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Friday, January 29, 2010

Happys for H

Position 0630 29th 4911 07310 trip 130 (22.5 hrs) DMG 103 Odd feeling having only open ocean between us and Tasmania. So beginneth act the umpteenth.

Into the last of the baguettes, now about 24 hours old, with marmelade and a dose from Herself from Windhoek to wash it all down. Luxury unbounded - we were eking out the bikkies a bit before Kergs. Desolation Island - that's what it would have been called if Cook had got there before Kerguelen. The early explorers tended to compare the lands they visited with the gardens and fields they were used to at home and missed the delicate diversity and the bleak beauty of places like Baie de L'Oiseau. The early settlers in Australia yearned for their rose gardens and lush grass and tried to plant them in the desert, completely ignoring the wonderful natural flowers and the astonishing adaptation of the vegetation and the animals. But desolate Kerguelen ain't - after all, it does have its own cabbage.

Time for a coffee - filtered courtesy of the chef - and to attack the block of choc with a pickaxe. Yeehaaa! I'm wearing my Kerguelen hat - I went for a walk around the little bay at Port aux Francais amongst the seals, penguins and rotting kelp screaming gulls and cormorants and took hundreds of photos. On the way I found two un-matched sneakers which i left there and a tea cosy fleece hat with ear flaps. Grotty, sandy smelling of aforesaid rot and bird poo. Took it home, rinsed it multi times till the water ran more or less clear and dried it on the radiator, to find it impregnated with the tiny sharp seeds that come from one of the (I think introduced) plants that grows everywhere. A bit prickly. The french call the seeds pics or perhaps piques as in piquant. So to work with the tweezers and I'm truly the old fart about the boonies now.

Hey Dale - good to hear from you! The Bunger Hills sound interesting but I suspect it's a good deal colder at 75+ south than it was at 75 north - we'd need a heater. Glad we gave you an excuse for a scotch - our ears are burning - we have a drop of the Talisker and we're due for a small dose so keep your ear flaps tight and we'll cuss at you too. All the best for Axel Heiberg.

Ships that pass...

Pete had a ship on AIS during the night - he says it stayed with us, about 12 miles south, for a while and then disappeared. Odd. Sea Shepherd and its Japanese shadow are down here somewhere so perhaps one of them.

Cape Petrels, prions, dark petrels that look bigger that the white chins, the occasional Storm Petrel and several albatrosses - a few black browed and at least 2 very big ones. The water is 10 deg and definitely green. I've been sitting in the cockpit in my dry suit in the sunshine - it's cold out there! I hope, pace the Examiner, that we are now heading gradually north directly towards Maatsuuyker. Our furthest south, just off the Baie, was 4934 - we are now at 4915. Time will tell.

A bit more on Kerguelen - we were able to contribute a tiny speck to the place - one of the young researchers had spent quite a lot of money on a camera to record his stay on the island. On his first field trip, he found himself unexpectedly up to his armpits in water and his camera was drowned. I offered him my spare one that I seldom use and he's a happier boy. And my albatross photos found a home there too.

Not sure whether my French was up to the detail but there are a lot of rabbits - I think I heard 18 million - fewer cats and a lot of rats and there's a queasy balance between them all to the detriment of the original inhabitants and the natural vegetation. One species of introduced brown trout is gradually taking over all the rivers from all the other introduced fish. There are invasive insects (aphids?) which are also vectors for viruses. There are sheep and a species of what I think are caribou. We have some good contacts who, I suspect, would like a chance to visit Australia and collaborate, so if there's anyone out there working on similar ecological or biological projects (SW - UoW?) or perhaps schools who would like to be put in touch, let me know.


Massive thank you to all our friends in Port aux Francais - for tolerating our awful French, for your much better English, for telling us about all the fascinating science that's going on there, for the trip of a lifetime around the Baie in L'Aventure in wonderful company and for generally enriching the lives of a couple of dozy old farts who blew in for a shower and a glass of milk to drop their false teeth into. Special thanks to Nathalie Deschamps for being such a cool Chef du District and to Renaud Huez who took us in hand and looked after us so well, and to Frank for the trip around the Baie. And to the cuisiniers, for all the goodies - we have bread, cheese, fruit, cold chook, coffee, sugar and an industrial chunk of chocolate It's about a foot square and three inches deep with nuts - yay! - and we only got half the bar. When I was a kid at boarding school, we used to get chocolate in lumps that had been hacked off a huge block too - takes yer back a bit!

I discovered why the scientists at least have better English than our French. One of our friends was studying for an exam next week and he had Feynman's lectures open on his desk - in English. It seems most academic textbooks that are written in English are too expensive to translate.

Could not have dreamed of a better start. Apart from a little contretemps with a big patch of kelp which took a fancy to Kevvo, no problem getting out. I borrowed an idea from Cook, who climbed Endeavour Hill in Cooktown to try to see a way through the Barrier Reef after they had careened and repaired Endeavour. I climbed the hill at Port aux Francais and found a gap in the kelp that gave us a shorter sail out of the bay and lined up a transit and off we went. And it worked.

Lovely night, poled out, 2 reefs, hooning under a three quarter moon, 20 kts from the west - rolling a bit - some signs of Examinatorial perturbation to the north west but the grib says - well, it does - that all should be reasonably cool and froody for the next couple of days. I shall only believe that in hindsight...and there is a nasty low forming in the NW in that couple of days. We'll see.

Poitrel Jack, if you are reading this, you need at least a 2 inch drain in each corner of the cockpit. Heavy duty flex hose to through-hull valves with venturis on the the outside to stop water flowing into the cockpit. Much more efficient than bungs. Happy to talk when we get back. Good luck!