Week 2, Antarctica 2022 Expedition

Highlights - Penguins (Adelie! & Gentoo)
Challenges - ICE!

Shortly before we left for Antarctica, we read something that Lin Pardey wrote. She said that when cruising they never tell people their exact plans so that when their plans change nobody is the wiser. Yeah, we should have taken that advice and not said we would be going south.

This year the ice is very different than last year. With only two Antarctica trips we can't say which is more normal. However, this year there is a lot of ice in the area between Port Charcot and the Argentine Islands. Reports suggest that it may clear up a few miles after that, but getting there would likely require breaking out through the ice to the west, then making an offshore passage south to clear water. Additionally for the week or so that we were in that area or could hear radio chatter about that area the winds kept switching between north and south. This doesn't allow the ice to clear out it just blows it one way and then back the other way. Often piling it up tighter.

In any case, we had looked at ice imagery before we left and gotten a few reports thereafter. It all looked good at that point, and we went into week 2 assuming that ice would be similar to last year and that there would be some ice to move around while going south, but it would be doable.

On Tuesday we enjoyed a relaxed day with a dinghy explore around Pleneau. We went gentoo penguin watching and picture taking. We also saw the contrails of a British plane that we heard talking to Lockroy and HMS Protector. They were hoping to do fly overs but there was a good bit of cloud cover. We just happened to have a clear bit of sky over Pleneau and could see the contrails - pretty cool! We also walked ashore a bit and saw some weddell and crabeater seals. They haul out and really climb up to some high places. They also just flop out of the water on ice floes and bergy bits. We don't talk about the seals much, but they are interesting too. (Daxton really, really wants to see elephant seals, but it isn't looking good this year either.) We hung out, worked on last week's blog post, the kids did some schoolwork and we played games.

Wednesday we planned to try to go south based on the weather forecast. We woke up early as we hoped to go about 50nm south. It was a beautiful day, sunny and clear, so off we went. The trip started off fine. We made ok speed and picking through the ice was straight forward. Until it wasn't. The ice got rather thick. Lots of floes that weren't fully broken up that we pushed around to get through. Very doable but slow and a bit tiring.

After a couple of hours, it was starting to look like we might be back in Pleneau that night. We decided we would keep pushing and see what we found. We hoped to make it to the Yalour Islands which have adelie penguins. We were able to get there but the spot where we day anchored last year had lots of ice piled in it. So we decided to keep one person on the boat while the others took a little shore excursion. Jon took the boys while Megan stayed on the boat. Megan settled against an ice floe, essentially parking alongside a pile of ice. Jon and the boys got ashore and watched the adelies for a bit. Then Jon came back and Megan went with the boys for a dinghy explore to see more adelies. It was a nice stop.

As we left the Yalours, we tried to continue south and it looked promising. Then we realized we had to get out around a couple of larger icebergs. After that we found ourselves unable to continue moving forward. So we marked 65 14.5S as our farthest point south for the year with a picture, nearly as far as our anchorage in Vernadsky last year (65 15.0S). We were able to turn around eventually and then pretty easily went back out the way we came. We discussed trying to get into Vernadsky but it didn't seem especially promising from the east. Maybe if we went out and came in from the west. But we decided we would just head back to Pleneau and try to stop on Petermann Island for an outing on the way back north.

The stop at Petermann worked out well. We dropped the anchor but the bay seemed to be a sheet of rock and the anchor wasn't grabbing so Jon stayed with the boat while Megan and the boys went ashore where they saw more gentoos and adelies. The wind shifted while they were up by the adelie colony so it was good that Jon was aboard and the crew all scurried back down the hill and back aboard Zephyros.

By now it was about 3pm or so which was when the winds were supposed to pick up. This meant that we headed back to Pleneau against some head winds and the beautiful sunny weather was gone. It wasn't far but it took a little while between the ice and the head winds. We were happy to be drop anchor back in Pleneau. It was another great, interesting, exhausting Antarctica day.

All that ice also started a new challenge as we lost the ability to get water from our faucets for awhile. Our water pump stopped working and our foot pump worked for awhile then stopped and then worked again. By that evening we had it all working again and were wondering if we froze a water line in all the ice or if our water pump had died. We were basically sitting in a very icy, sub-freezing drink for most of the day, so ice in the line seemed possible even though we hadn't had the problem last year with a colder boat.

Thursday morning saw the water pump quit again. It just wasn't bringing the water line up to pressure. And our foot pump wasn't working again either. So we set to investigating. Our boat is warm this year and the bilges are cold but not freezing. The outside water temp is just below freezing. We couldn't find any hose sitting right against the hull and sent Daxton (as the smallest crew member) down to also look. He didn't find anything either. So we left the bilges open and turned up the heater. Jon also set to work on rebuilding the old water pump. We had replaced the pump once with a swap out and ordered parts to repair the worn out parts from the first pump. Well, rebuild the old pump just moved up in priority on the (never complete) "to do" list. By mid-day, the water system was magically working fine again. Best we can figure is that a piece of water line froze where it was against a frame.

