Calm seas, glorious sunshine, blue skies - the first day of summer in the Falklands. But hang on, isn't it officially autumn/fall...the end of summer? Yep, so it seems, the Falkland Islands experienced their first day of summer today, all day. Ken Passerfield whom we met on our arrival into Stanley back in February said to me today, "Hayley if you tried paddling around the Falklands, you would not have got very far, the wind and rain and wind continued for most of February and well into March".
It was a glorious day, not only sunny but warm as well. It was strange to reveal our skin to the air and sun but it felt good and welcomed.
It was a productive day. I found a place to store the Quark-borrowed kayak with Sullivan shipping, the shipping agent whom Quark deals with. My personal Necky kayak, which I felt that it was far too soon in our relationship to be parting, was placed underneath the house of our new found friend Ken Passerfield. In fact it was rather weird to arrive at his house and discover that the only access to the under-world of his house was a small hole, which my kayak fitted through so precisely, it was eerie and uncanny, meant to be perhaps. It felt good to have the kayaks tucked away safe n sound, but unsettling to wonder when I would see MY kayak again. We met with Lin, Brian's wife and gave her a personal update of how Brian was doing. We heard from the Northanger and it sounds as though they have finally left South Georgia and are now underway towards the Falklands. This was good news for Lin. We were able to meet with Sally Poncet who has been working on the Albatross surveys on Prion and Albatross Island for the last 12 years. It was really worthwhile touching base and getting her perspective on the worldwide Albatross specie situation and engage in conversation which offered ideas for my approach with the documentary. I was able to squeeze in 45 minutes of lane swimming, after our inactive sea-days. It felt fantastic to stretch and work my body after having suddenly been completely inactive after kayaking. We popped into the Narrows and touched base with Chris, 'skyped' Dean back home as well as organized Ushuaia accommodation with our dear friend Alicia.
By 6.30 pm we were back on the ship getting ready for our Captains farewell cocktail and dinner party.
In amongst our thermal underwear and fleece garments, Beth-Anne and I did carry a sarong/dress for our pre-arranged days in Santiago with our old flight itinerary. Once showered and dressed we realised we did not have any shoes other than gumboots and hiking shoes to go with our feminine attire. I went into the walk-in closest and found our bathroom slippers thinking..."these will do nicely". We walked into the theater and our efforts were admired by most staff and passengers, however the head-waitress did not share the same opinion. We were soon whisked away and offered 'more suitable' footwear and soon blended in with the majority of passengers. It was another delicious meal onboard the Prince Albert II which we were very much grateful for.
I am excited about our days plan tomorrow. We are intending to land on Saunders Island in the morning followed by West Point Island in the afternoon. Both excursions offer opportunities to enjoy Rock-Hopper penguin rookeries and delight in the company of thousands of nesting Blackbrowed Albatross. I look forward to sharing with you our final day amongst the wildlife that surrounds these Southern Ocean islands. Abundant with unique species and dramatic scenery we are completely kept awe-inspired every step we take.
03/21/2010, Onboard the Prince Albert II
On our 2nd day at sea Beth-Anne and I continue to appreciate our mode of transport as we steam forward into 40 knots of wind on our nose and current against us. Even in this vessel we have been pitching in steep, mountainous seas, emphasized by our cabin which is forward on the 7th deck.
I spent most of yesterday downloading video footage, putting together my presentation and catching up on journal entries and some sleep. My body alarm is still on early wake-up mode, I am wide away at 5.30am every single morning. I have woken up a few times, completely confused as to where I am and wondering "why on earth is it so darn quiet?".
How absolutely fantastic that I got completely used to the delightful animal sounds while camping on the soil of South Georgia.
This morning I did a presentation for the passengers. A 'hot off the press' first account of my 'Solo Sea Kayak Attempt of South Georgia Island' for the Albatross. Although it was rough out and the movement of the ship was rather significant, it was a good turn out and the presentation was well received.
I have come to realise that it is rather a good fit, spontaneously catching a ride back on the Prince Albert II, as the Prince Albert II foundation is very much involved with the 'Save the Albatross Campaign, amongst other environmental projects. I hope to learn more about what they are involved in once I am able to return to the land of 'Googling'.
