30 foot waves

by Robert Bush: November 7, 2015

November 4, 2015

Before describing our last few days, I want you all to know that I have no idea what you think about the blogs so far. The internet is very spotty and I usually have to try several times to get these blogs posted. I have had to make the image sizes very small to permit me to even upload them and I have no idea whether the file size has compromised the image quality. I have also not been able to spend the time to fit the images into the text, or to add captions, and instead have just posted all images at the end of the day’s entry.   This is part of the story of this trip. – a trip without social media, smart phones, emails, Facebook.

Yesterday , we stopped in the town of Stanley in the Falklands primarily because that is the only place between Argentina and the Antarctic to refuel and restock the ship. Stanley is a small town on a sparsely settled archipelago of islands in the middle of the southern most part of the Atlantic Ocean. During our visit, it was extremely windy and cold. Indeed, after we had been bussed about 15 minutes outside of town to Gypsy Cove – about 5 miles outside of town – to see the nesting area of the Magellanic penguins, the already cold and windy weather intensified until we were standing in the midst of a snow storm. Even the penguins were cold – they wouldn’t come out of the little burrows in which they live and sit on their eggs. Nonetheless the surrounding area was beautiful. I am including in this entry a few photos from Stanley and the Gypsy Cove area.

The real story of this part of the trip is the ocean, the weather and the remoteness of where we are.

First, about the remoteness. At the regular afternoon talks, Brandon, the ship’s Expedition Leader, reminded us to be careful walking about on the boat not only because of the hazards of walking on a ship that is pitching about in rough waters, but also because there is absolutely no one to help out if anyone gets hurt or ill. There are no doctors or hospitals anywhere near us (other than the ship’s doctor), and there is absolutely no way for an airplane or other boat to come to our aid.   There are no airports on South Georgia and the only airports on the Antarctic continent are near research stations that are nowhere near where we are going.

The weather and the ocean are interrelated topics. A typical weather pattern for this part of the world is intense storm systems to squeeze between the Antarctic Peninsula and the tip of South America at Cape Horn and then head generally northeast. It was because we were on the edge of one of those storms that we could not make our second landing yesterday on the western side of the Falklands.

And it was because one of those storms was more centrally on top of us that we immediately hit rough water and high winds as soon as we left Stanley. The swells have been 15 to 20 feet high for 24 straight hours. But wait, just as I was writing that sentence, the biggest swell yet hit the side of the boat. Our window is roughly 20 above water line and the wave hit us above the window line. Anything loose in our cabin went flying. I went outside of the cabin to the 4th floor deck bar/lounge and found people on the floor, holding onto tables and in the adjacent library the books were off the shelves. I have attached a photo.   We were later told that the big swells that hit the boat were over 30 feet high.!!

So of course the weather is tied directly to the state of the ocean. I have attached one photo from a few days ago of a petrel flying above the ocean and you can see how relatively calm it was. I have also attached a few pictures taken today that show how rough the water is. (You won’t need a caption to tell which photos are from today.)

We were also introduced to the Beaufort Scale. This is a way of measuring the ocean weather – including wind and wave height. On a scale that max’s out at 11, we were told that we have been sailing through 9 on the Beaufort scale. If you are interested, look that up on the internet for a fuller description. (No, I can’t do that. We are living in world without google!!)

I have also attached a few photos related to the ship. One photo shows a chain below a chair – that is how the chairs are restrained from sliding around. Another is of the weather maps that are of great interest to all of us.   The close-up of the weather map will show the storm system and the two little block areas in the ocean – one is the Falklands, and the other is South Georgia Island. The map shows that we will hit high winds and therefore high seas today – but that the storm should be well north of South Georgia Island when we are scheduled to be there the day after tomorrow.

Finally, I have attached a photo of the menu for dinner tonight. If you read it, you will see that we are not living a Spartan lifestyle on this boat.

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