Cape Horn Bound: Wish you were here.

Wish you were here.

June 1, 2010
53°49’.2S 62°06’.8W

A few minutes ago, I was lying in my berth, watching through my porthole as a pale blue sky streaked with sherbet pink rose and fell, rose and fell, rose and fell to the sea. I was fully pressed against the lee cloth, since I’d given up trying to distribute my weight flat against a berth that was pitching back and forth between 330 degrees and 10 degrees. Spray, and now and then a wave, hit the porthole. Occasionally, a mighty thump would ring out as we pitched forward and backward, hard. A wan winter sun was setting, coldly, and the wind moaned lowly.

I was supposed to be sleeping. We’re on our way to the Falklands and are running sea watches. Our daytime watches are six hours on, followed by six hours off, then a watch of four hours, with four hours off, and another four hours on and four hours off, in a 24-hour period. So, when your four off hours come around, no matter what time of day, it’s a good idea to grab some sleep while you can.

But I can’t. So, here I am in the heaving saloon, with the lights off (to better distract me from how much movement there is all around), writing my blog before reporting for my 1900-2300 hour watch. Amazingly, I am not yet seasick. I am wearing a transdermal patch, which may be doing the trick, and drinking Coke, as a nausea prophylactic. (In other words, at this particular moment, I’m much less afraid of obesity and rotten teeth than I am of vomiting.)

| |Hello from Cape Horn!|

Yesterday morning, we rounded magnificent Cape Horn. The sky was low and grey, and the wind was fresh, but not terribly cold. We rode rolling swells around the legendary point, which loomed in an eerie quiet that fell over Pelagic Australis. The silence wasn't just unanimous awe, though that was part of it. But it struck me that each of us had put this particular sail high on our list of things to do, and there was a clearly a lot of triumphant reflection going on as we passed this monolith, the only gravestone of authority for thousands of mariners. After a while, the chatter began again, cameras were traded and hundreds of pictures were snapped—in my case, it takes a couple hundred to finally get one of me that I can stand. Miles snapped this one, with my Pentax K-7.

We’ve been underway for about 36 hours now, northbound through the famous Strait of la Maire overnight, and are currently transiting a big patch of the southern Atlantic on a northeast course in winds of 30-35 knots. This morning, as our wake was chased by dozens of acrobatic sea birds, I shot some video with a Flip HD camera (in a waterproof case) that I’ll post when I get to a landline. Some short video clips of glaciers I filmed while we were cruising the Beagle Channel amazed me with their picture quality once I finally transferred them to the laptop. I don’t have the steadiest hand, alas, but it’s still pretty cool to look at the Guilcher Ventisqero, for instance, in high definition. This morning I think I got some shots of albatross and petrels as they flew at eye level alongside the Pelagic Australis, before dipping back and wheeling away. Seeing it on video adds a you-are-there feeling that photos can’t quiet match and I wish I could post them right now. Unfortunately, even with GMN’s XGate compressor software and the Iridium 9555 satellite phone as a data modem, sending pictures, never mind video, is still a very slow and expensive process that will have to wait for a landline. (On the other hand, the Iridium 9555 has been nearly infallible for voice calls, and the fixed and hardwired Iridium set-up that Pelagic Australis uses for data has been as reliable as my voice services.)

We should arrive in Stanley on Thursday and I’ll find an Internet café and get some more photos and videos off, so you can have a taste of what we’re experiencing here in southern latitudes. Thanks so much for the feedback on the blogs, especially from the families and friends of my fellow shipmates. I think I speak for all of us when I say wish you were here! Although it would be mighty crowded.

For a gallery of images from Mary South's trip around Cape Horn click here.