Adventures aboard Pelagic Australis

Vessel Name: Pelagic Australis
Crew: Miles, Laura and Dave
About: Miles hails from Yorkshire farming stock, Laura is from Kent and competed in the 2000 BT Global Challenge, and Dave is a dinghy sailor from Devon
14 June 2012 | Cape Town, South Africa
21 April 2012 | Beagle Channel
20 April 2012 | Estero Coloane, Beagle Channel South West arm
04 April 2012 | Puerto Williams, Chile
15 February 2012 | Port Lockroy, Antarctica
20 January 2012 | Antarctica
27 November 2011 | South end of South Georgia
18 November 2011 | Grytviken, South Georgia
28 October 2011 | Grytviken, South Georgia
19 October 2011 | Grytviken, South Georgia
14 October 2011 | Elsehul, South Georgia
07 October 2011 | Stanley
14 June 2011 | 36 25'S:4 10'E, South Atlantic
02 June 2011 | 48 32'S:42 32'W, South Atlantic
29 May 2011 | Stanley, Falkland Islands
07 May 2011 | Puerto Wililams
28 April 2011 | Cape Horn
27 April 2011 | Cape Horn
21 April 2011 | Ushuaia
14 March 2011 | Beagle Channel
Recent Blog Posts
14 June 2012 | Cape Town, South Africa

The final chapter

And so we have arrived in Cape Town. Our final journey across the

21 April 2012 | Beagle Channel

Caleta Wow

Some pictures to go with yesterdays blog!

20 April 2012 | Estero Coloane, Beagle Channel South West arm

Caleta Wow

It is difficult to know what to write to you about without repeating myself, but as this whole Pelagic adventure nears its end, we are appreciating more and more the places we visit, the people we meet, and the things we do. Yesterday we were in our favourite anchorage, Estero Coloane (otherwise known as Caleta Wow), which I know I have written about before, but it really is spectacular. A circular bay, maybe as much as a mile in diameter, is surrounded by mountains and glaciers. All around there are waterfalls cascading down from hidden lakes high up in the mountains. In one corner, there is a small island and a little nook under the trees. We reverse in with the yacht, so the stern is under the overhanging branches, and we tie a shore line from each corner of the boat, to the trees. When we arrived a couple of days ago, the wind was strong out in the Beagle Channel and swirling around the bay. Williwaws (katabatic winds) raced in different directions sometimes catching our bow, and sometimes leaving us be. We could see them coming down the hanging glacier high above us, and follow their progress to the water and then across the bay. Miles looked nervously at the tiny tree on the island that was holding our starboard bow line as it bowed under our weight, but there are no bigger trees and it held firm. [p] Yesterday it was calm and clear and we split into two groups. Dave and I took Andy and Sue up to the ridge behind the boat for a fabulous view of the bay, the glaciers and then, when we were high enough, the Beagle Channel. It is a hard climb but every time you turn around the view gets better. There was an easterly wind blowing when we got to the top, and the sky was dark dark dark - full of snow. By the time we'd had a a cup of tea and a biscuit it was snowing heavily, so we carefully picked our way down and joined the others on board. The other group had gone on a shorter adventure, but no less magnificent. They climbed up to a lake on the other side of the bay maybe 250m high. The lake was formed by a hanging glacier and the water still poured in from above. However, it has also been heavily affected by beavers. They are a real pest in this part of the world as they dam rivers and create huge areas of flooded land. Miles, Jarrod and Jeremy had a good look at the beaver dams, slides they use to get down to the waterline, the trees that have been recently gnawed and the mass of dead trees in the middle of the lake. They came back buzzing.[p] In the afternoon, we took the kayaks and the zodiac over to the far corner of the bay and made our way over the moraine to the glacier. This one is slowly retreating and for various reasons I haven't been over to it since our very first time in the bay 3 years ago. It has moved back quite some way since then, but just melting - no chunks of ice falling from it. It was so amazing to get up close, and actually walk on the ice. We had a hilarious photoshoot with all of us trying to stay in place without sliding back down, or falling into a crevasse. Then it started snowing again and so we walked down the valley bottom towards the boats. On our way down, despite the snow we decided to go and look at another beaver lake. They really are incredible creatures - collecting their wood and stockpiling it, then chopping it down into sensible size sticks to make a beautifully constructed dam. Then in the middle their lodge - an igloo made of stick and wood - amazing! It was almost dark and still heavily snowing when we returned to the kayaks, but so beautiful and still that we decided not to have a ride back. It was a stunning paddle back with that absolute silence that comes with falling snow and snowflakes so huge they could have been on steroids. We got back and Dave had started the bar b q. It was a special request from our South Africans on board - Andy and Sue lived in Botswana for 22 years, they are not used to snow and it was so fun to see them playing around in it. "I promise I'll cook, but we must have a bri in the snow!" - "Once is enough" he said afterwards! A great evening ensued with lots of wine, music and chat. Everyone on a high from such a fantastic day. As always, it feels as if we have known these guys for our whole lives, but just 10 days ago, they were strangers to us. What other job or environment pushes relationships so fast? [p] It is becoming more difficult to imagine leaving this world, but we are excited about setting up a home in Yorkshire and being able to welcome some of our guests - or new friends - to stay when they are in the area. This has been an extraordinary way to live - out of range for the media, and in the company of people that are on holiday, and therefore enjoying themselves and relaxing. We don't hear the doom and gloom, and melodrama of the worlds press, just the oohs and ahhs as we move through some of the most stunning countryside on the planet.[p] More soon, [p] Lots of love[p] Laura and Miles[p]

