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Pop goes the weasel
13/11/2013, 64 49.4'S:063 29.7'W, In the fast ice, back bay Port Lockroy

The good ship Pelagic awoke to a strange sound this morning. The VHF radio crackled into life around 7.30 and we heard a foreign voice over the radio. Not that foreign, I think the accent was American, but foreign to our little group, who for the last two weeks has heard only the sound of the same 6 people and the penguins. Ioffe, the first cruise ship to make it into Lockroy this season had arrived, bringing with it the 3 new members of Port Lockroy staff and a boat load of cruise ship tourists. It must be a relief for Helen that the rest of her gang has arrived safely but from our point of view I think we had all become rather used to having the place to ourselves.

The arrival of the cruise ships is in fact the second drastic change to the landscape. Yesterday the ice finally cleared, and when it happened, it happened quickly. Really quickly. Knowing that the ice was getting soft and that our bergy mooring boulders would soon be on the move, Dave and I had broken the golden rule of always leaving one person on the boat and nipped ashore to climb the hill, get some height and try and scout out a new spot. As I mentioned to Dave that you could almost see the ice breaking up as you looked at it, it did just that, a large ice boulder on our starboard bow dislodged, briefly hooked the mooring line making the boat heel over suddenly and headed out to sea at speed. As if a plug had been pulled, all along the shore a fast flowing river opened up, pulling ice of varying sizes with it. The ice sheet in the middle of the bay, including our bergs, appeared to still be intact but there was a bit of a mad scramble to lift the mooring lines over some of the larger chunks of ice getting caught on them. Time to think about moving. By this stage it was now quite breezy and so we upped sticks, pulled in the lines and before heading out tried to dislodge a bit more ice to hasten the process. I think Dave just likes crashing in to things sometimes. Andrew and Ruth were keen to help us find a new spot, and so whilst Dave held us steady by gently driving into the remaining ice sheet, which still stretched as far as the eye could see, I picked the guys up by zodiac. It was as we were planning our next move that we noticed that the ice we were using to steady ourselves was in fact moving. The entire thing was drifting out as one. We made a hasty getaway, sidestepping into the Peltier Channel to allow this massive ice floe past, laving the bay completely bare for us to drive into. Ruth and I scouted out a few rocks we could put wire strops around and managed to find one good one on the western tip of Jougla point. The boys then too k their turn and after a few attempts managed to hammer a large stake into snow just east of our strop. Although it still wasn't actually dark, by now it was now almost midnight and driving snow was making it bitterly cold. We used each mooring point as a bow line and with a steady 30knts blowing form the northeast, we spent a rather peaceful night literally hanging here.

Unfortunately, with nothing to hold us off the land apart from the wind, for once it was actually not a relief when the breeze dropped in the morning. Dave and I watching in slow motion as the wind direction did a complete 180* and we suddenly found ourselves heading into shallow water. Once again we threw off the lines and hasty retreat. It is rather strange to be motoring around open water that just a few days we were trekking across on snow shoes.

All this ice movement has cleared out the back bay right up to the sea ice, so that is our current spot, looking out the starboard side windows towards the base. Once again Dave √"made a gap' and for now at least the ice around us is holding. Nice to have a change of scenery after almost a week hanging off icebergs in Lecuyer Point.

Our final bit of news in this rather extended report (it has been an eventful 24hrs) is that Dave didn't sink when he went for his swim yesterday. In fact, that was part of the problem. In his new drysuit we were struggling to put enough lead in his pockets to get him under. I offered to feed him up but he tells me that wouldn't really help as fat floats. Make of that what you will. We eventually got him to sink enough that he could reach the rudder and reattach the line. There was only one slight panic when his regulator froze but luckily it chose to piss air out continuously rather than stop air coming out completely. Once safely back onboard, after a cigarette, changing out of his dry suit and a cup of tea (in that order) Dave admitted that he rather enjoyed the whole experience. Now we just have to stop the water tricking in his neck seal, and obtain a regulator that doesn't freeze in cold weather.

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13/11/2013 | James Annan
Thanks for the updates - I'm enjoying reading your news.

(I'm Helen's little brother)
15/11/2013 | Bertie's Dad
Transat 1 Aymeric BELLOIR 3209.5 nm 2 Justine METTRAUX 3221.2 nm 3 Simon KOSTER Go4it 3225.4 nm-40 still sailing-13dns or abandon
British biscuits for British bases.
12/11/2013, 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy

Being British, and currently residing at a British Antarctic base, lets first address the important matter of talking about the weather. Today, the sun is out again, great for filming, but unfortunately it is not one of the perfectly still Antarctic days we relish, and a light NE force 4 is interfering with Ruth's sound equipment. Pesky wind. On the boat we're not complaining though, force 4 is an improvement on last night, which it must be said was rather blustery. With the breeze dead on the nose Pelagic spent the night tacking on the spot. The Skipper's dulcet snoring was accompanied by the sporadic dull thud, and a slight rig shake, as the bow of the boat nudged the ice on one side, and then the other. We'd played with our lines before bed, but only managed to slow the process, not stop it completely, so we just had to put up with the noise. The skipper's dulcet snoring was rather reassuring though, as we all agreed that there was no need to worry until the thud became l oud enough to wake him. Our icy mooring boulders seem to be holding, for now at least. We're hoping we might get another day or two out of them before the pack ice blows out of the back bay and we can tie onto the fast ice. We shall see.

