In the dead calm waters of Grandidier Channel I noticed two humback whales and I started to approach them slowly. There is a recomended angle how to go closer without scaring them but according to my experience (always on small boats) it does not matter. They sometimes come out of curiosity to check you out to see what kind of weird whale is that. Their interest rarely lasts longer than a couple of minutes. Although this time it was different.
Humpbacks 1 video WMV video MOV
Humpbacks 2 video WMV video MOV
Humpbacks 3 video WMV video MOV
They started comming aside, breathing in and diving again, getting closer and closer each time. Later they enjoyed laying in the water and turning around. (Something like what I do when I can not sleep). I climed the mast to see them properly. They were waveing with their flippers or tails. So close to the boat. "If they start to touch the hull they would shake me down like an aple, I thought". They were both a few meters longer than Waterbird. A card in my camera was full, but I did not care. I have learned with whales to look properly first and if there is any time later, take some pictures. There was a lot of time. When I was downloading, they were playing just behind the stern. I think they liked warm water from my engine. One of them started to put head out of the water. They were releasing air not above the water but about one foot under, making a big "boiling". It looked like a game. Suddenly one of them went down and I could see bubbles comming up in a big circle. It was hard to believe that it was a real hunt. It was just showing me what they can do to catch groups of small fish. They were around nearly an hour but the best was still about to come. Suddenly a big mouth appeared about 2 meters from the boat. It was higher than the cocpit. Waiting for a while and disappearing again. Next time it was closer, I coould see every detail, the barnacles. Third time the whale could be reached by hand. The body was not cold at all (Rather my fingers were cold from not having gloves for such a long time) and it was surprisingly soft. The whale noticed that it was touched, I felt that it started moving. Surprised or possibly a little scared but it stayed with its mouth out of the water longer. It was a wonderfull moment. It would worth to spend two month on the ocean just to experience this. I was happy.
This kind of soup is relatively safe, this piece can be pushed away in low speed without scratching much paint off.
Approaching land, the ice became more dense. A brash, a kind of a soup with bigger pieces (growlers) and relatively frequent bergy bits. Many times I was glad that I have installed a steel iceprotector around my propeler. To get through the worst places I went with minimum speed. A mistake was announced by the bow raising up suddenly. Too big piece unnoticed. But it happened only once. I was sailing along Doyle Glacier to a narrow channel between the land and little island. Just a narrow channel few meters from the shore remained ice free. Big pieces grounded, lot of brash everywhere. I dropped anchor SE of the island and started to prepare my dinkghy. The sky was overcast and it started to snow heavilly. It was about 1pm, but very dark. I could not see much but I was able to land on the rock at Prospect point. I climed up a frozen snow and walked along the shore. There should be a hut according to my chart but there was none. Just a small group of Adelie penguins and few fur seals. And skuas, of course. There are also remains of a former hut, concrete blocs and nothing else. The atmosphere good enough for the world´s end. The tide has changed, all the pieces whice which passed around the boat a while ago are comming back. Nothing to wait for I was heading for a sheltered anchorage.
Weather for landing on Antarctic mainland was appropriate. Snowing without shame.
Mutton cove was recomended to me by Roger, charter skipper and owner of yacht Australis (he´s lent me a detailed chart so my voyage to the south was safer). It is an island with an unlikely shape. A narrow horseshoe, excellent anchorage with protection from all sides except WSW. The best thing is that it is absolutely free of ice. I had a couple of noisy nights with ice banging over the hull before. You get used to it. Like to everything but just an idea that one day a big piece is going to come is not comfortable. (My nightmare was that it will block my anchor and I will have to leave it there, but it never happened.) I used my two anchors (first fisherman and seccond CQR) which work well. Taking lines to the shore is more common and more efficient in these waters because holding is almost everywhere poor. I prefered not to do it, because it is very difficult for one man to take them off if you have to leave quickly. The anchors worked great this time. When I am able to pull backwards with 3000rpm I know that holding is good. And there was just a weak northeaster blowing so I could sleep. (Lovely places with a lot of free water downwind). However I could not sleep long. The wind changed around 1 o´clock. WSW - blowing exactly from the open side of the bay. No more sleep I had to leave. I was drifting in the open waters for the rest of the night.
Some cruising people like ice only in their drinks. Antarctic and Carribbean anchorages are different. There is no anti-white racisim in the former ones for example.
I did not have more plans that far south but a little vanity. Polar circle crossing. When I crossed the northern one, nothing special happened. The sea, the skies, everything is the same. But I was glad. It was something like a goal. Maybe it is a nonsense but some people make a bigger fuss about it, a club where membership can not be given without this ridiculous step. (Just the fact that they fly most of the way to do a little bit of sailing). There was one thing I was not able to find. Where is the polar circle exactly? A pilot book says 66°33´ but it always seemed strange to me that the Earth would choose such whole number for a point of its turnover. If the Brithish Admirality says so it must be true you might think but to by sure I continued a bit further south to make sure I won´t miss it. To make the story short, I made it. A fiddle-faddle just for the fun of it. No congratulations from Neptun and Adelies were looking at me the same way as before. But something happened anyway: I burned so much fuel in the last two days that I can not visit Danco coast as I wanted. (Later I had to burn a lot of diesel out of Anvers island to escape a forecasted gale blowing ashore so I did not have much just to go neartest port - Ushuaia in Channel Beagle.) So this vanity did not come without a sacrifice.
Icebergs are all different and all the same.
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