02/23/2010, SOUTH GEORGIA!!!
Gabcast! HAYLEYS AUDIO BLOGS #14 - LAND HO!
Waiting for South Georgia
I thought today would be the day that our eyes would gaze towards the horizon and South Georgia would show itself, but alas it will not be today. Unfortunately large tabular icebergs and smaller bergs kept us company throughout the night so it was crucial for us to slow our speed to a mere 2 knots. Although the large bergs showed up vividly on the radar, its the smaller chunks that have broken away from the larger bergs we were concerned about. These rock-like sculptures sit low in the water and are hard to see as the steep southern seas camouflage these potentially dangerous obstacles.
The following morning, as soon as it was light our designated watches were spent outside scanning the horizon and navigating through the slalom course of tabulars. The seas remained heavy for most of the day and as I stood in the cockpit, secured by a harness I couldn't help but feel completely humbled by the enormous seas surrounding me, The railings dipped heavily in the water on the port side as the swell pitched high to the sky and sent us swinging like a pendulum. And then, amongst these mountains of ocean are the birds that utilize the wind and turbulent waters. The smallest petrel of all, the Wilson's Storm Petrel dip in and out of the vigorous seas making the most of the food being made available for them to feast on. Although they are the size of a sparrow, they are at home here, their warm blooded bodies completely adapted to this frigid environment and the control they have while in flight and in these strong wind amazes me.
In the early afternoon I awoke to a pleasing feeling. The boat was not heaving to and fro like it had been for 5 days. Instead it was an unfamiliar steady rocking, almost predictable. I put on my layers, prepared my camera and went out on deck to enjoy this rare occasion. It was the Golden hour and today this hour perfectly matched its title. Icebergs were lit up like lanterns against a crimson sky, including a tabular that stretched 8 miles in length and 1 mile wide. Imagine how much of that ice is buried beneath the sea, knowing that when you see an iceberg you are only seeing a mere 10%, the majority of it is underwater. Dense masses of grey cloud lingered in the sky towards the south, and with the purity of the whitest iceberg in the foreground, made for a dramatic spectacle bringing the best out of the colour grey.
It's 9.15pm and the engine has just been turned off. It looks like we are staying put for the night, it being too dangerous to continue, running blind through the night. We will simply drift with the current in an area clear of icebergs and watch the radar closely. With only 50 miles to go until we reach the shores of South Georgia, tomorrow will be the day. "Tomorrow tomorrow, we love ya tomorrow, it's only a day away"
And so we continue to be tested with our patience and tolerance of natures curious ways. We are constantly reminded that nature is in charge and we are simply bending, flexing and moving when and how she allows. Perhaps this is a crucial process for me, preparing me for what is to come. When one attempts to maneuver along a coastline by small vessel, and share the space when onshore with wildlife on an island in the middle of the southern ocean completely exposed to the worst possible weather systems, one can only approach it with the understanding that only a small aspect of this adventure is in our hands. Without a doubt I have to accept that although I have diligently planned every step of this expedition and prepared for numerous situations, the final outcome is out of my very own hands. I will accept all gifts of nature when they are offered, as well as the setbacks, delays and obstacles. I will continue on and moved forward as though this was they way it was meant to be from the very beginning. It is what it is and I am here.
Here is a special thought and a hello to all you sailors out there. I admire you for your courage, your patience, your ability to sustain long, cramped days in a rocking and rolling vessel. My respect for you has multiplied and I envy you just a little less ;)
SO CLOSE I CAN TASTE IT!
February 21st update
We are less than 2 days away from South Georgia and already I am imagining the first scene on the horizon of this snow clad rugged piece of paradise in the middle of the Southern Ocean. The feelings that may follow will be of excitement, apprehension and an urgency to be finally on its very shores. And then I think of Shackleton.
We have spent 5 days so far at sea, eating rather simply living on plain pasta and Ichiban noodles, trying to keep down the odd cuppa tea and sipping water to stay hydrated. And every time I crawl into my dry, warm bunk I can not help but admire, even envy the strength, will power, the courage and hope it took for Shackleton and his men to survive such an ordeal. Imagine their first feeling as they set eyes on land, having spent 18 days at sea in a 20 foot wooden dory, home stitched canvas for shelter, drinking salt contaminated water, an only a water drenched caribou sleeping bag to turn to in an attempt to sleep.
They were a different breed of man and although I'd rather not be tested as they were, my curiosity of how they endured those circumstances, wondering if I ever could, plays on my mind.
We spent 18 hours hove-to yesterday as the wind blew 50 knots creating building blocks of seas that surrounded our little home. The feeling of vulnerability came over me once again and the confinements of this space and the limited ability to move tormented me. Every little chore was a task that needed our full attention. The simple steps of making a cup of tea or going to the bathroom consisted of precise movements that had to be done a certain way. These usually mindless chores suddenly required step by step instructions.
As we draw nearer to South Georgia my mind spends most of it's time going through the motions of packing my boat, setting up my mounted camera, setting up camp and playing close attention to the weather. I feel nervous as to how my body is going to react sitting in a kayak and the demands on my back and wrists as I paddle a fully loaded boat for the first time in a month. It will be a month tomorrow that Beth-Anne and I departed from Victoria. A whole month removed from a world of kayaking. Although I know it will be best to not push myself at first, to start steady, I know myself to well; if the weather is good I will paddle hard with the aim of trying to get a few miles under my belt.
I'm concerned about the delay and starting so late in the season. South Georgia is a place that itineraries and schedules mean nothing and you can not be in a hurry.
In some way I wonder, 'is it best that I alter my dream a little' an altered dream is still a dream after-all. Do I go into this accepting that how far I get around South Georgia Island, with the paddle window I have, is good enough or do I continue with the determination I still possess and safely, cautiously go about circumnavigating. These thoughts come in and out of my consciousness as our lengthy days at sea drift by like this SW swell.
I need to sign off as I am due to be on watch. We have started doing outside watches after an iceberg was spotted only a mile away from our port side. The air temperature has dropped and fog is common - all signs that we have crossed the convergence.
A big hello and a hug to those special parents - my mum val, my dad and Fran from New Zealand and dear Kal and Win from Ontario. xox