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Ciara, Katherine, Simon and Stu go south on Seal - February/March

Ciara's (Kiki's) Blog

4th March - Cape Horn on the horizon

Cape Horn came into view at 10am this morning, a hazy blip, justSailing to Cape Horn
25 miles away. Despite the fact that most of us have raced around Cape Horn, many of us have never seen it before. On Toshiba Wave Warrior, our racing track took us around the Horn at night, some 30 miles offshore.

The depth sounder started reading again this morning, suggesting that we are now in shallower water on the shelf, but despite that we are sailing downwind with the headsail poled out in relatively flat seas... quite glorious. We also have a pod of dolphins swimming around the bow, welcoming us back to land.

We thought that in the email silence of the last day or so, people would assume that we were coping heroically, sailing in the most horrendous conditions. We even thought to incite a bit of collusion in the team to suggest as much, whereas in truth, I think we have all enjoyed the passage. There was a lull the other night and we motored for a few hours waiting for the new breeze to fill in.

It was quite a novelty to spend the greater part of a night watch down below, autopilot on, watching the radar and surveying all around, hot chocolate in hand. It made me finally appreciate the true abilities of the Global Challenge navigator/tactician who spent long hours perusing weather information, pouring over charts and calling for sail changes from the comfort of the chart table with their oilskins round their ankles, congratulating the rest of us when we finally dripped down below after said sail change!

We should be able to moor up close to the Horn this afternoon and hope to go ashore today or tomorrow, depending on the conditions.

2 March - 60 38S, 65 53W Kiki and Simon in Melchiors

 

Tonight I am blogging literally from the middle of the Southern Ocean as we are now 280Nm from Cape Horn and just about half way there from the Peninsula. We have had a couple of cracking days sailing in great conditions with steady winds on the beam of about 20knots, gusting up towards 30knots in the intermittent snowy squalls. I was surprised how quickly the sea state changed as we sailed offshore and soon we knew we were back into the Southern Ocean rollers.We watched the Peninsula fade away into the clouds and the horizon yesterday afternoon and by the evening time we caught our last glimpse of landfall, Smith Island off the starboard, highlighted by the pinkish sunset. For some time into the night we could see the iceblink of Brabant on the horizon as the moon reflected off the ice and created a hazy glow. We are all most used to the cold now thanon the passage across and that combined with the fact that it is less windy with less wind chill makes this a pretty comfortable trip so far.The wind has been heading us this afternoon and we have been getting some westing in in preparation for this.. this afternoon I was on watch with Simon and we were chatting about how much easier this passage was than to be sailing best to windward, due West across the Southern Ocean as we did on the Challenge Race. We called one of our old crew mates, Jo Watson, and I thnk she was pretty surprised to get a call from 61 S and even more surprised that there was no gusting wind and spume interfering with the reception and that it all sounded so civilised! The wind is due to ease this evening, but hopefully it will hold and not becalm us... we're enjoying our sailing for now and we'll have no credibility left amongst our Challenge contempories if we have it too easy...

1 March - Battening down the hatches

It's March 1st and we are battening down the hatches in
preparation for our sail back across the Drake Passage. We were all up early this morning, waiting for the GRIBs to arrive, our weather forecasting information. We receive weather info to the yacht via a number of sources to help with passage planning and the GRIBS give us a pretty detailed five day forecast for our chosen area so that we can find the best "window" of opportunity to leave in with a favourable wind force and direction if possible. The forecast is currently predicting a moderate South Westerly breeze for the next few days, which would take us nicely back to Chile, with a few days in lieu to explore Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego. So the plan is to use it!

There is a bit of preparation to do before we leave, deflating and stowing the dinghy, the anchor and chain, screwing down the storm hatches, getting the charts ready and stowing everything away safely for the motion of the ocean! Kate spent most of yesterday cooking, preparing meals and "farinaceous objects" . (I've no idea if that is spelt properly, but it's the buzz word around here for floury home bakes) for our trip, so the galley smelt like a bakery for most of the afternoon.

