For Berrimilla's first circumnavigation, the International Space Station
and the North West Passage, go to

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kerguelen glimpses part 3 or whatever...

First, you need to know that in Kerguelen, and probably all over France, they drink their breakfast coffee out of pudding bowls - half litre size. Second, conventional table manners are for the conventional. It's fair go to mix whatever you like in your coffee - cornflakes, cream, honey, sugar, the works. Scene at breakfast this morning - my lean, hook nosed hollow cheeked scrubby bearded friend who, with a bandanna would be perfectly cast in "Pirates 4" or whichever mixes a devils mix of black coffee, honey, milk, sugar and cream in his bowl - looks like baby poo by the time he has finished. Then he cuts a foot long length of bread from a french stick, slices it in two lengthwise, smears in in butter until every last square millimetre is covered. Then he spreads Nutella (for the uninitiated, a sort of soft chocolatey spread based on hazel nuts) all over it with the same concentrated care. Then, with enormous relish, he dips one end of a slice into his poo coloured coffee bowl just long enough to soak it but before it goes completely mushy and loses its structural integrity - and bites off the end, wipes the dribbles off his chin with great delicacy and repeats until all gone. Wonderful - I must try it when we get home.

And the eerie. I went for a walk this morning while we were waiting to be ferried out to Berri and visited the chapel. It's rigged inside just like a catholic one, but it is accepted simply as a place where people can go to commune in their own private way. Poignant memorials inside, some very personal. Outside, about 50 yards away, there is a lovely statue of Our Lady of the Winds. Under the pillars that form the arch of the porch there's an old blackened bronze bell with a short braided rope attached to the clapper. The bell swings in the wind and the clapper grates on the ring it hangs from inside the bell. I was looking from the arch to the statue and the bell started to grate and resonate - perfect movie SFX for the spirits of the dead - the ghost of the Ancient Mariner at my elbow.

Seals - they are everywhere, lying around in gross floppy heaps, some moulting, which makes then really ugly - they bark and the elephant seals snort. And they get around by undulating their bodies from front to back and pushing with their tails. But only 10 metres or so at a time and then they expire with a massive exhalation into a flaccid heap and rest for a couple of minutes. The King penguins are just finishing their moult - some are still scraggly but the rest are sleek and beautiful.

Prions, Cape Petrels, a couple of Skuas and a big albatross, Kerguelen a hard crenellated edge 10 miles away in the haze and advancing cloud around the setting sun.

And we're pointing at Australia.

More later.