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

Friday, January 22, 2010

Something very special.

What a day. Pure, gold plated magic. It's about midnight local time and I've been sitting out in the cockpit on anchor watch wearing my Dutch Harbour Mustang Flote Coat - padded for buoyancy and warm - lined industrial gloves, also from Dutch, fleecy salopettes and brown fisherman's boots - Dutch again and Dutch fleece balaclava. A still, cold, brilliant starry night in this huge rather menacing amphitheatre dominated by the great black lava face to the south and what looks like a classic volcanic plug to the north. Orion to the north west, the Cross to the south and the cascading slash of the Milky Way a luminous bridge between them across my bit of sky. The smell - penguin rookery and seals upwind, earthy and pungent - the snorting roars of elephant seals echoing around the auditorium, sharper barks of something much smaller and the arky squeaky of the King Penguins in cacophony in the background. The calls of other birds - cormorants, petrels and big brown seabirds that I could not identify. A watch with a difference - one I will remember when things get pearshaped.

Earlier, I saw a mother seal up on the mossy slope above the promontory where de Rochegude left his bottle. She had two biggish pups and was chasing them around. Penguins swimming around the boat and what sounded like fish sucking the growth from Berri's bottom. A seal somewhere close.

I guess it can't last - we have been so lucky to arrive on one of what must be very few cloudless days - weirdly unbelievable that we are here at all. The reports I have read talk of the bleak, desolate dreariness of the place but I don't think I will ever be able to think of it that way. Soft northerly at the moment, due to turn westerly and the usual blast later tonight or tomorrow morning with another bigger one to follow. But we cracked today. Yeeehaaa!

Next morning - while I was writing all that, the cloud rolled in, the stars disappeared and the wind came up. Three hours in a loverly warm sleeping bag later and I'm up again and shivering. But it's still bleakly beautiful! The sun has risen directly behind the two huge pillars of the collapsed arch at the entrance to the harbour putting them in silhouette - filtered light through the low overcast. We are hoping our single anchor will hold in the 35 knots forecast for the next 24-36 hours - will have to lay the second one if it looks iffy. The NW winds blow directly over the saddle at the western end of the harbour and funnel down between the high sides.