After a very sunny start to yesterday, the weather turned in the Penguins on the move
afternoon and we approached the Melchior Islands in light snowfall which became much heavier as the evening drew in. We saw several whales again on the passage North between Anvers and Brabant Islands and huge rafts of penguins swimming and leaping out of the water. We stopped for lunch and witnessed a huge berg breaking up, the overhanging foot of the berg breaking away and rising to the surface with a huge surge. The noise was overwhelming as was the wave that followed and it was quite spectacular.

We dropped anchor just of Lambda Island in the Melchoirs and wanted to put stern lines ashore, the only problem being that there were seven fur seals lining the shore. I'm told that the only way to aggravate them is to go within five metres or between them and the sea... so as you can imagine, I stepped very gingerly onto the rocks, just yards away, trying not to draw attention to myself (dinghy, engine, splashing onto the rocks, bright red oilies, everyone else laughing from the yacht saying it had been nice knowing me.... it was pure stealth, but fortunately they were too busy playing with each other to notice and I didn't disturb them!). We headed up onto the high rocks once the yacht was safely anchored and watched the seals below on the shore, playing, fighting and flapping around.

 

We've been amazed by some of the landscapes here particularly the
huge fracture lines caused by the freezing and thawing of the rocks and Stu has been very good at educating us. Last night he noticed a great basalt dyke running right along the rock and Anna found some lava nearby. It was to be our last evening ashore in Antarctica but it was great to call home on the Iridium phone and say hello. This morning, the decks were covered in a 2cm thick sheet of ice and from the snow and hailstones that had fallen and then frozen solid during the night so we have been busy literally clearing the decks and preparing for the passage since daybreak. We have just slipped the anchor (it's now 11am). It will be good to get some Northing while we have the light of the day as once it gets dark, ice in the water creates a bigger danger.... We were quite nostalgic last night over dinner, trying to remember all the "best bits" but the truth is that we've not really had a bad day or any low points. We have literally thousands of photos and video clips between us so we shall have plenty of reminders. It's sad to be leaving this magical kingdom, but for now I still have a good sail across the Drake and some time in Chile to look forward to before I head back to Dublin.

28 February - Dorian Cove

Ice berg

It's 6.30 am and another beautiful dawn has broken in Dorian Cove. We moved here early on Monday morning, as drifting ice from the carving cliffs was threatening the safety of our anchorage at Alice Creek by Port Lockroy, just a mile or so away. It's been snowing pretty much ever since, but this morning the skies have cleared and the sun trying to shine which really demonstrated the sheer beauty of this cove.

One of the great things about Seal is that with the raised saloon we have panoramic views of the bay even when we're down below... I'm here enjoying my morning coffee, watching the penguins on the shore, the sun rising up behind the mountains and the campers retreat back to their ship... yes, we have company here in Dorian Cove. The Port Lockroy area is very beautiful and is one of the most visited on the Peninsula. A cruise ship arrived last night and deposited nearly 30
campers on the shore, who were part of a 2041 expedition. The expedition leader, Robert Swan, who was part of the first expedition to reinact Scott's route to the South Pole in 1985 came aboard Seal and it was a real privilege to meet him.

Despite the snow, we have enjoyed some great walks ashore here
and spectacular wildlife... even from the comfort of the saloon we can watch leopard seals overcoming their prey, tossing penguins around in their game of cat and mouse. What really amazed me was the frantic scramble of the swimming penguins as the seal went in for the kill in the shallows close to the shore, with most of the penguins making it to the safety of the beach and then standing with their backs to the water as the seal's catch flapped helplessly for its final few minutes, before being discarded. We have seen at least three of these "catches" and yesterday a dead penguin was floating around the yacht, having been killed but not eaten.

We rowed ashore yesterday afternoon, having taken the motor out of the dinghy so that wecould lift it out of the water and onto the beach. Leopard seals seem tohave a bit of a taste for rubber - several other yachts reporting damage totheirs from seals. The plan made sense until the leopard seal swam right up behind the dinghy, within a couple of feet... There was some pulse racing excitement as the leopard seal could potentially sink the dinghy and loyalties were split as some reached for the oars to row faster and others went for the camera! There were some ski mountaineers from another yacht onthe shore witnessing the whole episode and fortunately between the splash of the oars we couldn't hear them laughing at us.... It's only funny because no harm was done!