The reason I mention that we are in fact at a British base is that there was a near diplomatic incident last night, when the Welsh Dragon was to be seen flying proudly from the Lockroy flagpole, hoisted by our mischievous token Welshman, Tudor. In order to defend the honour of Queen and Country I equipped the gang with tea and Jaffa cakes and they have headed back today to hoist the Union Jack, as it should be. Tudor tells me that its tradition that the youngest person has to hoist the flag, which was about the most exciting thing to have happened to me, but unfortunately with the temperatures soaring as high as 5 degrees today, it was deemed sensible that both of us stay with the boat, in case one of our mooring icebergs decides to make a break for freedom and we have to make a quick exit. Shame.

As consolation for not being chief-flag-hoister, for the first time today we have had penguins swimming right up to the boat. The algal boom hasn't kicked off and the melt water isn't really flowing yet so visibility through the water is like nothing I have ever seen. Poor Dave has decided that today is the day he is going for a swim, as the line to pull the rudder up was one of the surprisingly few breakages we had on our way over. Even in a dry suit and with the sun out I don't much envy him. The kettle is already on and the Refleks is turned up high.

As a final bit of news, now that there is a bit of clear water around us, we have just fired up the water maker. Anyone who knows about Skip Novak's philosophy on keeping technology to a minimum might be surprised to hear talk of water makers but this is an ingenious, low-tech, zero-maintenance model, known as the Ice-water-butt2000. Simple to run, you simply hack off a bit of glacial ice as it floats past (its important to check it is glacial, and not salty sea ice) plop it into the Ice-water-butt2000 which is sitting on top of the engine box in the saloon and wait for it to melt. It may look like a 200L garden water butt bought from the garden centre in Stanley, but don't let that fool you. As an added bonus, in the evening there is also a ready supply of ice for gin and tonics without ever having to go outside. Marvellous

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Filming commences
11/11/2013, 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy

I am writing this from an eerily quiet Pelagic. All you can hear is the sounds of ice melting and bubbling away outside the hull, the occasional bump as a piece dislodges and makes it way down the side of the hull, and the dulcet tones of penguins coming back from fishing. Andrew and Ruth are ashore, busy as beavers. Today is not the first day of filming either. Working down here is not as easy as simply stepping off the boat with a Peli-case, setting up the camera and pressing record though. With Pelagic still beset in ice Andrew and Ruth, led by Tudor, had to perform the tricky traverse across the pack ice on snow shoes, how to get the film equipment ashore was another challenge though. Not wanting to carry heavy camera equipment across the ice of varying thicknesses, Tudor and Dave spent a fun afternoon banging stakes into the snow ashore and setting up a zip-wire running from the boom across to the shore. It works surprisingly well, however despite Ruth's insistence that she would be happy to try it out, we stuck to luggage on the zip-wire and people on snow shoes. The breeze has finally come North and so temperatures are noticeably warmer, yesterday the mercury even rose above 0"C. The sun was out, and during the morning there was almost no wind. Dave and I sunbathed on the foredeck in our picnic chairs (a wise investment made in Stanley, paid for themselves by now) drinking tea, watching penguins, putting the world to rights, and trying not to ruin Andrew and Ruth's shots. It's a tough life... Although today is not sunbathing weather, grey and a bit blustery, the northerlies continue and so everything around us melting away. No more traversing the perilous pack ice, it's getting a bit slushy in places, Dave has however managed to clear a lane of water to the shore and so we can now use the zodiac to reach the penguins. Andrew and Ruth seem to be getting on okay, yesterday's rushes look great to the untrained eye and they both seem happy. Helen and Tudor have pretty much moved off the boat and into the Nissen hut at Port Lockroy. Apparently they managed to burn the shoulder of lamb we gave them for dinner last night so we're hoping we might be able to tempt them back with food at some point.

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Seals with laser guns
10/11/2013, 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy

When we first wedged Pelagic into the little ice gap that has become her home for the last few days we were delighted to see seals swimming around the boat. The debate still wages as to whether they were Leopard Seals or Weddell Seals, with Tudor claiming that the seal that was spy-hopping in the ice was a Weddell, and the rest of us rest of thinking that it was a Leopard. Since he was standing on the ice at the time, as the seal was eyeing a tasty meal, we suspect his certainty that it was a Weddell may have been wishful thinking. But then he is the only one of us with a Polar medal, so he probably knows a thing or two about these things. Since then, we've had definite identifications of both types, the cutest being a mother and her pup, still weaning, at the base of the sea ice below Goudier Island. All this seal talk leads me on to the strange noises we've been hearing on the boat.

