Southern Ocean

Sorry for the delay, Ross is sending these from the ship. Steve (admin)

S66 20 W 0

We’ve left Antarctica, crossing the Antarctic Circle early this morning and steaming swiftly north (well, 12.5 knots is pretty brisk for the Agulhas).  The last summer expeditioners were flown onboard from SANAE by helicopter on the morning of the 21st, leaving officials from the VIP visit still waiting for better weather to catch their flight out of Antarctica via Novo by fixed-wing.  A tense moment passed: as the helicopter neared the ship where it lay in the lee of the ice-shelf, a bank of thick fog rolled off the Blaskimen Ice Rise and swallowed us in greyness, but a quick deviation to the west found a clear patch of beautiful sunlight and the Kamov  landed without hitch.  With a few blasts on the ship’s horn to the overwintering team left on the shelf, the Agulhas turned northeast and began picking her way through the remaining pack-ice.
Most of the day was spent steaming through beautiful pancake ice.  This is reminiscent of large water-lilies; as the sea surface freezes in the cold night, sheets of ice form which bump into each other, becoming round with slightly raised edges.  Against the dark blue of the water, they look beautifully white and delicate, but after we saw a pair of skuas land thereupon and easily stay afloat I began to think otherwise!

According to satellite imagery, a last 30-mile band of pack-ice lay between us and the open sea.  We sailed north-east to pass through a less intense area, and then once free of the multi-year ice turned west to regain the Greenwich Meridian.  The return voyage follows the ‘Goodhope Transect’, an oceanographic research course: zero degrees longitude from Antarctica to 40 south, then a northeast dogleg into Cape Town.  Despite seeing many beautiful icebergs, the sea ice itself was easy to navigate, and we have now reached open but delightfully smooth waters and are making excellent speed.  Several albatrosses are to be seen effortlessly skimming over the waves or riding the easy lift above the bridgehouse – an excellent omen for our voyage.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.