04 April 2012 | Puerto Williams, Chile

An exciting rounding

It seems ages since I wrote my last update. It was probably when we

15 February 2012 | Port Lockroy, Antarctica

Is our Antarctic luck running out?

We have around 10 days left in Antarctica for this group, and our final

20 January 2012 | Antarctica

A fabulous day

It's been a difficult charter so far - starting with a delay for the guests, some 'essential' equipment that didn't make it through customs in Buenos Aires, a four and a half day up wind Drake passage crossing, and then continuing with rain and snow and grey days, and so much ice in the channels down [...]

The final chapter

14 June 2012 | Cape Town, South Africa
Laura
And so we have arrived in Cape Town. Our final journey across the
Atlantic was uneventful, and, as is only fitting after 4 magical seasons
down here, we had the perfect arrival yesterday morning. The sun rose
behind Table Mountain as we approached and by 9 o'clock the sky was
blue, the city was bright in the sunshine, the wind was light and we
motored quietly into the V&A marina to tie the lines for the last time.

Thank you for listening to my endless dramatic tales of adventure, and
for all your replies and comments. I am sure that life will be just as
wonderful as we begin the next chapter in Yorkshire, and I hope, rather
less exciting. Certainly I am not expecting to be writing again to tell
you of near misses or life threatening weather conditions, but you never
know - it is Yorkshire! I hope our experiences will stand us in good
stead to handle anything that comes our way, and that being closer to
most of you will enable us to share it all with friends and family in
person and not in writing.

We will have access to the boat email address for the next few days, and
then on our home emails. We can't wait to be home in just over a week
and seeing you soon.

