
21:00 on Friday the 17th November, 2006
It is hard to believe that today is Friday Nov. 17 as we have seen and done so
much; time just flies and we've hardly any time to sit down and write a blog let
alone our diaries. Why? well very simply since arriving in Argentina on Nov. 3rd Rosemarie
and I have been having a ball!
We had a great few days in Buenos Aires seeing a lot of the city and enjoying ourselves.
We flew down to Ushuaia on Nov. 7th and had a day to get a feeling for the town.
A real frontier type town with small colourful houses with corrugated roofs, certainly
not what I was expecting for this part of the world. The people are extremely warmhearted and
sweet. The group was divided up into two hotels and ours Los Acebos overlooked the harbour and
the Beagle Channel. It was in such a good location that we could see the ship chug up the Channel
early in the morning of the 8th. I must admit that when I saw it, it looked like a midget in size.
We had dinner in Kaupe, a great restaurant Elaine remembered from her trip down this area 4 years ago.
The family were marvellous and the food even better, we had great craic with them. On our free day,
we visited the Terre del Fuego National Park which was my first taste of untouched nature. We also
walked to literally "the end of the road".
Since we boarded the ship on November 9, it has been all go go go. The first part was getting adjusted
to the ship, 3 days at sea, the landscape and witnessing the traverse team preparing all their gear and doing tent
assembly practice, roping practice of hauling someone out of a crevice and similar. These practices gave me
a completely different sense of what would be ahead of them.
Coming into King Haakon Bay early in the morning was incredulous, steep mountains rising from the sea,
some partly covered in snow, but what was most spectacular were the glaciers, different types
(some covered in snow and very smooth, and some like the one beside Shackleton's gap full of
crevices and looking grey and white). The peaks of the mountains were rather jagged. It took us about an
hour to reach the holding place and Rolf and Sigurd left at about 06.30 hrs for Pegotty Bluff, all the
equipment followed and then to everyone's surprise, all team members had disembarked by 08.30
ahead of the schedule. It seems ages now that they set off on the 13th in wonderful sunny weather to be reunited
with us at Fortuna Bay 3 days later. The reunion was mighty and it was a fantastic feeling to realise that they
had all crossed safely and with great speed. We had stood on the bridge, practically being blown off as the
wind was so strong, and watched them coming down Tom Crean Glacier like ants in the distance getting larger
and larger. I was so happy to see the specks on the snow against a sky lit by the evening sun. it felt great
to realise that they had performed the same feat as Shackleton, Crean and Worsely 90 years ago.
We heard later that they had had terrible katabatic winds which blew some of the team off their feet despite
their heavy back-packs, whosh and they were flying! This morning coming into Gold Harbour there were the
same winds (very typical of South Georgia); katabatic - gravity-driven wind caused by colder, heavier air
rushing down from the polar plateau.
In their absence, we had the opportunity to do our first Zodiac landing at Pegotty Bluff and walk through loads
of elephant seals, and penguins. The first I've ever seen in the wild. The latter are hilarious creatures
as they "waddle" on their heels, they are extremely curious and if I just stood there, they came up and
surrounded me getting so close as to be able to peck my boots. Next on the cards was the Bay of Isles with
Prion Island where the magnificant wandering albatrosses breed, Salisbury Plain which was full of elephant seals, the males
massive, king penguins, too many to count spread over a huge beach and up the hill. We were not allowed to go
near to the young penguin creches with a multitude of furry brown forms but the sight was amazing especially as they
formed a type of cross up the hill. To be seen to be believed!
We were reunited with the traverse team in Fortuna Bay and walked with them to Stromness, I was so pleased
with myself to have been able climb the steep mountains, through screes, stones, snow and the most fascinating
mountain profiles. To stand at the point where we could look down on Stromness Bay was a very deep moment.
To remember what the three men must have thought when they heard the whaling stations whistle gave me the
shivers, and I was not alone with my emotion.
Since then we've visited Grytviken. Grytviken where Shackleton is buried, overlooked by the most beautiful
mountain on the opposite side of King Edward Cove, where I witnessed the most mind-blowing sunrise, captured
on the Nikon, and this after a whale of a return traverse party where we all sang and danced and the Commissioner
of South Georgia - Patrick - played the guitar and had a great time. The whaler's graveyard is dominated by
Shackleton's grave and I wondered where all the Norwegians were buried who died in the same area. The next day,
yesterday, we walked from Grytviken to Maiviken. Again another marvellous trek this time through soft snow
where the legs sunk deeply into the it. Every corner I turned another astonishing view; nature's influence very
evident, the stones, mosses, plants multicoloured, and the thought that this was true pristine natural
environment was overwhelming.
This morning, we had a Zodiac cruise around Cooper Bay up to the front of Cooper Island, and saw our first
leopard seal - the fearsome predator - swimming in the water, what a sight, poor Elaine got the fright of
her life when his mouth suddenly was just inches away from her camera lens. We saw fur seals, giant petrels,
light-mantled sooty albatrosses, macaroni penguins, snowy sheath-bills (a pigeon type shorebird whose toes
only have vestigal webs which is a bit unusual for the Antarctica.
I am writing this blog in the smaller part of the lounge (it has taken about two hours because of the huge
glacier (Risting Glacier)we saw as we sailed to the end of the Drygalski Fjord and it was like a sculptured
piece of work, the deep colours, the various shapes of ice carved out, a marvel. It is amazing to come
down each day and see people sitting at their computers updating their files, reading, snoozing or just
looking at the landscape.It seems to be an unwritten rule to all of us to let the "others" do what they
want and the harmony on board is unbelievably good. We are heading off down to the South Orkney Isles
and going through Scotia Sea. It is going to be a bit rough, they say. Lets see!!!
To close for today, I can only say that this is a most wonderful journey when each day brings new discoveries,
delights, joys and unbelievable exchanges, where my respect for nature is deepening more than before. I watch
my team mates totally dedicated to recording their daily notes, photos etc and the problem we have is trying
to remember all that we do and see.
Love to you all
p.s. Jack (Murphy) was so good to chose the title to today's blog.
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