Thursday, 25 November 2010

Life on the ocean waves

That describes our day today quite well! We set sail out of Puerto Williams last evening in calm and sunny conditions. By morning however, winds had picked up to storm force as we approached Cape Horn. We were thrilled to see the "Cape" in these conditions because it was so easy to imagine what it must have been like to round the Horn in a storm. We could make out Isla Hornos in the wind-blown sea mist but were not able to land. The only comfort in this is that all the sailors who have rounded the Horn over the years expressly did NOT want to land there (can you say shipwreck?!).

The strong winds continued all day on the famous Drake Passage, and whipped up the sea into a maelstrom. We estimated the trough to wave crest height at about 10-12 metres or about 30-40 feet. Walls of spumy brine ran towards the vessel from the stern quarter, in a following sea. The Fram fought back, and with stablizers deployed, she pitched over the waves but took the sting out of the sea. We were very happy to be in such a stable ship this day. Two souls braved the fo'c'sle and held on as waves crashed into the bow of the ship!

The seabirds were clearly happy with these winds. They are experts at extracting energy from the wind and souring on open wings with apparently no effort. And they were certainly flying today! We had four species of albatross, a Snow Petrel, prions, Blue Petrels, and of course the omnipresent Cape and Giant Petrels.
Photographers took advantage of this and enjoyed several sessions trying to capture birds in flight. The buffeting from the wind combined with the extremely fast, jerky flight of the birds made this a particular challenge.