Beth-Anne and I are preparing our short stop in Stanley. While the passengers will be seeing Stanley for the first time, we will be dashing about in search of a safe and friendly place to leave the two kayaks, for potential pick up in November. As well we have people to track down to sign 'appearance releases' and salt n vinegar chips to purchase, amongst other important things. We are bound to stop in and see Chris at our old local 'The Narrows' for a pint of guiness, cheesey chips and perhaps a Skype call to our loved ones. I am sure family will be relieved to hear our voices before heading to sea for the final day, bound for Ushuaia.
I spoke with Robin, the expedition leader onboard and I was delighted to hear that we will be spending an entire day doing two landings, one at a Black Browed Albatross colony! On the edge of a tussock cliff ledge, thousands and thousands of nesting Albatross perched on their solid mud basket like nests will be only meters away from where we stand to witness such a scene. I am so excited to have this fortune.
I finally found my tracker, it was lost in my luggage since leaving Grytviken. I have reset it so hopefully it is picking up our position and now tracking our progress, sorry for the delay with that.
Thanks everyone, I'll keep keeping you posted. Take care, H
03/20/2010, Onboard the Prince Albert II
Gabcast! HAYLEYS AUDIO BLOGS #25
03/19/2010, Onboard the Prince Albert II
From my cabin onboard the Prince Albert II, Salisbury Plain is only a few hundred meters away and at 6.30am this morning we were on shore in an area I did not get to visit when I paddled here last week. It was an unexpected bonus to be here again and much was gained from our time ashore.
Dressed in our Kokatat paddling drysuits Beth-Anne and I stood out like Giant King penguins, however it was the practical attire we required. I spent nearly an hour wading in the surf trying to capture the Kings launching into the surf or what was more entertaining was them coming ashore, riding the hip-high breaking waves as they made for land. Salisbury Plain is the home for over 150 thousand nesting pairs of Kings Penguins and where we landed is the more population concentrated portion of the rookery. At this time of year it is not only one of the most popular landings to make, it is also the most muckiest. Again, another reason for wearing our drysuits. KOKATAT - Penguin proof, poo proof and waterproof!
Adults and nearly fledged one year olds, stood in muddy puddles, vocalizing to eachother in a chorus of trumpet tunes. If we looked closely amongst the crowds of Kings, some adults have eggs perched on their upper feet, under their brooding patch. As well in this active rookery newly born chicks not even a month hold were hidden beneath the adults, popping their heads out to receive the gift of regurgitated krill. They will remain here, on land for just under a year as they develop in size and waterproof feathering.
We boarded the Prince Albert II yesterday afternoon after a reluctant goodbye to Keri, Brian and Magnus. For Beth-Anne who had been onboard working with the Northanger crew full-time, it was like separating a kid from a candy store. We, as a team had bonded and it felt very strange to be departing with our mountain range of luggage, boarding another ship and letting go of the ties of a vessel and group of individuals who had experienced so much together.
Radio calls from the staff at KEP base came through with fond farewells and hopes to meet again. And finally once the kayaks were safely onboard it was time for Beth-Anne and I to face reality - to be taken to our 'owners suite' cabin on deck 7!!!!! The owners cabin!!!!! The fanciest cabin onboard this delightful ship!!! It has a walk-in wardrobe with dressing gowns for each of us, it has a three compartment bathroom with a bath, it has sky-lights above our beds so the southern cross can guide us into a restful sleep!!!! We, donned in our thermal underwear, outdoorsey-hair styles and bloated sports bags sheepishly moved on to the ship which will be our home for the next 8 days.
Before dinner during the scheduled recap and briefing, passengers were introduced to the new faces now seen about the ship. In the next day or two I will do a presentation onboard, telling the tale of the entire South Georgia Expedition Saga from start to finish. This will be a good opportunity to begin piecing together the story that I look forward to sharing with many others in the future.
After a deliciously divine '5 course' dinner we found ourselves immediately horizontal burying our heads in the fluffiest pillows and falling to sleep after exchanging comments and expressions of glee and appreciation for this opportunity to be homeward bound and in such comfort. The ship was soon lurching into offshore swell and Beth-Anne and I grinned as our stomachs, for once, did not blurch.
We have a single day of excursions here in South Georgia whilst onboard the Prince Albert II. This afternoon we will visit Prion Island. How incredibly fitting to have the opportunity to land again and be with the Wanderers before heading out to sea, bound for Stanley. More soon, it's time for us to dress and head to Prion Island.
