Thursday, 1 March 2012

Lay On Macduff!

Brown Bluff
Photo © Annke Timmerberg

Yesterday we were apprised of two possible plans for this morning.
Plan 1:  Attempt a landing at Brown Bluff at 09:00.  This would be a landing on the actual continent of Antarctica.
Plan B:  If Brown Bluff was a no go due to weather or ice conditions, we would try for the Argentine Base Esperanza.  This would also be a continent landing.
Tabular Iceberg, Antarctic Sound
Photo © Annke Timmerberg
However we knew before we got to Plan 1 that Plan B was not possible.  The two landing sites are just south of the north end of the Antarctic Peninsula on the east side, in Antarctic Sound.  In order to get to our 1st choice of Brown Bluff we had to pass right by Esperanza. The winds were blowing 20-25mps (metres per second) when we reached Esperanza so we knew a landing there in the early morning was extremely unlikely.
 At Brown Bluff the wind was slowly but steadily increasing.  In addition there was a barrier of brash ice and growlers all along the beach. Even if there hadn’t been any wind, the ice would have made a landing there unlikely.
Winds at 20 - 25 metres per second.
Photo © Annke Timmerberg
We decided to bide our time in the area in hope that the wind would drop and that perhaps later in the morning we might have better luck.  We continued a little further south into the scenic area of Fridjof Sound.  The strong winds made our entrance into the Weddell Sea even more dramatic.  Large waves crashed into huge tabular icebergs sending walls of sparkling white spray five or six stories into the air.  By now the wind was whipping off the tops of waves and casting them as long streamers of spray.  Whirligigs of spray helter-skeltered across the sea and then violently dissolved into nothing.   Ahead of us lay an impenetrable barrier of icebergs and multi-year sea ice.  It was dramatic.  The cold and violent beauty that mother nature had on display for us this morning was in stark contrast to the warm comfort of Fram.  
Beaufort force 11, Antarctic Sound
Photo © Annke Timmerberg
Eventually it didn’t make sense to wait any longer for the wind to abate so we headed north once again into Antarctic Sound.  In succession we passed Brown Bluff and Esperanza.  Even the dustiest of landlubbers amongst of us could tell that an attempt to go ashore would be madness.
Well, as in the oft bastardized words of Macbeth, “lead on Macduff”!  Onwards to the Scotia Sea and to new adventures in the wilds of South Georgia!