Pelagic to Port Charcot
28 February 2014 | 65 03.9'S:064 01.9'W, Port Charcot
So the √"Hurry up and wait' game onboard Pelagic continues, but ever since Curious George, we feel that the seals in Port Lockroy might be taking the p***. Again, we see them often hauled out on ice floes, but since our promising first day encounters, we've failed to spot a single one in the water. Thanks to Ruth's good relationship with most of the cruise ship Expedition Leaders we've even had almost every cruise ship passenger into Port Lockroy on high alert helping us look. (Another of Doug's mantras being that while you can't be in more than one place at a time, you can have more than one set of eyes on the water.)
On Friday morning, with ice still filling the Port Lockroy back bay, the boys headed round the corner to try and rendevouz with leopard seal number one in Damoy again. Unfortunately they came back empty handed once more. With ice in the bay making the prospect of diving difficult and affecting the water visibiity, and the trip to Damoy increasingly proving fruitless, a strategic planning meeting was convened. The forecast didn't suggest that the ice swirling round the bay would be gone any time soon, if anything it was likely to be blown further in, and so an executive decision was made. And Pelagic has moved!
Once the decision had been made around midday, it all happened rather quickly. We upped sticks, threw off the lines, and set off, bound for Port Charcot, which as every good Frenchman knows, is where the first of DR J-B Charcot's two expeditions over wintered on the ship the Fran¬ćais. With pretty much flat water all the way down, we were tied up in time for tea, monument to Charcot atop the hill on our starboard side, remains of Charcot's magnetic hut half way up the hill on our port side, and beach-full of plump, tasty looking leopard seal morsels (penguins) and the head of the bay. With a new location came a renewed sense of optimism and an initial reccie of the area was fruitful, with two leps hauled out on ice floes, so we knew there were some in the area. Surely it was only a matter of time.
The following day a divide and conquer approach was taken. We started out the day with Ruth up near Charcot's old magnetic hut, giving her a pretty good view of most of the bays, Doug remained onboard, in a state of semi-readiness for diving, sitting in the doghouse, watching our little bay like a hawk and Andrew pootled about in the dinghy, hoping to attract any leps that might be curious about the sound of the engine. And so we rotated through these various lookout posts throughout out the day.
Its tough going when you are out there to force yourself to keep staring at areas of empty water when there is so much happening on the shore. Fur seals arguing amongst themselves, penguin chicks chasing their parents, crabeater seals scattered here and there, and young shags still getting to grips with landing and taking off from water all provide welcome distractions. Every ripple of water catches your attention and makes you spin round. Every time I went out in the dinghy I was convinced that this would be the time I'd spot one, and every time I came back I desperate wanted to bring good news, but unfortunately I couldn't.
Even Doug's normally patient and relaxed demeanour had started to show signs of cracking as he was heard to mutter, "Come on you f&^%*? !%^&*#^ seals, where the %$#@ are you?" before returning to the jolly singing to himself we are more accustomed to hearing from his direction.
Although it is frustrating that the leps aren't really playing ball, we try not to dwell on it too much. That evening after diner, as another form of distraction, Dave Ruth and I took a trek up the hill to the cairn erected to commemorate Charcot. Once at the top, we caught the last of the sunset, a stripe of bright pink on the horizon, stretching out behind the iceberg graveyard, where a mass of large bergs run aground in the shallow bay. It was made all the more enjoyable by the fact that some bright spark (not to blow my own trumpet) had lugged a fourpack of beer up the hill in her rucksack. A better view for an evening beer I can't imagine.