The penguin chicks are all quite big now and we found some abandoned nests Sailing out of Dorian Cove in the cliffs, one of which still had half a hatched penguin egg shell in. We've got so used to the sights and sound of the Antarctic now but it still give me that super glowing great to be alive feeling! It's amazing to be walking on the islands, observing the penguins dipping in and out of the sea, plump chicks feeding and then chasing their parent around the shore demanding more food; finding the odd seal basking on a rock; seeing a whale flukeing in the bay below and treading carefully along the glaciers.

We're setting off this morning for the sail up to Melchior. I have to go and retrieve the shore lines now and the tide has come in so they're all underwater! This is potentially our last full day in Antarctica and I think it's going to be a goody...

Thanks so much to everyone who has sent messages to me. I don't get the email addresses of the message senders so I can't reply directly, but thanks for all your news and support... I shall send more photos this evening, but for now I want to get back up on deck and make the most of every moment.

25 February - At Port LockroyLemaire Channel ('Kodak Gap')

 

We had a fantastic sail today back up the Le Maire Channel, back past Una's Tits for a second peek (well, it is Simon's birthday!).

It's a bit of a wrench to be heading North again, but we did have another day of near perfect conditions and enough wind to do some proper sailing, along with the usual sightings of mountains, glaciers and bergs, humpbacks, minkes, seals, penguins... just magic and it never gets boring unless of course you're four: Anna retorted, "I've seen one already, silly " when I was encouraging her to look at the nth whale of the day.

We made carrot cake to celebrate Simon's birthday and he was
delighted to open presents from Lou, Jack and Charlie. Hamish has Gentoo chick feedinginsisted we celebrate properly this evening in Chilean style with their favorite cocktail, Pisco Sours. It's tough on the liver spending a whole month at sea with such a hardy Scotsman, particularly when we have such ready access to rugby results, although I was cheered last night when all the messages we received to the boat were for me from very smug Ireland supporters... Hurrah!

We are at Port Lockroy on Wiencke Island ... we have officially ppppppicked up a penguin, having been pecked by the locals on the way up to the station! We have also witnessed some serious ice carving and bergs breaking up since we arrived in Port Lockroy this evening. We were greeted by Rick and Sally, who do a fantastic job running the base here which is a British Post Office and Museum, with many artefacts from the 1950s and early days of Antarctic research into the ionosphere. They have had nearly 15,000 visitors this season alone, including Princess Anne. It was really interesting to meet them and hear about their season....and the sunset and penguins really made it.... you know when the camera memory card and the battery run out at the same time, you've had a pretty full day!

 

23 February - It's snowing again

 

It started snowing last night and hasn't stopped all day. It's windy too, but we don't know how windy as the instruments have frozen. And the lamb on the gantry; that has frozen too! So it's pretty cold down here.

We went ashore and found snow-covered penguin chicks sitting it out with their families. It's amazing how they choose to sit out the driving sleet and snow on the most exposed end of the island, virtually oblivious. They were made for this climate but we were all pretty well wrapped up.

It was great to have a decent hike up and down the cliff though and with so much fresh snow around, we built a snowman with Helen and Anna, which is on the top of the cliff watching over the yacht as I write.

This being Friday night, Kate has thawed some lamb and has cooked up a Lamb Curry and Saag Pineer with bastmati rice, which smells amazing... it's nearly dinner time!

 

Helen and Anna's snowman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 February - Flounder IslandCocktail hour in the LBD

 

We really enjoyed meeting the Pelagic Australis lot and the scientists, but it was great to get back to sea yesterday as we sailed further south to the Fish Islands in glorious conditions. There was a lot of swell, some evidence of the heavy weather we had missed in the channel whilst we experienced glass like calm waters in the bay.

The scenery is changing, there are a lot more low hills and glaciers and big bergs rather than the craggy rocky peaks. We moored up at Flounder Island, a stunning spot with a large glacier and an Adelie penguin rookery. We enjoyed the sunset ashore with evening drinks and nibbles and dressed appropriately for drinks with penguins...
in Black tie... I had my LBD packed for such and occasion, which was great fun, although I don't usually wear it with wellies. We also ate the Pink Champagne truffles that Celine gave me, so thank you!

