Week 5 of Antartica

Highlight for all of us:
Other people & Adélie Penguins

This week has been largely dictated by unfriendly weather. We had approximately 1.5 days of nice weather. The rest has been quite windy with lots and lots of rain.

We pull weather data via our satellite connection 1-2 times a day and our lives are planned around the weather information that we receive. We have also learned while sailing that sometimes you regret leaving a safe anchorage.

Well, the Stella Creek anchorage that we worked hard to get into last week paid big dividends. We ended up there for 8 nights. After having already visited Wordie House and the base, it felt kind of disappointing to be in Antarctica and not moving or seeing anything. Also a bit strange to know that we were near people at the station but not interacting with them. They have their work and we are comfortable in our home, plus the weather was not at all nice for moving around in dinghies. All in all, it was nice to know that if we needed anything they were there, and that we were very safe in the protected arm of the channel. While we had hoped to move on, the weather forecasts kept looking pretty bad without a lot of opportunities to move north without driving into strong headwinds, and what chances there were, were followed by more high winds and precipitation.

After seeing where we were with fuel, the week of strong northerly winds and some information on ice to the south we had decided that we were not going to venture further south than Vernadsky Station. What initially seemed like a bit of a disappointment, turned into a week that felt more like a little break from Antarctica and isolation.

We received emails from Orionde and Kotik that the weather was indeed like forecast both north and south of us, and that they were working hard to move around and find good shelter. So we were further happy to know that staying in our secure shelter was the right call for us. We aren't in a huge hurry and have about another week's worth of exploring that we would like to do. We have plenty of food and will begin looking for a weather window back up to Puerto Williams. It sounds like Orionde may head back this next week and Kotik, like us, is hoping for the end of the month or the beginning of March.

We did use the nice half day (Wednesday) to dinghy around the islands near Vernadsky. We walked around Skua Island a bit and the boys played in the snow near Wordie House. We saw a good number of seals and skuas. We also used the quickly melting snow / lots of rain to gather water for our water tanks (Wednesday and Thursday). We were not generating any power because there wasn't any sun and because our wind generator was sheltered from most of the winds that were blasting through the top of our rigging as they passed over the cliff to our north. Our watermaker continues to work fine (a bit slow due to how cold the water is, but we knew that would be the case here), but free water that didn't cost our precious resource of power was worth the effort - we were able to run a hose from the falling water straight to our tank. This kept us topped up and we can go back to three hour stints of watermaking every few days while moving (generating power) that has become our habit. The water, heated by an engine run, allowed for nice showers for everyone and then we topped up the water again (Thursday).

The week provided down time for school work, rest and games. We also did a lot of baking. We opened up a large pumpkin so there was pumpkin pie, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup. And there is even still a section of pumpkin left for another meal. Plus there was the usual cooking of meals, bread baking and snacks.

We delivered thank you notes to Vernadsky on Friday and had invited them over to Zephyros Friday or Saturday. We had left an open invitation with them last Monday on our station visit, but since they hadn't taken us up on it, we wanted to make sure they knew they were welcome. With the weather and base work schedules, it just didn't work out. Saturday proved to be quite windy through the day so that continued to hinder a visit. However, it didn't prevent a determined Kotik from arriving in the late afternoon. We are good friends with the Captain, Igor, from Puerto Williams (he's been a major resource and help to us). He left Puerto Williams about a week after us and has been further south in Antarctica since arriving. He had been trying to work north from Marguerite Bay all week and we had hoped to see each other in Vernadsky. Saturdays are typically a social night at Vernadsky and they invited Kotik (who they know well and have hosted once this past winter and shortly after Kotik arrived to Antarctica this trip) over and then called to invite us, as well. After hearing from Vernadsky, Igor stopped by for a catch-up chat and to invite us over to Kotik before all going to Vernadsky. It was a wonderful evening. The crew aboard Kotik is an interesting mix of Igor's friends - they came from numerous places to make the trip. With COVID-19 related restrictions, he was sure at least one of them would not be able to make it, but somehow they all arrived in Puerto Williams and have been enjoying their trip to Antarctica - many for the first time, some for something between 4-11 times (not to mention Igor who has been around 40+ times). We enjoyed meeting everyone and learning about them and their adventures. We were also appreciative of their willingness to speak English with us as this Kotik crew runs in French and Spanish. The language is also a bit of a barrier at the Ukrainian Station, as they understand and can speak some English, but other than the doctor at the base, are pretty shy about speaking, which we completely understand and can relate to! Kotik has a Russian speaking guest and she was a great help to the evening as it opened up more communication with other base members to the group. The boys were also very popular and every time we turned around they were eating a new dessert or candy that somebody had brought to them, or doing exercises with someone, or getting help to play on the Xbox, or...well you get the idea. It was amusing to realize this was by far the most social we have been in six months (we went to an outdoor wedding back in September, before that it is well over a year since we've been at a big, inside gathering) and it was in Antarctica! It was also a strange escape from the world of COVID that we have all been navigating. We felt amazingly lucky.

Sunday morning we woke up to nice weather and confirmation that the window to move north still looked pretty good. We got moving, said our goodbyes over the radio and waved to the people from Vernadsky Station that kindly came out to wave goodbye. We headed over to the nearby Yalour Islands were we had heard there were Adélie penguins. We anchored Zephyros and headed in. They were so cute! They seemed quite fuzzy. The babies were getting pretty large and there was a lot of wing flapping. We watched them for awhile and then headed back to Zephyros. It was a nice excursion and we were happy to confirm we have seen all three brush-tail penguins of the Antarctic Peninsula.

From there we started north. We had planned to stop at Pleneau Island which is just south of Port Charcot. We had skipped it on our way south figuring we would catch it going back north. It is also supposed to be well protected and the weather said there would be another couple of windy days/nights. We saw Kotik out in front of us and followed them north. It was quite strange to be underway with another sailboat! We went past Petermann Island together and had a radio chat. They had decided to take the weather window and use it to move north all day. They are hoping to get to Deception Island so making a big move yesterday should allow them to escape the wind we will still be in for a little while longer, and to continue to see things and move north over the next few days. Later this week it looks like we may all be back to really calm weather.

We decided not to make the day stop off of Petermann where there is an Argentinian hut and Charcot spent his second winter (he spent his first winter in Port Charcot). We broke off to the west and Kotik continued north. We got settled into the Pleneau anchorage and took advantage of the sunshine and calm weather. We dinghy'd around and took a couple of nice walks. There were quite a few seals around and more gentoo penguins. They are quite hilarious now running about and chasing each other. We saw a group of three on one rocky island out cropping and investigated a bit closer realizing it was an adult gentoo with a baby gentoo and baby adélie. How strange! Also, we were under the impression that the babies didn't swim until after they molted, but D has a new theory that maybe they do practice and learn with baby feathers in shallower, protected waters. We all continue to enjoy watching, learning and making new hypotheses.

Sunday night did end up windy and continued into Monday with winds and rains. We were all quite glad we explored the area in Sunday's nice, calm, sunny weather. Week 5 closed out much like it started - windy & rainy, but the weather forecast still looks good for us to move around more this next week.

2 comments:

  1. Been looking at the weather and wondered about you. Nice to get a new post. Keep exploring and enjoying. I hope the weather will cooperate.
    Have fun

    ReplyDelete
  2. Found what i think is Igor's Kotik blog wiht some amazing pictures https://igorbely.tumblr.com/

    ReplyDelete