Had Tudor not been there to identify them, Dave, by his own admission, would have been running for the sonar and checking for submarines. We had a debate last night as to how to describe the noise in question and we have come up with the following: Imagine a star trek episode, where the characters have laser tractor beams, the sound in question is what we think they would use to make the 'Beam me up' sound. Its a sort of long, semi-robotic chirrup-whine, very delicate and rather beautiful. It turns out that this is the sound a Weddell seal makes underwater, we suspect it may be the mummy-Weddell, calling to her pup, teaching it to swim under water. Sometimes we hear it very faintly, sometimes we hear it as if she is right outside the hull, but each time it has us giggling with excitement. To me, it is one of the most moving things I have experienced in Antarctica. Unfortunately for Andrew, as with all wildlife, it has a sense for when it is being watched, and as son as he tried to get his recording equipment out last night, it buggered off.

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Fifty Shades of White
Ruth from the film crew
07/11/2013, 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy

Another glorious day at Port Lockroy. Shame we are still trapped in sea ice though - unable to move at all now, or access Goudier Island. The sea ice has completely filled the bay and is blocking the channel, encasing giant icebergs (as well as Pelagic) in its path. Quite a spectacle, even if a little frustrating! Still, the team are making good use of the time; cleared the deck of A LOT of ice and snow after this shot was taken... and fixed a few weather-beaten things around the yacht. The film crew filled the saloon with their kit as they took the still and calm opportunity below deck to sort out cameras and sound gear. Should be good to see the filming progress - they are certainly keen to get out and see the penguins! Up at 4am this morning to check up on sea ice status and watched all the penguins in the area march to the only bit of rock accessible to water. A hungry leopard seal waited below them but sadly we didn't see any predation. Shitehawks (aka sheathbills) are living up to their nick-name, discolouring the deck as usual, and even having a go at our lambs - cheeky birds! We have had to cover them up to protect them and prevent waste. Dinner soon - Bertie's special sausage stew. You can't say we don't eat well on this yacht!! Crossing our fingers for a peaceful night and freedom from the sea ice in the morning. Please do the same for us!

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08/11/2013 | Trevor Potts
Should be seeing you guys during first week of December aboard Corinthian
09/11/2013 | daisy
Happy to hear Pelagic is at Port Lockroy! x
At what temperature does sea water freeze?
06/11/2013, 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy

How cold does it have to be for sea spray to freeze on a boat? We're not actually sure as our thermometer gave up the ghost around -6C and that was a good few days ago when it was still practically tropical. Frozen sea spray on all the guard wires, shrouds, lines and just about everything does make for some impressive photos, even if it does make boat maneuvers a bit time consuming, what with having to chip ice off and dig out any lines, winches, cleats you might need. It's also not so fun when the frozen sea spray is on your face, or any other part of you, for that matter. Our first experience of seawater freezing happened overnight in the Drake, about 50Nm North of Smith Island. Caution being the better part of valour we decided to hove to through the night rather than push on through to try and find shelter. Pelagic then stoically rode out a storm which saw gusts as high as 60kts. True southern ocean conditions saw gigantic waves and icy seas. The crew, now almost all over their seasickness, seemed to take it all in their stride. 36 hours later when the storm had completely abated, there was a valiant de-icing operation as we motored down the Bransfield in flat water. It felt as though we were almost there, pushing our way through broken sea ice in the Northern Gerlache. Little did we know that our epic wasn't over and we had to spend once last night battling 40kts from the southwest. Luckily skipper Dave managed to find us an ice free spot in which to shelter in the entrance to Dallmann Bay just before night fall, but with no safe anchorage the crew spent a restless night holding station in the lee of The Wiafs, taking hour long turns in the freezing cold, holding the boat steady and shining the spot light on stray bits of ice. It was a great team effort, with those not on deck at any given time making sure that those who were on deck were kept supplied with dry-ish gloves, hand warmers and cups of tea at the ready. Thankfully we caught a break for our last run in to Port Lockroy, and enjoyed clear blue skies and decreasing wind all the way. The storm had filled the bay with even more ice than normal and so we are currently tied-in about half a mile from the huts, wedged into the sea ice with two lines onto some stray (grounded) glacial ice and one onto an old whaler's chain ashore, an operation not made any easier by the sudden heavy snow flurry. It was rather magical though, Pelagic, surrounded with ice, tied onto ice, with big fat snow flakes landing all around. I think its safe to say we all slept rather well last night.

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07/11/2013 | Phil Somerville
Great blog guys.. fascinating to follow your trip..
07/11/2013 | Délia
Amazing !

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