Monday, January 19, 2009

Xplore to Antarctica: 18 Jan 2009

The "dog watch" was in raptures ... Dawn in the Southern Ocean summer happens early; light is full at 4am, and when the daytime watch came on deck the talk was all about 'the whale'. The first whale sighting of the trip was an excellent one with a Fin whale coming right next to Xplore as we slid along at a healthy 8.5 knots. Daytime winds started to ease in the mid-afternoon as forecast, lifting stratocumulous clouds showed broken patches, and the rain eased. Well across the convergence zone, where the relatively warm water of the Southern Ocean blends into the cold icy waters from Antarctica, we had small amounts of the telltale fog and mists that can last for days. By evening meal time though we could see to the west the opening clear skies of the centre of the passing low that had slowly been moving to the east. A number of us sat on deck as the sun finally dropped to the horizon, at 10.20pm, soon to rise again in a few hours from the east. We sat in hopes of possibly seeing the "Green Flash" as the hues of different colours painted the sky from blues, pinks, reds and greens, a wonderful recuperative sight -- especially for those who suffered a little bit of seasickness during the first days of the passage ... We continue with 230 nm to Elephant Island, first known by whalers and sealers beginning in the 1820's for the large number of Elephant seals. We hope to be able to land there at the site where Sir Ernest Schackleton departed on his rescue mission to South Georgia to save his men. He left these frozen shores in the tiny James Caird with a handful of his team mates to make the epic voyage across the Southern Ocean, and finally save the entire team with no life lost some months later. More news to come ~ Stephen and the team on Xplore

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