March 17th - Grytviken
It was a drizzly morning as I lay bundled up in my sleeping bag, hearing the gentle misty rain tapping on my tent. There was no urgency to pack and move quickly and so I listened to the sounds of South Georgia around me. There was a scuffle going on near by involving two teenage Fur Seals and from the feelings of thud thud thud on the ground beneath me, a rather large Elephant Seal must have landed from being out at sea.
Once I was up, having now a well established packing system, all gear was soon stowed and I was ready to don my drysuit and launch into the small breaking surf for the final time.
The calmness of this morning was a perfect addition to my mellow mood and once on the water, every stroke I focused on as it propelled me towards the completion of this journey. I tormented myself with the imaginings of rounding the point, just having successfully completed the entire circumnavigation. Disappointment flooded back like water released from a broken dam and it was then in attempt to pull myself together I went through all that I have observed and experienced on my kayak trek along this eastern coast of South Georgia. I reminded myself that despite these circumstances, the only difference really in having not been able to complete this expedition as I wanted, is purely my attitude towards it. And with that thought I directed my morning thoughts and focus towards feeling positive in all that has been accomplished.
My visit with Shackleton was key to the morning of 'moving forward'. I sat beside his Granite grave and said out-loud "Well mate, it wasn't quite what we expected eh?" "I reckon, the best thing about all this is that we are here and isn't it so bloody beautiful?" A few more words I shared with my silent listener then re-launched and made my way towards Northanger. I was relieved to have no fuss made on this arrival as I was deliberately left to arrive anonymously.
I joined the crew for freshly made bannock and a cup of steaming tea, then soon went about the morning rinsing and drying gear. I was grateful for the offer of a shower which, after a month you can only imagine how divine that felt. That evening we were kindly invited for a meal at the base. Friendly and familiar faces was a welcome aswell as the bottle of bubbly we drank in celebration of what was accomplished and what is still left to come from the post expedition plans and projects. It was Saint Patrick's day therefore it was encouraged that we joined the rest of the base staff for after dinner celebrations. I was happy to be completely immersed in the social simplicity of learning an Irish dance, and that we did until late in the evening.
Today - March 18th is a day for final packing, a day of farewells and bon-voyages, a day to begin yet another leg in this incredible journey. I do feel ready for home. I have been away for nearly 2 months and by the time I set foot on my home turf it will be over 9 weeks. I have a presentation to prepare for the Prince Albert II as we sail to the Falklands, so already I will have the opportunity to begin piecing together my story.
I am not sure of the ships schedule, we may be fortunate to have a full day in South Georgia before departing for the Falklands. I am assuming Beth-Anne and I will be able to take part in the landings planned and make the most of more filming opportunities. Ahh how weird and wonderful it will be to be on a ship without having any responsibility.
I will keep the tracker on so please feel free to follow our progress and I will continue with the blog updates (thanks to Dean back home). Hopefully we will be able to post a few photos as well, to keep things lively and interesting. Dean has been able to send a few comments people have posted on my blog. I really look forward to finally getting on the internet and be able to read them all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments. I will treasure and I appreciate every word.
Cheers and thanks to you all
03/16/2010, Cumberland East Bay
March 16th, Day 17
Cumberland East Bay
My final night under canvas is only just around the corner from King Edward Point and the abandoned whaling station of Grytviken. Strong N, NW winds are forecasted therefore I didn't want to find myself too far away where wind could prevent me from getting in to my final destination. The ship will wait for no-one.
It was an early start and a beautiful one, with a sunrise broadened along glassy seas within the sheltered arms of Ocean Harbor. I was on the water by 6.30am and was eager to begin this final stretch of open seas and an exposed coast I was curious whether or not the swell had diminished, however there were plenty of tell-tales informing me that it had not as whitewater pummeled the reefs and rocks that lined the entrance to the bay.
My intended day of reflection vanished immediately as I exited the harbor. Mountains of sea lifted me high on the crest of each wave and once in the trough the horizon and sight of any land vanished like magic. My kayak was shoved this way and that as the waves rebounded off the coastline like a rebellious child, creating seas of confusion. It was an uncomfortable ride and for the next 4 hours I would not be taking my hands off my paddle nor would I stop paddling. Every stroke was not only propelling me forward, each stroke was also a support stroke, keeping me steady and at times upright.
