What happened to the Mountains?
Date: 19 February 2011
I have to be honest – we’ve not been as lucky with the weather as we could have been. Yesterday morning we were to leave Paradise Harbour and head south to the Le Mair Strait. Otherwise known as Kodak Valley it is a narrow stretch of water (about a mile wide) surrounded by what are considered to be the most spectacular and photogenic mountains on the peninsula.
But first we had to untie the long lines secured to rocks near the shore. I was handed a pair of fisherman’s waders and, suitably attired, Dave took me in the Zodiac to stand thigh deep in the freezing water ready to cast off.
Some boats come down here and enjoy weeks of uninterrupted sunshine. Not us. The day was very grey with flurries of sleet sweeping through the anchorage. Once we got out into the Gerlache Strait we found we were in blizzard conditions with a stiff Force 9 wind from the northwest. This was rather more than forecast. The sea wasn’t a problem as all the waters here are protected by the surrounding islands, but visibility was appalling. Strong winds tend to push ice into the narrows of the Le Mair Strait making it at best difficult to transit, if not impossible. As the strength of wind was not forecast, we weren’t sure whether it was going to get even worse or if and when it was to abate. If it didn’t abate, tying into an anchorage would be near impossible and there aren’t any convenient places down there to swing to the anchor. And in these conditions we wouldn’t even be able to see the spectacular mountains let alone revel in their beauty. So after an hour or so, Miles wisely but disappointingly decided to abort and head back to the safety of the large anchorage at Port Lockroy. The anchor went down just after lunch and the afternoon was spent lazing around in the snug comfort of the pilot house or saloon reading, chatting or, in my case catching up with the blog and editing the hundreds of photos I’ve taken.
Talking of photos, I did try and send a few to the blogsite yesterday, but I’m not sure if any of them got through – the satellite signal can be rather patchy here with all the mountains. I’ll try and send a few more today.
I’ve got quite a lot of minutes worth of credit on the satphone, so I’ve been enjoying the rather surreal luxury of calling on most days the Absent Downstairs Skipper back in Buenos Aires, trying to share with her as best I can the extraordinary experience of this adventure. Yesterday I also gave Selina and Peter a call as well. It was great talking to them.
This morning we made a very early start (0600) to try once again to get to Le Mair Strait. Not quite as bad as yesterday, but the weather remains grey, cold and miserable, so fingers crossed. We hope to end the day even further south at Vernadsky which is the Ukrainian research station. The scientists at Vernadsky are renowned for their hospitality and I’m told that they try and get through their research programme in the winter so that they can devote the summer to serious partying with visiting yachts. It will be Saturday night and we have four Russians on board who are very much looking forward to chatting with their fellow Russian-speakers and sampling some of their home-brewed garyelka. Could be quite a night – if we get there.