From Sally (3): Ushuaia, Argentina to the Antarctic on the Anne-Margaretha
A Day in Telefon Bay!
Today is Wednesday 25th February and our 7th day at sea. The weather looked benign, nearly sunny with little wind but there was a storm forecast so we were staying at Deception Island till it blew though and the wind turned Northerly. The plan for today was to move from our safe little harbour, Telefon Bay, to Pendulum Cove where there was hot water to be found on the beach.
We all went ashore and Sam started to dig at the water’s edge. Sure enough the hole started to fill with warm water. Sigrid took off her waterproof jacket to reveal the penguin suit she was wearing underneath. Thomas made friends with a curious skua and got some good photographs. Paul stripped down to a pair of shorts and ran into the freezing water. He swam out for a bit then came back to wallow in the warm bath. Silvy followed but skipped the freezing swim and went straight in to the warm pool. Next was Johannes who braved the cold water first, followed closely by Thomas, then Lieke and Allard, and lastly Sigrid. They are all nuts, but I have to admit I would have been sorely tempted if I’d brought a swimsuit. I remember getting it out of the cupboard but somehow it never made it to my backpack.
Welcome on the Spanish Base Gabriel-Castilla
After lentil soup and a warm up back on the boat we up anchored and headed towards Gabriel-Castilla Bay where there was a Spanish research base. Heinz had been in contact with the base and had arranged for us all to visit. At least that’s what he thought was arranged. Just after the first dinghy load of us had got ashore, there was a call on the radio from the Spanish research vessel which was hovering a bit further out than us. They had been in to close the station yesterday and had actually invited us all on board their ship instead.
Climbing up a rope ladder dangling from the side of a ship was a new experience for most of us. We were warmly welcomed aboard by the Commander of the ship who lead us to the mess room where we were treated to a presentation about the research vessel and the team aboard. The ship was called the Hesperides and was funded by the Environmental Department of the Spanish Government and manned by the navy. There was a crew of 60 on board, all navy, providing a service to groups of scientists. As it was the end of the season, there were no scientists aboard. The ship was now being deployed to close all the Spanish bases and mothball them for the winter.
We were then taken on a tour of the ship which started on the bridge. We were allowed to photograph anything we liked including the captain’s cabin, and the navigation screens. We saw the kitchens and the medical room which was very well equipped with even an x-ray facility and could do minor operations but nothing that required full anaesthetic.
They could even set up a direct video link with a hospital back in Spain and arrange to evacuate someone in an emergency.
We were also taken on a tour of the empty laboratories. The ship had multiple depth sounders which could show the sea bed in detail, below the sea bed, out to the sides and the water column immediately below the ship. The ship could be positioned precisely and kept in one spot for water sampling and other scientific research. While we were enjoying the tour we were taken to the side deck and shown the water sampling equipment.
The wind had increased dramatically and Heinz could see Anne-Margaretha dragging her anchor. Quick as a flash Heinz, Sam, Thomas and Henrike were in the dinghy and off to the rescue. We all returned to the mess for coffee. Paul had thoughtfully brought a bottle of wine as a thank you gift for the Commander, who immediately called for one of the crew to fetch a bottle for us in return.
We struggled back into our waterproof gear and lifejackets. Heinz brought Anne-Margaretha close to Hesperides and we were transferred back to our ship by dinghy in small groups. It was another new experience climbing down a rope ladder into a dinghy which was being sucked alongside the Hesperides and buffeted by 40 knot winds and a rising chop.
Once everyone was safely back on board we waved farewell to our generous hosts and headed back to Telefon Bay where both bow anchors were set with the usual care. Enticing smells wafted from the galley. We dined on chicken risotto with apple and fennel salad, followed by banana and chocolate cake. Yum!! Anchor watches were allocated for the night, some stayed up for card games and others including Al and me retired for a good night’s sleep – we had a welcome night off from anchor watch.
Next morning the weather was still inclement so we stayed put and had another foray to the shore. This time we hiked around the lagoons, passing one lone Gentoo penguin sheltering from the wind and then headed up hill to the top of the nearest peak. There were now three boats in our bay, “Iceberg” registered in the Cayman Islands, “Hans Hansson” registered in London and us, really crowded.
(photo: crabeater on Deception Island)
From the top of the peak we could see the whole of Port Foster laid out before us, with a new mantle of snow and a lot less rock showing than when we first came in. On the way down we had to make a snowman so everyone set to rolling snowballs. Silvy worked hard packing snow and building up the base. Thomas rolled a huge snowball for the head. It took two people to lift it into position. Two stones made the eyes, a small rock made a nose and three more stones made a smiling row of teeth. After taking lots more photos we headed down to the next plateau where a large crabeater seal was having a sleep lying flat on his back, or rather as flat as his enormous amount of blubber would allow. He looked dead, but there was an occasional wave of a flipper and a languorous scratch of the belly so we knew he was alive.
Back to Anne-Margaretha for an early dinner of hamburgers and chocolate pudding, then early to bed ready for a 4am start for the 18 hour sail south to Enterprise Island. Another great day enjoyed by all.
(The photos on this page are from the 2nd Antarctica trip, one month ago! Actual photos will follow later!)