This morning I went ashore to watch the sun rise with the Adelies. It is unbelievably beautiful here and we all then went for a good walk on the next island. It's warm enough to sit out on deck for lunch in the Avalanchesunshine, albeit in thermals rather than bikinis.

The sunshine seems to have kicked of another wave of avalanches so every few minutes we could heard the low rumble of them, perhaps miles away. We did get to see one up close, the powder cascading down the mountain side.

We are in Mutton Cove this evening after a short hop across the Fish Islands today, now slightly further north at 66 00S, 65 38W. Someone with a sense of humour named these islands. The smoothest glacier sits on Jagged Island, the low rise beside us is Cliff Island and the next island is called Beer island, perhaps an excuse to tee total it tonight.

 

 

 


 

 

 

20th February - It's snowing!

The heatwave came to an end yesterday and it started snowing... We had spent the morning exploring Hovgaard Island, overheating in light fleeces and by early afternoon as we pulled the anchor, the snow and sleet started to fall and continued all night. We sailed to Vernadsky 65°15S, 64°15W, a Ukranian research base, formerly the British Antarctic Survey Base Faraday, where they "discovered" the hole in the ozone layer in 1985.

We awoke this morning to fresh powder covering the decks and the surrounding islands and set off to play. There's another yacht here today, Pelagic Australis, so we had a snowball fight with them this morning up on the ice... It's a bit dodgy trying to avoid the cravasses and the snowballs at the same time! They have invited us to their yacht for tea and pancakes this afternoon. We also visited Wordie Hut, which is now a museum with artefacts used for research when the base was first established.

I'm really loving it down here, it has all been pretty wholesome and healthy up until last night when we visited the Ukranian research base.As a former researcher and a scientist (sort of!), I can appreciate the benefits of a small tipple at the end of a long day... The Ukranians wind down with a drop of vodka and invited us to join them in the bar. They had a rather dubious collection of ladies underwear behind the bar and I was offered life membership and unlimited vodka if I erm... donated to the collection... (all in good humour).  The vodka was suprisingly good and we had a great evening - almost too good and I was relieved to return to the yacht, underwear intact!

It's quite strange to have other company again. We have been a content little group on our own yacht. Our anchorage on Monday night was at the Southern end of the Lemaire Channel, nestled between Pleneau and Hovgaard Islands. Yesterday Hamish took the others to the Gentoo penguin colony on Pleneau while Simon and I went to explore Hovgaard. We thought we had the whole island to ourselves and it would be great to have a proper walk... there were lots of rocky boulders and glaciers with small bergs littering the beach, washed up in the tide. The Skuas had other ideas! They fly very low and straight at anyone they think is invading their territory and despite our best efforts to leave them alone, we didn't go unnoticed! So, amidst the peace and tranquillity of there not being a sole around, the odd penguin here, a seal on a rock there, we were climbing the boulders when suddenly there was a squark, followed by a swoop, followed by a Skua flying straight at Simon, open beaked, while Simon clutched defensively onto a precious tuft of  hair on the back of his head!!! Very funny! (I'll be ok, he won't read this till we get back).

It's hard to describe what it's like here. Seeing the whales so close to the yacht was unbelievable, seeing the blow hole up close, but nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming stench of whale breath and the soaking in
whale snot that follows each snorting expiration. The thunder of the avalanches as snow carves into the sea is also extraordinary. I was up the rig at Cafe Point the other day getting photos of the iceberg soup sea and
each thunder roll was followed by a rocking of the rig as the sea was displaced by the ice hitting the water... detectable at the deck level and quite marked up high! We met another crew who had experienced a sort of mini tsunami effect in a bay the other week, where the water level changed dramatically.

I'm enjoying getting to grips with my camera, playing around with the lenses and the settings and we are all getting lots of picture. I realised I was getting a bit carried away the other day. We sailed along Iceberg
Boulevard and down Iceberg Alley. The Northern end of the Lemaire Passage was almost entirely blocked by ice as the tide had washed all the bergy bits into the channel. Hamish suggested someone could "spot" ie look for the bigger bergs from a high point on the rig and said it would be a great wide angle photo opportunity, so I immediately scrambled up to the first spreader, camera round neck like a dedicated pap... before remembering that I'm not great with heights. I got my photos and climbed down very slowly! The noise sailing through the bergy water is incredible, the slow grating and crunching of the bergs scraping the metal hull and the snap and crackle that the bergs make, popping in the sea.