With lots of love
Laura and Miles

Caleta Wow

21 April 2012 | Beagle Channel
Laura Wise
Some pictures to go with yesterdays blog!

Caleta Wow

20 April 2012 | Estero Coloane, Beagle Channel South West arm
Laura Wise
It is difficult to know what to write to you about without repeating myself, but as this whole Pelagic adventure nears its end, we are appreciating more and more the places we visit, the people we meet, and the things we do. Yesterday we were in our favourite anchorage, Estero Coloane (otherwise known as Caleta Wow), which I know I have written about before, but it really is spectacular. A circular bay, maybe as much as a mile in diameter, is surrounded by mountains and glaciers. All around there are waterfalls cascading down from hidden lakes high up in the mountains. In one corner, there is a small island and a little nook under the trees. We reverse in with the yacht, so the stern is under the overhanging branches, and we tie a shore line from each corner of the boat, to the trees. When we arrived a couple of days ago, the wind was strong out in the Beagle Channel and swirling around the bay. Williwaws (katabatic winds) raced in different directions sometimes catching our bow, and sometimes leaving us be. We could see them coming down the hanging glacier high above us, and follow their progress to the water and then across the bay. Miles looked nervously at the tiny tree on the island that was holding our starboard bow line as it bowed under our weight, but there are no bigger trees and it held firm. [p] Yesterday it was calm and clear and we split into two groups. Dave and I took Andy and Sue up to the ridge behind the boat for a fabulous view of the bay, the glaciers and then, when we were high enough, the Beagle Channel. It is a hard climb but every time you turn around the view gets better. There was an easterly wind blowing when we got to the top, and the sky was dark dark dark - full of snow. By the time we'd had a a cup of tea and a biscuit it was snowing heavily, so we carefully picked our way down and joined the others on board. The other group had gone on a shorter adventure, but no less magnificent. They climbed up to a lake on the other side of the bay maybe 250m high. The lake was formed by a hanging glacier and the water still poured in from above. However, it has also been heavily affected by beavers. They are a real pest in this part of the world as they dam rivers and create huge areas of flooded land. Miles, Jarrod and Jeremy had a good look at the beaver dams, slides they use to get down to the waterline, the trees that have been recently gnawed and the mass of dead trees in the middle of the lake. They came back buzzing.[p] In the afternoon, we took the kayaks and the zodiac over to the far corner of the bay and made our way over the moraine to the glacier. This one is slowly retreating and for various reasons I haven't been over to it since our very first time in the bay 3 years ago. It has moved back quite some way since then, but just melting - no chunks of ice falling from it. It was so amazing to get up close, and actually walk on the ice. We had a hilarious photoshoot with all of us trying to stay in place without sliding back down, or falling into a crevasse. Then it started snowing again and so we walked down the valley bottom towards the boats. On our way down, despite the snow we decided to go and look at another beaver lake. They really are incredible creatures - collecting their wood and stockpiling it, then chopping it down into sensible size sticks to make a beautifully constructed dam. Then in the middle their lodge - an igloo made of stick and wood - amazing! It was almost dark and still heavily snowing when we returned to the kayaks, but so beautiful and still that we decided not to have a ride back. It was a stunning paddle back with that absolute silence that comes with falling snow and snowflakes so huge they could have been on steroids. We got back and Dave had started the bar b q. It was a special request from our South Africans on board - Andy and Sue lived in Botswana for 22 years, they are not used to snow and it was so fun to see them playing around in it. "I promise I'll cook, but we must have a bri in the snow!" - "Once is enough" he said afterwards! A great evening ensued with lots of wine, music and chat. Everyone on a high from such a fantastic day. As always, it feels as if we have known these guys for our whole lives, but just 10 days ago, they were strangers to us. What other job or environment pushes relationships so fast? [p] It is becoming more difficult to imagine leaving this world, but we are excited about setting up a home in Yorkshire and being able to welcome some of our guests - or new friends - to stay when they are in the area. This has been an extraordinary way to live - out of range for the media, and in the company of people that are on holiday, and therefore enjoying themselves and relaxing. We don't hear the doom and gloom, and melodrama of the worlds press, just the oohs and ahhs as we move through some of the most stunning countryside on the planet.[p] More soon, [p] Lots of love[p] Laura and Miles[p]

