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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baie de L'Oiseau

Impossible to convey the thrill, the absolute delight, the quiet satisfaction - here we are, anchored in Baie de L'Oiseau, 236 years after Ensign de Rochegude landed here from L'Oiseau and claimed the place for the French and left his message sealed in a quart bottle which Cook's men found 3 years later and Cook replaced with his own added message. We are anchored opposite the little headland where that bottle was found and replaced. Brilliant sunshine, powder blue water, kelp patches, king penguins and seals on the beach about 500 metres away and the sounds of the penguins at least just like the Falklands. Seabirds - cormorants and other divers, Lovely Cape Petrels escorting us in. Last 15 miles on the wind in 25 knots and rising sea - interesting! Cape Petrels all the way! Worth every little thump of the headbang getting here from Cape Town. We have been lucky, once again but the plan worked perfectly and, for once, the Examiner was looking the other way. Spellbinding! Once in a lifetime exhilaration - more immediate than sailing out of the NW passage but comparable to Cape Horn.

I wonder how many other vessels have anchored here since de Rochegude. Far more than made the NW Passage although up there, the whaling ships in the Bering Strait, Chukchi and Beaufort seas must have numbered in the thousands on the western approach to Amundsen Gulf. And on the subject of Amundsen: From Malcom again:

AW, You are in good company. On 28 Nov 1910 Roald Amundsen in the Fram hove
to in sight of what he took to be Bligh's Cap while he waited until he
good get a clear fix on his position before sailing to Baie Morbihan. This
was while en route to his 1910 -1912 Antarctic expedition. Malcom

Roald Amundsen - someone else we have been following around. He was the first to sail the NW Passage, (we were the 77th vessel, the 114th transit) and here he is again. He completed the NW Passage at Nome in 1906 and was down here in Fram 4 years later. We visited Teller from Nome, where many years later he and Nobile ended their airship crossing of the north pole.

We intend to wait here until the next big front has blown through - perhaps 48 hours - then sail for Port aux Francais. Unimaginably bleakly beautiful here - classic igneous landscape, thick moss, no other obvious vegetation except the Kerguelen Cabbage which I think we can see in little clumps. Binoculars only - we might try to land tomorrow if the wind dies but on the assumption that it is a national park, we will leave nothing but footsteps and take nothing away except photos. A massive igneous extrusion just to the south of us which looks for all the world like one of the President's faces on Mt. Rushmore - but transmogrified as a lizard.

Malcom, tks for advice - will try on departure.

Christmas Harbour

Sadly, I think the man is just about to thump penguins. I don't think the ones to his right are simply asleep.
Some other links:

On the Wikipedia page there is a map. Christmas Harbour is also known as Baie de l'Oiseau and is on the north eastern tip.
Posed by I in the UK

Penguins Ahoy

I just received an iridium call from Alex and Pete who are parked in
Christmas Harbour, Kerguelens. Alex was exultant, describing brilliant
sunshine, penguins, seals, amazing rocks, kelp. He said "Couldn't
have asked for anything better." They are not planning to land now as
it is a bit dangerous (I think wind / weather wise) but will be there
overnight and may land tomorrow. A lot depends on the next GRIB. They
may stay put until the next nasty has been and gone.
Alex says he hopes to upload a report in the next hour or so but it
depends on reception etc. He tried to call several times and it rang
here but with no sound from the other end. We're not sure if this is a
reception problem or penguin poo in the satphone.
I apologise if this upload appears twice. The previous one did not
appear on the blog at once as it usually does; as I have experienced
a similar problem before I have now transferred the message to upload
from the other computer.
I in the UK


position 0630 21st 4832 06907 trip 57 DMG 35 after heave to and bare poling. Cap D'E visible 9 miles ahead - too busy for description - North Head with muscle for the Sydneysiders. 3rd reerf, tiny heady, trying to work to windward in 25 kts. Bumpy, wet orrible. Fogbanks all around hope it stays clear for us - 2 hours or so to go. Likely to be a bit tricky getting in but if Cook and the rest could do it in square riggers even tiny Berri should manage. Will try to report later from inside DV & WP.

0315 21st sighted Blighs Cap - rolling fog, 25 knots and it was there - a solid wraith if such can be rearing vertically out of the ocean.


0045 UTC 21st
The front is through - softly - and we are 9 miles from Bligh's Cap. Vis about a mile in typical clag so we're aiming to miss it by about 2 miles to the north. Tiny patch of headsail, making about 4 knots in about 18kts breeze. Once safely past, we will gybe towards Cap D'Estaing and creep forwards until we can see it or the fog becomes too thick for safety. With a bit of luck, it will clear later as the sun comes up. I have checked our rudimentary digital chart against the paper one and it seems ok so we will ust it to get in close then transfer - the digital one doesn't have small detail like rocks. Pencil and plotter again - first time for years.

During the night - claggy, clammy black - but almost free of boat noises as we were hove to or bare poling - I could hear the birds - Grooarrrk from just beside the boat, answered Grooaarrk from a bit further away - deep, expressively modulated raspy squawks, easily audible from here at the nav table and clear and crisp outside. They were probably the White Chins which are black all over except for a tiny white patch so I couldn't see them even with a fairly powerful light. From the many conversations, I reckon there must have been 20 - 30 of them. So, Jill, that may be where they go at night! Nowhere.

Bligh's Cap is 83 metres high, now at 7.4 miles so just teasing our non-horizon. Too early to start peering for it out there in the clag. As long, that is, as it is where the paper chart says it is! There's a warning on the chart that says quite clearly that positions on the paper chart may not agree with WGS84, the GPS datum - so we can't relax too much.

The plan - we have set this up so that if all goes well we will be close to Baie de l'Oiseau at about 1300 local time, giving us the afternoon and evening in daylight to get in, have a look, pull in another grib and decide whether to shelter till the next one goes through or keep going to Port aux Francais. Cross 'em please and watch this space - don't stress if no update for a day or so - we will be busy! If we have iridium contact, I will try to ring someone somewhere who is in an appropriate timezone with a report.

location location location

Click on piccie to enlarge....

From the good ship Juniper

It's the waiting! We are now 32 miles WNW of Bligh's Cap, cold clammy fog, 15 kts breeze, bare poled waiting for midnight. 11 hours to go - if the grib is accurate we should then have been in the 20 kt NW front for a few hours and have a few hours to go, but we will have daylight for 18 hours or so and we'll go and have a look at the Baie. We may have to shelter there for a day or two if we can get in, if, once again,the grib is accurate - there's a very nasty looking front due at 50E on the 23rd.
From Malcom:
AW, Baie de L'Oiseau, a place where James Cook anchored in 1776 is at 48 40'
S, 60 02' E. In 1759 James Cook was at 48 40' N, 60 02' W, part of the St
Lawrence River, which he charted, ahead of the capture of Quebec, at the
time French territory. Malcom's Believe it or Not irrelevant facts.

Alex's Believe it or not irrelevant facts - Baie de L'O. is actually at 69 02 E - and it was partly because of the cartographic skill Cook showed in the St Laurence that Their Lordships fingered him for the first voyage. And the rest is history...

Later: 1830 20th now hove to, 24 miles from Bligh's Cap, 15 kts breeze, 1.8 over the ground. Still cold and clammy, black dark, no visible moonlight. About 5 hours till we can see where we are going, if the fog allows.