We're off for tea aboard Pelagic Australis now. It's busy life down here, you know and we have a long evening ahead.... I may have to become a life member of the bar later on...!
xx

17 February - Cuverville Island

I haven't blogged for a couple of days now. It not that nothing has
happened. Quite the opposite. It is as though we have entered a magical kingdom and no words I write will even begin to descibe what it is like here. It is so absorbing, I can't bear to look at a computer screen instead.

I just need time to slow down so that my senses can take it all in. The
absolute highlight has to be 3 humpback whales, almost as long as the hull, breeching and rolling, circling the yacht for over an hour showing off... just spectacular. We have been blessed with perfect weather and are at anchor now off Cuverville Island, about 20yards from the beach which is teaming with Gentoo penguins... I'm off to have a closer look!

14th February - When I'm 64!


We sailed Seal about 60 miles South today, past Trinity Island and up to the Peninsula itself. We are now at 64°S 61°W,  anchored in a small cove at the Western tip of the Davis Coast (at the Northern tip of the Danco Coast) on the Peninsula, just south of Trinity Island.

We have now all stepped on the continent itself...Hurrah!... Simon was first to step ashore as he brought the lines ashore to back up the anchor. We didn't get too far as this cove is a mass of slippery rocks and rock pools full of iceberg water with imposing cliffs, so we settled for a snowball fight. The sea is full of "bergy bits", small lumps of ice from bergs, so we rescued one and broke it up with a pick and are all enjoying well chilled gin and tonics as I write. I've also now changed Kiki dreaming of ice G&Tsinto my Helly Hansen shocking pink thermal longjohns... there's a reason why they were on sale, I'm told...?!

The trip is so far more than living up to the brochure! ... the sail down
here today was absolutely mesmerising... just stunning,.. with humpbacks, icebergs, more humpbacks, more icebergs, penguins, more icebergs, stunning coast line... I just don't know enough adjectives, so you'll have to come and see for yourselves!.. I'm only half way to being 64, but I'm sure I'll remember today when I am.

13th Feb: Scott's in the Antarctic!


We have arrived! It was fantastic to sail into our first island this
morning. Deception Island is a volanic island in the South Shetlands at 63° S. It has a broken ring shape with a narrow entrance and the collapsed volcanic cone provides an anchorage in the core of the island. It's very striking with rugged magestic cliffs capped with glaciers with black sandy beaches and it really is volcanic; the sand is really hot and the water warm enough for a very welcome paddle!

There were thousands of birds around the yacht last night as we approached the land and as we sailed into the harbour in the early hours we were greeted by hump back whales which was really magnificent.

It was great to get off the yacht for a good walk along the beach and up the  cliffs and watch the seals and penguins (we let the "fairly active
volcano" thing slip to the back of our minds!). We're not in offshore mode now, so  everyone's getting decent showers aboard and checking out their first attempt at wildlife photography. I have so many already of penguin's bottoms and almost whales, it's hard to get them to look at the camera!!

Larry the Lamb, who's  been standing watch in the gantry since we left Chile, is now legless, so we're looking forward to a good dinner and a couple of decent bottles of Chilean Merlot!

I understand from Katherine (KO) that a lot of the National Schools in Ireland are following our progress this week as we arrive in Antarctica... and I thought I'd slipped off for a quiet holiday! So a big hello to any of my
patients  who are following through their schools in Dublin, Wicklow or Kildare. I hope you enjoy the site and make sure you keep your braces very clean while I'm away!!

We're planning to sail further south tomorrow to the Pennisula proper...

12 February - What a difference a day makes!


After a fantastic 24 hours or so of sailing with favourable wind on the
beam, it slowly died away during the night. So, with less than 10 knots of breeze, we are now motoring towards the Pennisula. We are just below 62°S and 50 miles from the Boyd Strait, our waypoint through the South Shetland Islands and towards the pennisula. Elephant Island, from where some of Shackelton's men were rescued is to the north and east of us. As we have crossed the Antarctic Convergence, where the colder Antarctic waters meet the South Atlantic, it should be much colder, but as there is much less wind chill, it feels milder today.