An exciting rounding

04 April 2012 | Puerto Williams, Chile
Laura
It seems ages since I wrote my last update. It was probably when we
were in Antarctica in February, hauling the boat off the rocks and
waiting for our guests to come back down off the mountain. Once they
were back on board, we had an AMAZING time! The sun shone almost every
day and the wind stayed at bay so we had the pick of places to go and
took full advantage of such fantastic weather. The guys skied almost
every day - day skis from the boat while we drifted at sea amongst the
icebergs enjoying the balmy weather. Every day they got back in
fantastic form, raving about the conditions of the snow and marvelling
at the opportunities that they had.
We returned safely across the drake, and even managed a few days seeing
the Argentinian side of the Beagle Channel. It was really sad to see
them leave when we eventually tied up in Ushuaia and sent them on their
way.
After a couple of much needed weeks without a charter, enjoying the
company of friends in Ushuaia and doing some routine maintenance and
cleaning jobs at a leisurely pace, we collected a group of 8 Australian
men, had an emotional departure from Ushuaia and headed to Puerto
Williams. This is a much smaller town than Ushuaia, just 25 miles away,
but on the south side of the Beagle Channel and therefore in Chile.
This is our base for the next month or so before we set off back to the
Falklands, then to Cape Town to hand the boat over to Skip.
We had a brilliant trip with the Australians - they wanted wind and
weather and they got it! It was a slow start with 2 days sitting in
Puerto Williams as it was too windy to leave, but once we were off it
was great. After a week or so cruising the western end of the Beagle
Channel where we can see endless glaciers, mountains and unbelievable
scenery, we set off through Bahia Cook, and into the Pacific Ocean. The
forecast for 25 to 30 knots of wind was clearly wildly underestimated,
and though the barometric pressure remained completely steady for 24hrs,
we had severe gale force winds with gusts into the 50's for the whole
journey round Cape Horn and into the anchorage behind. I suppose we
should be used to the weather being a little crazy despite a reasonable
forecast, but it still surprises us how often we are living in gale
force winds - almost every day at some point.
My watch was on at 6am, in the dark, and just 20 miles from the horn.
There was a real sense of excitement on board, this is what they had
come here for and so far nothing was disappointing. At about half past
six, we needed to gybe off to avoid some rocks. It went smoothly until
I realised that the running backstay (an essential part of the rig) was
caught on the front of the mast and the only way to clear it was to
climb up to the first spreaders and flick the rope off. I was on watch
with 3 of the guests and much as they wanted excitement, it isn't fair
to send them up the mast at Cape Horn in 50knots of wind. I had no
choice and so I clipped on and went forward. The guys watched me from
the cockpit with their torches showing me the way and I slowly climbed
up the ladder. It isn't difficult to climb the mast, but it is my least
favourite job on board and only 12hrs earlier I had mentioned to Dave
that it was pretty much the only thing I wouldn't be able to do in
strong winds. I suppose there is nothing like a sense of urgency and
need to overcome fear and in the end it wasn't so bad. The rope was
freed and wound on tight and the rig was strong again. I was safely
back in the cockpit and everyone was happy to be back on course, clear
of the rocks and with the faintest shadow of the horn appearing through
the gloomy light. The actual rounding of the horn was fantastic. With
the wind from the west, we had to gybe again but this time with plenty
of crew on deck and no mistakes. I have been round Cape Horn several
times, but this was pretty spectacular and I couldn't help smiling to
myself and feeling so lucky to be here. The dramas weren't over
however, and as we approached a narrow gap between two islands, with the
engine running and just a small amount of mainsail up, the engine
started to overheat. We were still in very strong winds but now with
islands all around us and we had to quickly turn around and run off down
wind into clearer water while Miles had a look at it. There was an
airlock in the engine cooling system caused by the rough seas, and the
smell was horrendous but after an inspection of the impeller Miles
confirmed that it was just a matter of bleeding the air out and sealing
the system again. Phew, engine back on and back round to the anchorage.
The following day it was calm and so we had a chance to land on the
horn. How lucky we were that the weather turned out as it did, with an
exciting rounding and then nice calm conditions to land. We visited the
lighthouse keeper who lives there with his wife and 2 children (age 13
and 8), and a 4month old poodle!
As chance would have it, just as we reached the lighthouse, the two
leading boats on the Volvo Round the World Race were sailing round so we
were able to watch from to top of the hill and discuss their progress
(in my very broken Spanish). Another boat - Telefonica - had been
leading but they had fallen off a wave at 25knots in our storm and
delaminated some part of the hull. They would be coming into Caleta
Martial to try and make some repairs - a maintenance team were on their
way. He also said that as we had rounded the day before up at the top
of the hill he had recorded 110knots - no wonder I hadn't been so happy
to climb the mast!
We were invited into the house for coffee and I have now officially seen
the kitchen with the best view for the washing up EVER! Their kitchen
sink overlooks Cape Horn and the southern ocean behind it. Today was
calm but she said that when we sailed round a day earlier it all looked
pretty wild - we could agree with that.
A couple more days and we were back in Puerto Williams preparing to say
goodbye to another wonderful group. They set off home for their wives
in Australia with pickled livers (147 bottles of wine and 14 bottles of
spirits in 2 weeks), gold rings in their left ears and beaming smiles on
their faces. It's sometimes a strange and difficult job to share such
intense experiences with a group, make friends with them, trust them
with your lifeline, or down wind helming in a big boat in a big sea, and
then just to say goodbye, wave as they go off round the corner and start
again with the turnaround jobs. I know on balance it is time for this
all to come to an end for us, but with just 10 weeks till we get home,
the reality of 'normal' life is looming large.
Lots of love to all of you and enjoy your wonderful weather (if it
hasn't turned yet). Any news as always, welcome.
All the best
Laura and Miles

Is our Antarctic luck running out?

