Friday, February 25, 2011

Mast Day for Dove

Ruel Rigging Team - Dan, Gillian and Mario
Great excitement on Dove today as the mast was restepped after an extensive overhaul. It looks great and over the next week will get all the final details so we can sail away. It is not just the mast but also lots of other jobs are getting done and the Dove is taking shape as a classic little cruiser. Standby for the first sail next week.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jumping Ice Flows

The good ship Orion steamed into Lytellton marking the end of a successful expedition to the Ross Sea. It was an expedition with some real highlights for me. Landing at Macquarie Island to be greeted by old friend Dr Jamie made it seem like coming home. The Royal penguins of Sandy Bay became my new favourite penguin with their fancy headgear and quirky behaviour. The aftermathe of rabbits is only too evident and we are now on the cusp of round 2 of Man vs Rabbit. Fingers crossed that man wins this battle.

Heading into the Ross Sea the sea ice had cleared itself and we were able to access both Cape Adare and Ross Island. The huts of the heroic age are a window into another age, a harder and simpler time. Cape Royds reminded us that Antarctica was still unpredictable, when the wind changed and sea ice packed in on the landing area. Half the passengers were evacuated before Zodiac access was stopped by the impenetrable ice. The ice packed in soon anough and everyone else tip toed across the ice floes in small groups to the zodiacs waiting at the ice edge. One zodiac was trapped in the ice however and had been driven onto an ice floe to secure it.

I thought we might have been in for an epic getting it back to the sea, but Don was confident that we could haul it fully loaded across the ice and he was dead right. We pushed and pulled it across the ice reminisent of the James Caird, till we made it to open water. The difference between us and Shackelton's men however was that it was a 20 minute excercise for us after which we retired to a luxury passenger liner whose aft deck was lined with cheering passengers. Definietly one of the most memorable landings I have ever made in Antarctica.

Relentless northwesterlies slowed our progress north but still allowed a landing at Campbell Island. What a refuge. A perfect natural reserve that is thriving with the recent removal of the rats, the last invasive specie. The hike on to the plateau is my favourite day walk. Lined with ferns, mosses and odd megaherbs it leads up to an area of tussock, where Albatross nest and could be seen practicing their courting dances.

Steaming north the weather continually improved and on the last day we ate breakfast on the aft deck in calm conditions amongst a pod of seals, dolphins and whales. Capping off a great voyage into some amazing wilderness. Wish you were there.