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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Life, the universe and everything

Position 0630 13th 4239 05130 - about level with Bicheno in Tasmania and about 200 north of the Crozets. Trip 99, DMG 92 and Kerguelen 774 (in case anyone is actually following us on a chart, I'm using a waypoint about 90 miles north of Baie de l'Oiseau as my DMG marker so your numbers may not equate exactly to mine. I'll change it as we get closer).

Tomorrow - the grib says - will be pearshaped with 35 knot (read 50+) northerlies blasting down a big front behind the current high and 40 kts forecast for the Kerguelens. We should be about mid way down and we'll do our best to deal with whatever we get. Iff we get really lucky, it will then soften gradually and we might get a reasonably clear window for landfall. Pace the Examiner, of course, and the Great Statistician, Mr Murphy.

I forgot to announce that we have a new Medical Person aboard - she comes from Windhoek and her advice and her medications so far have been excellent. Something other than an Irish accent at the Consultation for a change. I have a drop of her elixir to hand as I write and I've just demolished a bacon buttie. Life is good.

More unoriginal silliness inspired by Brian Greene - as we seem to be (to the universe and our surroundings) relatively low entropy clumpy collections of hydrogen atoms with interstellar distances between them on a quantum scale - what is a thought? What's it made of? What is the nature of consciousness? How is it that the clumpy collection that prods this keyboard can create and process and transmit to you lot the concept of a superciliously superior albatross laughing at out dopey inadequacies as it soars and glides around us? And why and how would I ascribe supercilious superiority to an albatross anyway? There must be a lot of people out there working on the answers.

What an interesting bit of spacetime this is. And in a few billion years, physicists think it will be gone, not a wrack left behind, just hydrogen atoms. Eventually - perhaps - just a cold and dark void with about 5 hydrogen atoms to the cubic metre. Rather fewer than the magic 42 in HGTTG. Enjoy it while you can and help others to do the same!

Antarctic Prions in full flit - small,lovely, graceful birds, grey/blue feathers on top, white undersides, wonderfully aerobatic - I have a photo of one half way through an Immelmann. White chinned Petrels in and out of the mizzle - wet, clank and dammy but good breeze taking us SE. Another brief glimpse of the big black bird that looks and acts like an albatross. I think parts of the belly are white. It doesn't hang around - one fly past and it's gone for the day.


Cook's fog, I think. Mid latitude convergence zone conditions with cold and warmer air mixing over cold (?) water as the pressure systems swirl and merge and coriolis exerts its magic.

We're in it now - today it seems thin and the sun almost gets through occasionally. There are thicker patches with quite large raindrops and mistier areas with tiny droplets that soak everything. As I look out of the window next to my head, I can actually see the glow of the sun and the top of the mist like low level cumulus reflecting the sunlight. Nice breeze - a bit like doing hull speed with the kite in fog in the English Channel in the Fastnet. Quite eerie.

But the point of this is that it gives one a different perspective. Looking down sun, to the SW, the mist is bright and reflective - hint of a rainbow - but under it you can see successive grey horizons looming out of the murk - the real SW swell that is sometimes very hard to pick amongst all the confused wind waves caused by the rapid changes in direction in each successive system. These horizons are impressive - high and grey and travelling and as one passes beneath the boat it sometimes happens that the next one is just looming out of the gunk 300 metres or so away. Suddenly, you're in the real world and you get a feel for the size of these things - there's this deep rounded trough falling - lurching? - away below your eye and up into the summit in the distance and although they are significantly smaller than we experienced west of Cape Horn, they are still Big. West of the Horn, you could lose a cathedral in the trough, here, perhaps just a small town hall and adjacent public lavatory. Plus all the little birds.

The sun is poking through - my hands on the keyboard have warm sunlight on them. Local time is about 1300.

The Black Dog prowls the Boonies

Seems my Pilgrim in Despond post stirred a pot or two. I was trying to put into words the sorts of weirdness and insidious despair that one sometimes has to overcome to pursue silly gigs like this. The final line was supposed to soften it but obviously didn't! I can remember when it was not acceptable to admit to emotion, when to tell it like it sometimes is was seen to be a sign of weakness - C.S.Forester's Hornblower books weave it beautifully. A reflected example, though I have a sneaking feeling that I've used the story somewhere else in these blogs but it bears repeating and does the stiff upper lip rather well - Imagine the Duke of Wellington on his horse surveying the battlefield at Waterloo during the most desperate moments of the battle, surrounded by his staff, Generals in full uniform, aides, runners, the full retinue. Shouting, screams, cannons, smoke, stinging eyes, choking breath, death and blood everywhere. One of Wellington's senior commanders had his leg taken off by a cannon ball as he sat on his horse next to Wellington - 'By Gad, my lord' he said 'I've lost me leg!' By Gad, Sir' said Wellington 'so you have!' Just about sums it up really.

Back on Iridium. Propagation and range to Africa station now makes daytime HF impractical.

The French, Cook and the later navigators wrote extensively about fog down here - lots of it, arrives suddenly. Cook in Resolution sailed 300 leagues (how long was a league - my hazy memory says about 3 miles?)in it in company with Discovery without losing contact - amazing! We were in thick misty drizzle this morning, visibility half a mile max - I think it's the mid latitude convergence zone standard murk, at least out here. We were in it for days out of NZ last time. If we get to Kerguelen, it may be different.

Alan B in Xhaven - your beanie performing mighty service cosseting the noggin. Other toys work with TPS dry suits. Noice - tks.

Norm, the best we can do is observe that each of your words is symmetrical after the first letter so can be 'wrapped' and read backwards by end for ending that letter. Is there something deeper and more mysterious?

A couple of notes from Malcom to round it off:
Last October, Japanese scientists reported that they had put small
forward-looking video cameras on albatrosses to monitor the birds'
behaviour. The results showed that the albatrosses followed pods of killer
whales and that they fed or scavenged on the detritus of whatever the whales
were killing and feeding on. Whether this behaviour evolved from the birds,
over the ages, following boats, or whether boat - following evolved from
following whales one may never know.

malcom again

AW, BTW Biggle's flew into the Kerguelens after the war in search of German
treasure in "Biggle's Second Case". As you will recall he also beat you to
Tierra del Fuego.

Blimey! Is there no end to this white anting? What was he flying? Were Algy and Ginger with him? And where did he land??