15 February 2012 | Port Lockroy, Antarctica
We have around 10 days left in Antarctica for this group, and our final
expedition this far south with Pelagic Australis. At last we have some
fantastic weather and the Swiss Italian skiers and climbers left the
boat last Sunday for an 8 day traverse and attempt at Mt Francais. This
is one of the highest mountains on the Peninsula and though it has been
climbed many times before, it is not every year that people have an
opportunity to attempt it. Skip has taken 7 of them, 2 of them Alpine
guides in their own right, and the others very experienced mountaineers.

It was a hard crossing from Ushuaia, very windy and quite big seas for
the first 48hrs, leaving 5 of the 7 horizontal in their bunks making
really horrendous noises as they tried to throw up the linings of their
stomachs. Eventually, as the wind eased and the seas calmed down they
came back upright one by one, until we had a full compliment again, and
no real damage done. They are a really nice group: great fun, much
hilarity and plenty of discussions about all sorts of things. The only
slight complication is that there is no one common language. 2 speak
only Italian, 4 speak excellent French, one or two speak Spanish, and
two can speak pretty good English. It is amazing though, how you can
get by and how quickly we have got used to flicking between English,
French and Spanish. None of us can claim in any small way to be
linguists, but apparently those French lessons at school did have some
use after all!

After a quick and rather wet and windy stop at Deception Island (no
swimming this time), we headed south to Port Lockroy. The cloud was
low, it was raining and very cold and there was little incentive for
anyone to start preparing for their traverse, so we had a lovely, very
relaxed day or 2 with some playing cards, others reading, and others
catching up on some study of the back of their eyelids. It was hard for
them I think to be so inactive when ahead is a hugely challenging
expedition, but they coped well and managed to stay focused. Eventually
the sun came out, and the wind died down and we took them round to the
south side of Anvers Island to a roly poly anchorage from which they
were to depart. They were quiet when we dropped them off, but organised
and well prepared and they were quickly on their way. From the top of
the first climb, Skip called on the radio - they had everything they
needed and we were free to leave that spot for somewhere safer and more
secure whenever we were ready.

Back to Port Lockroy and let the party begin!! Actually we did return
to Port Lockroy - a British Antarctic Heritage site, with a museum, and
a souvenir shop, and a good secure anchorage, but we didn't party.
There are usually plenty of boats here to socialise with, but we were
exhausted and ready for a quiet evening alone. Also, as a result of
something that happened earlier in the week, we were very nervous about
putting the dinghy in the water for any length of time. On one of the
rainy days when we arrived here, we had used the dinghy to take people
ashore to the museum. After they got back, I went for a spin round the
bay, and sought out some good clear ice to put in the Gin and Tonics
later on. When I returned it was raining harder than ever and so Miles
and I decided to leave the dinghy tied to the back of the boat rather
than lifting it up onto the deck. A couple of hours later, Skip
happened to look out and notice a lot of water in the dinghy. He also
saw a Leopard seal - huge, snake like, and with layer upon layer of very
very sharp teeth. When he looked closer, he noticed that the inflatable
tubes were flat and on closer inspection, had actually been completely
destroyed by the seal - not just one, but both. He must have enjoyed
the rush of air as he pierced the rubber and gone to the second one for
another go. Unbelievable! We have always heard a rumour that leopard
seals would chew the dinghy if it was left in the water, but having
never met anyone to whom this has happened we were starting to think it
was an urban myth. Now we know! We carefully took the engine off the
back and emptied the contents before lifting it up from the bow onto the
boat. Both of the stern tubes were slit and slashed and there is no way
we could repair it in the cold damp air of Antarctica. Without a dinghy
we are completely stumped here, we can't get ashore, but more
importantly, we need it to tie shore lines to the rocks in most places
we go. Luckily we carry a spare, and so this is not at this time a show
stopper, but it has left us more than a little on edge. If this one
goes, we really don't have an alternative - other than an inflatable
kayak which the leopard seal would no doubt enjoy too!