Thursday we stayed busy aboard between the pump and other tasks. We enjoyed a late breakfast of pancakes. We had also been invited to Sea Wind for dinner so we baked brownies in the afternoon to take over for dessert. Then before dinner we took a hike up Hovgaard Island. (Sea Wind had also gone out in the ice for a bit on Wednesday and returned to Pleneau too but they anchored in the slot between Hovgaard and Florence Islands this time not back next to us.) So, as we were headed over that way for dinner, we took advantage and enjoyed a lovely pre-dinner walk on Hovgaard. It is a neat area with great views and an old depot stash with artifacts. The Pleneau/Hovgaard area is also a place where a couple of sailboats have over wintered. So it is interesting to imagine what that would be like and what supplies would be necessary, completely iced in on a small sailboat with short day light hours…

The weather showed that it was supposed to blow a bit on Saturday so we started planning for where we wanted to be for that weather. We felt ready to leave Pleneau and since other boats weren't being very successful in getting south via the inside passages either, we decided we would just move a little north. We planned to go to Paradise Harbour on Friday and if the Saturday blow happened to clear all the ice then we could always come back south.

So Friday we headed north instead of south. There was still a lot of ice around Pleneau and Port Charcot, and we picked our way through it. At one point we found ourselves locked in and it took us awhile to extract ourselves even though we could see clear water very close to us. We patiently kept at it and got free. Things cleared up north of Port Charcot. There was still a lot of ice, but not all packed in anymore so we picked up speed and the skies cleared up. We had a nice motor up to Paradise Harbour and marveled at the amazing vistas Antarctica shares on those clear, blue sky days (which are rare).

After dropping anchor and getting settled the parents left the kids and went out looking for whales in the dinghy. Daxton played on deck in the good weather and Ronan read. We had a nice little adventure and checked out the Argentinian base - Brown. We only saw one whale and just for a few breaths and far away. He quickly disappeared, apparently not a curious one.

We stayed in Paradise for 3 nights. It is so nice and calm there. And breathtakingly beautiful. Glaciers, mountains. Wow. Saturday, Jon and the boys headed out for a dinghy explore. Then the outboard quit working. And the wind picked up. Daxton rowed the dinghy back (not a bad way to expend his excess energy!) and then the wind died again. It seems we were having a problem with the external fuel tank for the dinghy motor. It seems like we solved a problem like this last year in the same spot. Last time it was the fuel hose falling apart on the inside and clogging the flow of fuel. Anyway, getting stranded motivated Jon to work on it as it hadn't been working perfectly for a few days. Seems it was the result of wear to the fuel line plug that attaches to the engine. After that the boys had lost interest in the dinghy excursion, but we rallied Daxton and Megan came along with Jon this time. We went out looking for whales but didn't see any. We did find that the yacht Legend has a submarine and they were out with it. We checked out what they were doing from a distance and went around to see Brown again. There were a bunch of people from Legend at Brown to do the hike up the cliff / hill behind the station. We drove by as they were at the top for their photos. Interesting to see what everyone was up to.

On the way back to Zephyros we decided we should put our feet ashore on the Peninsula again this year. The tide was quite low and we could get a shot with the boat in the anchorage and Daxton ashore. So we did that and he spotted a screw in a rock. This prompted a discussion about why it was there. Then he found more and more screws - but loose, on the rocks and in the water. The tide was really low and apparently whoever put that screw in accidentally knocked over / lost about a dozen screws and a serious mallet—a smallish sledge hammer. Now there was a project to recover these objects! The recovery of the sledge turned into another great way to expend Daxton energy. Put him on a piece of ice and let him hammer away. He enjoyed the banging and playing Thor.

Sunday was a very quiet day. Cards and school work. Megan made na'an and we had a curry night. It was a nice down day. And the weather was pretty overcast. We skipped the dinghy excursion and just marveled out our windows some more.

The weather showed Monday and Tuesday to be settled and the chance for some wind on Wednesday. With boats still struggling to get to Vernadsky and not getting further south, we decided to move 20nm north to Cuverville on Monday and plan to move again Tuesday to tuck in for the upcoming potential wind on Wednesday. We moved well and Nike has continued to work fine. We definitely enjoy having her back! At least when we aren't having to hand steer through a lot of ice.

We tried to anchor on the north side of Cuverville but found there was too much ice along the shore there that would come off with the tide / wind and would make landing the dinghy extremely difficult, so we went back around to the south. There were some big pieces of ice around but not as many as on the north side. The sun even came out once we anchored so we organized ourselves for a shore trip. We had a nice little shore excursion and enjoyed watching the gentoo penguins. They are still building nests and fighting over the little rocks that they use to make those nests. We saw some eggs, some young babies and some molting penguins. We have seen bigger babies down in Lockroy and Pleneau so we were surprised to still see eggs and tiny babies to the north. They are always very entertaining to watch.

Thankfully the weather was indeed settled and calm as forecast. This is good when you are sleeping with a good deal of ice around. Some pieces came by to visit, but nothing threatened to pin us to our spot. So we closed out week 2 with a good night's sleep ready to continue exploring in week 3.

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