I was tense, my kayak felt less stable than usual, perhaps it was 'last days' nerves I was feeling. I started to imagine something terrible happening on the last leg, the last stretch of my paddling experience in South Georgia having survived so far South Georgia's school of hard knocks and harsh lessons. I had to concentrate and watch every wave, every motion as the seas moved towards me, under me and around me. At times I traveled nearly 2 miles off shore and selected the outer route around offshore islands and islets, avoiding the white water chaos and carnage of the inner routes. It made for more miles but safer ones although it was rather unnerving being so far away from land in such big seas.
Black Browed Albatross made use of the up-draft currents from this ocean swell therefore kept me company for most of the journey. Not wanting to take my hands off the paddle I drank little and ate none and so my body started to feel the lack of fuel . As the morning progressed South Georgia displayed it's hidden treasures as the clouds dispersed and the jagged Mountain peaks and ridges showed themselves. I was relieved to enter into Cumberland East Bay, familiar surroundings and only then did the seas mellow in size. As soon as I was able I stopped and gulped down water and hungrily ate my Cliff bars. Instant fuel offering me energy to fulfill the final hour of paddling. At the east of the bay I found a nook where the surf was less and landed on a steep rocky beach. Elephant seals and Fur seals claimed there piece of beach and I searched hard for a place to put my tent. With this narrow, steep beach there was no room for my tent and beyond that was tussock mounds crowned by the occasional Fur seal and puddles of muck. And so between the Fur seals and puddles of muck I now call home, for this night anyway.
I made the most of afternoon light and took a hike up the backside of where I am camped. It led me to a rise which overlooked Grytviken, KEP and the entrance to Cumberland bay. All around me the mountains hovered like protective parents and the two icebergs that drifted in the bay were lit by the suns rays. The rhythm of the surf soothed me from way up here, and it was this spot where I chose to write in my journal and go over in my mind the previous 16 days I have spent intimately on and beside the shores of South Georgia.
I recall a moment as I paddled this morning, I noticed my reflection in the water-proof housing of my camera. I could see, like a mirror my face reflected in it. I was wearing the Necky cap and poking out from each side were my straggly braids giving me a Pippy Longstocking appearance. "That's me", I said out-loud to myself. "That's me paddling alone in South Georgia!". I am doing exactly what I had envisioned for all those years. I dreamed about this, then planned how I was going to make this happen and after 3 and half years of hard work, I finally set foot from shore and paddled away, alone in my kayak in an attempt to paddle around the entire Sub-Antarctic Island of South Georgia. I had played this entire scene in my mind so many times. Wondering how cold it will really be, how big will the seas become, how fast will the wind pick up while I am out on the water. Will my tent stand up to the furious winds I have seen with my own eyes and will I have the nerve to actually do it once I am there. So many questions and curiosities have been answered. I have been to the South Georgia school of hard knocks and harsh lessons and I did good . I did not complete what I had set out to complete and yes this in itself does bring a strong feeling of disappointment. Despite the fact that there were a number of reasons and circumstances beyond my control which influenced this outcome, I still struggle with trying to let go of the disappointment and unconditionally embrace all what has been accomplished. That I am sure will come with time. I am wise enough to know that I have not failed. How can one fail if they actually tried and gave it their best shot. Against all the odds, I tried. We tried. One could look at this as failure if I simply do not embrace the experiences I had, the treasures I discovered and the unfathomable beauty I witnessed. And this could be seen as failure simply by not having the mindfulness to actually learn from each set-back and obstacle that happened to be put in our path. The lessons were limitless, the unexpected side-line adventures took us where we all needed to go for reasons that only time will tell.
When I recall the historical accounts of past explorers and adventurers there is a commonality with each story. Their expeditions never panned out the way those involved anticipated, which made for a fabulous story. Sure we did not suffer 2 years living on the ice and making small boat journey's across the Southern Ocean in the middle of winter, however we too have a story to tell.
Tomorrow morning when I turn the corner beyond King Edward Point, I will keep the land close to my port (left) side. I will land on a small beach, giving the local Fur seals and Elephant seals their space and meander up to a small graveside I know well. I will stand before Sir Ernest Shackleton's grave and take a moment to reflect on the reason why we are both right here. Sure, one of us is a few feet under the ground and the other, well I'd say they are pretty happy to still be alive and kickin. We are here simply because we dream and we live those dreams despite how impossible they seem at times. We follow our truest of hearts and in doing we have had the privilege and the honor to relish in the awe-inspiring beauty of South Georgia and be touched by the mesmerizing sights and scenes one can only witness here. I am so grateful.