People have asked what we are wearing. I have Musto High Performance thermals and Musto ribstock and fleece midlayer
jacket and salopettes (thanks Mark!) and Musto MPX Goretex outerlayer and Dubarry Goretex boots. Most of the others have the heavier HPX oilskins so may be wearing less underneath! I sometimes wear an extra fleece on night watch, just to be cosy! It's dry on deck today, so I'm fine without the outer layer; the stuff is pretty warm. We wear lifejackets and harnesses which can be attached to the deck at night and when it's windy.

I also have a couple of pretty attractive hats, my favorite being the Goretex one with fleecy ear flaps, photographic evidence of which may not make it back to your shores!! We're all getting a chance to regain some
vanity and after 3 days at sea, it's hard to decide who looks worst on it! Hamish has been secretly washing and shaving I think, so hasn't taken on the look of a wily old sea dog, but the rest of us have all looked and smelt
better if the truth be told, despite best efforts to be clean!  Stu seems worried about whether his blue rubber mits go with his red Goertex jacket and yellow salopettes! We should use Photoshop to compile a photo of our worst bits - Simon's squirrel munched beard and my hair, which has had that just out of bed look for about 3 days now!

Our plan was to head to Deception Island in the South Shetland Islands first, due south and east, but the pressure is dropping fairly rapidly and the wind is due to fill in from the East, which may make getting there a bit
of a slog... we shall have to see what the weather brings. As we get further South there will be more ice in the water, making progress a bit hairier... we are already on lookout and using the radar to look for icebergs.

For now, life aboard is pretty pleasant. I'm getting stuck into my novel, "This Thing of Darkness" by Harry Thompson, which tells the story of Captain FitzRoy's Voyages on the Beagle, mapping and naming Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego. I'm really loving being down here and settling back into life at sea... helming the yacht by moonlight last night in beautiful conditions and watching the sun rise. We are also starting to see more wildlife and "almost" saw a whale this morning... I am very excited about getting our first glimpse of Antarctica now...

Thanks for all the messages so far - great to hear your news.

11 February - Hailstones keep falling on my head!

Have just come up on watch and am relieved to see more clement conditions. The last 24hours have offered a pretty sharp reminder of all the southern ocean has to offer... 45knot, mountainous waves, icey winds and hailstones... keeping watch with just a few storm petrels and the old albatross, and then trying to sleep while to boat bangs off waves!

A combination of finding my sea legs and a respite in the conditions makes me a lot brighter today... and realising the southern ocean diet has gone so well I'll look vaguely thin in the photos...small pleasures!

8 February - Lamb and landmines

It was fantastic to finally set sail yesterday, for the albeit short
passage from Puerto Williams to Isla Picton. Despite to pretty unsavoury conditions, we had a super sail under reefed mail and poled out headsail (I love going downwind!) and it was great to familiarise ourselves with the workings of the deck. We anchored at Caleta Banner, a very protected little haven on the North side of the island, protected by forested hills with ice capped mountains in the distance.

The weather keeps rolling in with warm sunny spells interupted by 40 knot gusts and hailstones. I don't think I've ever been this comfortable on a yacht in poor conditions; the saloon is beautifully warm and dry and bright, with panoramic views of the weather and the wildlife whilst whiling away a very wet morning with fresh coffee, bread

baking and scrabble. Hamish also hung out 2 lambs on the gantry to Lamb in the 'fridge'

feed us over the next few weeks... the wind chill even at anchor is better than refrigeration!

We went ashore this aftemoon for a hike, intending to follow the river up through the forest to the lake, our plan only to be foiled by barbed wire and "beware of landmines" signs blocking the way half way up. My eyesite(or my zoom) must be better than Simon's as he insisted on going right up to the wire to get a better view! We still had a great walk during what must have been the best 2 hours of the day, with only one hailstorm... the Goretex kit all works!

We are planning to set sail for Antarctica tomorrow,  once the front has passed through...

