|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|
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]
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 [...]
As I write we are sitting at anchor in Elsehul - a bay at the very north end of South Georgia. The forecast of north westerly winds of 25-30 knots, turns out to be a full gale from the north, so the swell from the southern ocean is rolling into the bay, and crashing onto the rocks around us. For over 24hrs now the wind has been howling through the rigging, gusts into the high 40's and 50's pull the anchor to full stretch, and Pelagic Australis is tacking back and forth like a tethered dog desperate to be freed from it's chain. As the boat weaves from side to side, so she is blown over by the wind - 15 degrees to port, then 15 degrees to starboard. Not a soul on board has voiced any concerns, and no-one seemed perturbed by the fact that we had to hold on to our plates and glasses at lunchtime to stop them catapulting across the room. Their trust in us and the boat is incredible - let's hope nothing goes wrong in the next few hours by which time we expect, and hope, that the wind will have dropped off to something tolerable.
Before the breeze really filled in yesterday, I managed to take a group for a quick trip ashore. Even in the relatively light winds, with a sheltered beach, the landing was interesting - the force of the surf (only small) was enough to push the zodiac and us around, and the headwinds made it really difficult to get back out into deep enough water to start the outboard. Needless to say, most of us ended up soaking wet, and we were all reminded where we are and for the need to be super conservative and careful with all activities and shore excursions. Some of these guys have been to Antarctica, and had envisioned something similar, I think they are slightly shocked by the bleak landscape, the rawness of the conditions, the density of the wind, and the reality of how remote a place this is. The same conditions in Devon or Cornwall, wouldn't raise any concerns, but here the water is 2 degrees so swimming isn't an option, and failure to get back to the boat would mean finding shelter amongst the tussock grass with the fur seals, and nesting petrels. No-one can come and help if we get into trouble - we are completely alone.
Assuming the conditions moderate as forecast, tomorrow we will head round to the south of the island and the guys will get ready for their big expedition. It looks like they'll get two clear days, and then another storm is coming through. As I type, they are talking of how to dig ice caves and preparing to spend a few days holed away waiting for conditions to improve again. It's exciting stuff, particularly as Stephen Venables is amongst them - he had to shelter in an ice cave for 23days on South Georgia in January 1990. If it really does look that bad however, we'll have to collect them after the two fine days - we can't afford to risk such a delay, and with modern communications, there is no excuse to find ourselves in such a pickle as that.
I hope all is well at home.
Lots of love
Laura and Miles
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