The next day, after a morning of maintenance including trying to mend
the heating system which has inexplicably decided to stop producing any
heat (moderately unsuccessful!), we set off with Pelagic Australis for a
bit of an explore. There is an anchorage on the Peltier Channel, not
far from Port Lockroy which we have always wanted to try out, but
somehow have never made the opportunity. We headed down there in
beautiful sunshine, found the crack in the cliffs, dropped the anchor
and reversed in. Dave found decent rocks to tie the shore lines to and
we were settled for the evening. As it was so sunny, we went ashore and
for a stroll up the hill to check out the view and it was a lovely free
moment to be up in the snow in glorious sunshine feeling like
mountaineers ourselves. Back to the boat for the 8pm satellite phone
call with Skip to be told everything is good and they are at the base of
the climb. They would go up the next day if the weather was good, but
the forecast promised strong winds and snow so we told them to wait for
another day in the hope it would improve. We (and they as it happens)
spent the next 24hrs hunkered up inside - it was indeed windy, snowing,
and very very cold. We put extra layers on inside the boat and fiddled
more with the heating, to no avail!

This morning was sunny again and so we hope that Skip and co. have gone
for their summit. We went for a climb of our own this morning, but
while we were out, the wind got stronger and stronger and eventually
Miles expressed concern about the boat. The wind was swirling from all
directions but predominantly from the north east, which was our most
exposed corner, as well as the weakest rock. As we came over the
summit of the hill back towards the boat, I noticed that the bow seemed
to be pointing a different way, and in fact, she was no longer square in
the middle of the little bay, but sitting across the corner, listing
heavily to starboard, and evidently hard on the rocks!!! This is one of
the few times we have ever left the boat unattended in our whole time
down here, and now we know why! We ran back down to the dinghy (which
luckily hadn't been eaten by another leopard seal), and rushed back to
the boat. By now it was very windy and there was quite some chop
swamping the dinghy, adding to the excitement. The boat was being blown
against rocks on the bottom, the keel making the most awful noises, and
the rudder slamming up and down on the rocks as the swell and wind
pushed us around. It was a terrifying time. Losing the rudder would be
disastrous, as would breaking the keel. Allowing the boat further onto
the rocks and creating opportunity for damage to the hull would also be
catastrophic. We had to be calm, and work out how to get ourselves
clear into deeper water. We saw that the port bow line had broken away
and the anchor had not held us in position. Dave found a new place to
tie the port bow line, and then moved the port stern line to a more
useful spot too. Miles and I somehow managed to lift the rudder without
causing further damage and so we knew that it was safe - that had been
our most serious concern. Next we had to try and pull ourselves off the
rocks with the ropes, but against strong winds that weren't happy to let
us go that easily. The keel was still thumping and clumping and the
boat was over at an awful angle, so we decided to lift the keel and wind
the boat to port at the same time. In the end, it was not such a
drama. The new electric keel winch easily lifted the keel and with the
help of Dave in the dinghy pushing from the starboard side, we slowly
but surely managed to pull ourselves clear of the rocks. As soon as we
were free, the wind eased to nothing as if to say - 'OK, you passed, now
I can stop blowing!' We decided that although it is a nice little
anchorage with a bit of an opportunity for a leg stretch, and lots of
penguins, it maybe wouldn't go down on our list of favourite spots here
on the Antarctic peninsula!

Anyway, we are now safely back in Port Lockroy! Maybe tomorrow we will
venture further away from this sociable, very beautiful and relatively
safe anchorage but maybe we'll just hang out here, collect some fresh
water to fill up the tanks (glacial melt water which tastes delicious
but is hard work to collect!, relax and enjoy the view.

A fabulous day

20 January 2012 | Antarctica
Laura Parish
It's been a difficult charter so far - starting with a delay for the guests, some 'essential' equipment that didn't make it through customs in Buenos Aires, a four and a half day up wind Drake passage crossing, and then continuing with rain and snow and grey days, and so much ice in the channels down here in Antarctica that our playground is severely reduced. Our clients are a 3D film crew from Hollywood, aiming to make a 40 minute documentary about the change in Antarctica, in 3D and to be sold to museums and Imax theatres around the world. It has been a challenge for them to get enough footage due to the precipitation and we have spent many hours watching them clean and dry the mirrors and lenses again, and again and again. The equipment is very elaborate and delicate and requires a long time to set up and calibrate and 'black shade' each day, so the guys are working really hard, and we are trying to be patient which is a challenge when something like a beautiful sunset is about to happen and they can't take advantage of it because they are fiddling around with the camera!