2nd February - Parisian 'chic' hits Punta Arenas

It took just over 30 hours to travel from home in Dublin at 53 degrees north to Punta Arenas, Chile at 53 degrees south, but I arrived to a beautiful sunny evening and still had the energy to enjoy a quiet cerveza in the comfort of the Hotel Cabo Hornos! If the hotel name wasn´t enough to make me feel that I was now almost at the end of the earth, when I arrived at Punta Arenas airport, the next outgoing flight was the 1800 to Antarctica.

Due to the weight allowance, I was dressed ready for action; walking trousers, hiking boots, fleece, camelback day pack... I didn´t think I had ever looked less urban or chic, so I was amused when I boarded the plan to CDG and the chap sitting next to me asked me in a thick Belfast accent, "do you live in Paris then?"

The trip went well and I met some interesting people, firstly an Irish guy who, since marrying a chilean girl and moving to Santiago was still commuting to Dublin for his job (and some people complain about the M50) By coincidence, they had sailed from Puerto Williams, through the beagle channel and around Cape Horn last summer, so it was great to hear all about his trip. On the next flight I sat next to a young Norwegian fisherman who was travlling to th Falkland Islands to join a trawler and fish for crill in Antarctic waters.

I had booked a trip this afternoon to travel to Magellan Island to the penguin colony, but it was cancelled due to the weather conditions... it is blowing something of a gale through town, with intermittent squally showers.  Better get used to it!

January 30th: Ready to go

I think that I am just about ready to go...

I thought I was ready a few days ago, but then realised that I still had a million things to do in about 36 hours! The flat looks like a bomb's hit it, so now that I'm pretty much packed I have to tidy up... I'd better make it home in one piece because I'd be mortified if anyone had to come here and see this place. It's the domestic equivalent of not having nice pants on the day you have a car crash!

However, amidst the chaos this evening, I managed to find time to call my crew mates and the reality that we are actually heading off this week is sinking in. I shall be in Punta Arenas by Friday evening and able to start exploring Tierra del Fuego and live our adventure... I can't wait!

January 11th: "Mad", "Hopeless" or "Possible"

I went to see a play, "Tom Crean, Antarctic Explorer", at the Olympia Theatre last night...

Tom Crean was a Kerry man, who after joining the Royal Navy sailed to Antarctica 3 times, firstly with Scott on the Discovery and then on Scott's fatal Terra Nova expedition, when he got to within 140 miles of the South Pole as one of the final 8. He received the Albert Medal for saving the life of his Captain on their return to the camp. He then sailed on Shackleton's historic Endurance expedition...

These men were away for years at a time, enduring the hardship of the Antarctic winter in little more than woollens and gabardine and the play really brought this to life... By comparision we shall have it very easy with Gortex kit, breathable underwear and a satellite phone! Going to see the play not only got me thinking about our trip but also gave me a bit of perspective before I splurge on every conceivable bit of warm and dry kit to bring with me.

Apparently, when Shackleton announced his Endurance expedition in 1912, he was swamped with over 5000 applications from hopeful crew. By all accounts, he then organised applicants into 3 drawers; "Mad", "Hopeless" and "Possible". It must have been the 1912  equivalent of Big Brother. Apparently, he even received applications from 3 girls who promised to wear male clothing if their "female garb was inappropriate" , but they were discarded as "hopeless"... we'll have to show that times have changed!

2nd January 2007

I’ve always had a fascination with Antarctica, perhaps fuelled by long nights on watch listening to Mark and Simon harp on about it during the BT Global Challenge! I’d looked into doing a trip like this and had even applied for a job in Antarctica, but it had remained a pipe dream. The balance was tipped this summer when we all met up for a crew reunion… reminiscing about the race when we were all younger and more exciting was enough to get me thinking seriously about this new adventure and making it actually happen!

I have very fond memories of my experience on the BT Global Challenge and 10 years on, I can barely remember the Southern Ocean being that cold or miserable… which is probably a good thing! I love the sense of freedom of being at sea, away from it all and facing the elements. Most of the sailing I’ve done has been racing, training or deliveries, so I’m definitely looking forward to doing some cruising and visiting Cape Horn and Antarctica and having some time to explore and to watch the wildlife and not just the sails. There was also no such thing as a blog back in 1996, so keeping in touch through this website should be fun.

Ciara's Blog

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