However, yesterday was a truly fantastic day. We had a 5am start in heavy snow to move the boat from the previous days location at the American science base Palmer Station to some islands further south. As we entered what we call the Iceberg Graveyard, we saw absolutely hundreds of Gentoo penguins swimming in the sea around us. There was a strong current presumably bringing krill into the area and plenty of wildlife was taking advantage. The guys set up their camera, the snow stopped falling and we spent a wonderful few hours driving round in circles filming penguins jumping out of the sea, and onto tiny blocks of ice - and then falling off. Sometimes two would leap onto the same piece of ice and bat each other with their flippers before they both fell off. Another time they were trying to leap onto piles of slush on the water, and just fell straight through feet first. It was hilarious! Underneath the overhang of a huge iceberg a leopard seal snaked its way back and forth in the clear blue water in their snake like, sinister way. He waited menacingly for an opportunity to snatch some breakfast, but the penguins were taunting him and swimming in huge groups around him and then away and he wasn't taking the bait. He was still patiently waiting for his opportunity when we moved on, and I suddenly felt sorry for him - after all he has to eat.

Our intention for the day was to get down to the Yalour Islands where there is a colony of Adelie penguins. We had heard from other boats down here that the LeMaire Channel, and Penola straights were completely blocked with ice, but Skip (who is on board for a couple of months), insisted that it was worth trying to get down there. As we approached Penola Straights from French Passage, we could see that it was completely chocked with brash and broken down sea ice. In between each piece of ice was thick slush and as we entered it, the boat almost immediately ground to a halt. We ploughed through for a few hundred metres and I went up the mast to the first spreaders to have a look for a clear patch. It wasn't getting any thinner - in fact ahead of us was 9/10s ice and we would have no chance of getting through that. While I was up the mast, I noticed smoke coming from the exhaust - uh oh, the slush had blocked the strainer for the cooling water for the engine and it was overheating. How ironic that something so cold can prevent the engine from cooling down! We had to stop and for a while thought we might get our very own Shackleton experience, but Miles is on board and so the problem was quickly solved. No sooner was the engine switched off than he was in the engine room pulling lids off, clearing out the strainer, rodding out the salt water manifold and allowing a good flow of water once again. The film crew set up the 3D camera on the bow and when they were ready, we restarted the engine, turned round and headed back for clear water. It was a great opportunity for us to get some shots and Dave went to the top of the mast with my camera to prove that we really were ice bound!

So our attempt for Yalour Islands failed and we headed back up to Hovgaard and Pleneau Islands. This bay when we arrived was over half full of sea ice, but there was enough space for us and some rocks to tie our lines in and so we were settled for the night. The film crew prepared their camera and equipment once again and headed off to catch some penguins with their chicks, and we had a few hours to ourselves. The first thing was to test out the sea ice. We drove the dinghy up onto it, and it didn't break so we figured it could hold our weight. We found the football from the depths of our storage on board, and headed out for a run around - much needed after pretty much 3 weeks without leaving the boat. The afternoon sun lit the whole place in the most incredible way, and once we had tired of football we went up a hill to look down on an absolutely staggeringly beautiful view. At last, the opportunity to breath in this fantastic scenery in clear skies, light winds and warm sunshine. Later on, after Miles' delicious lamb curry, we headed out again to the top of the hill to watch the sunset. It was a real shame that the film crew weren't able to reassemble their gear in time but Antarctica waits for no-one! WOW, what a view. The red sky, the pink icebergs, the scale of the place reminded us of how lucky we are to be here, and how much we will miss it next year.

Now the crew are ashore here again, but grey skies threatening snow sit low above us. Another 3 days before we have to head back and they really really need some more sunshine - the forecast doesn't look too bad so fingers crossed.

We hope all is well at home and look forward to hearing any news Lots of love Laura, Miles and Dave
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