Update from Tim Jarvis, Expedition Leader on King George Island:
It looks like we will be delayed by 2-3 days here as the weather coming into Elephant Island is becoming increasingly bad and likely to preclude a landing while we’re under tow…the forecast is for 30 knot westerlies, and gusting stronger winds that are going to hit the north coast where Shackleton’s camp at Point Wild is situated.
As a result, we are going to drop off the sponsor guests as planned for their flight on Friday 18th back to Punta Arenas, and then sit it out on Australis just off Arctowski until probably 21st and re-visit the weather daily between now and then. We are able to check the weather twice a day here on the base satellite system. Shackleton and Worsely did exactly the same thing before they departed – they waited for a break in the weather although they didn't have the benefit of the satellite system here at Arctowski.
It’s a very disappointing delay as we’re all raring to go but it still works in terms of our weather window and it has at least given us the opportunity to test gear, mend our malfunctioning stove, and continue to work out how well we all ‘fit’ below deck. We have a configuration that allows four of us to stretch out legs (if we all sit up that is), and have also made a ‘dodger’ cover to try and keep some of the waves from crashing into our cockpit and filling it with water every time.
Today, we were joined by two Fin whales whilst out on the boat – our second encounter with wildlife on Alexandra Shackleton. You can’t help but be entranced by the natural environment while you’re here. Even though we’re focusing on the work that needs to be done, every turn of the head reveals another majestic vista or ice form, another penguin, seal or seabird sighting. And of course whales!
While we’re waiting to depart I’ll also have the opportunity to speak with Wayne Trivelpiece, an American ecologist who has been studying local wildlife and the environment here on King George Island every year for the past 37 years. He is based at the improbably named Copacabana base situated near the bottom of the Ecology Glacier that has retreated over a kilometre since he first visited here back in the ‘70’s.
OARS REPAIRED AND ONCE AGAIN, THE ALEXANDRA SHACKLETON LOOKED AT HOME
- Blog Update from Navigator, Paul Larsen:
Nick, Seb and I took the Alexandra Shackleton out onto Admiralty Bay for a good row yesterday. We wanted to test out the oars and the rowing positions.
When we flew-in the oars from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams on our way down here, Seb had to chop the oars in half to get them on the small plane. This is not a nice thing to do to wooden oars (an understatement!).
Nick and I spent a couple of days fabricating a joining splint to put them all back together. They passed the rowing test and actually feel stronger than before. Shackleton set off with four oars when they left Elephant Island but they threw two of them overboard when the James Caird began suffering from ice accumulation.
They approached South Georgia with only two oars. We think now that we will only start off with two oars. In some of Hurley's original pictures you could see the 'row-locks' on the forward deck of the James Caird but it was never clear where they mounted the oars on the back. We can only assume that they used rope lashings to hold them somewhere near the aft cockpit.
We rowed off the mooring in front of Arctowski Polish Research station and headed North to Escura inlet. It was a pretty calm day with a light westerly wind blowing across our course by 90 degrees. It took a few long pulls on the oars to get the bulk of the Alexandra Shackleton underway but once the momentum built we cruised along nicely at an estimated 1.5-2 knots.
Once Nick and I got over seeing how fast we could make the boat go… we settled into a nice rhythm. We tried to steer by balancing the power of each oar but it turned out to be much more efficient to simply steer with the rudder. We won't be short of spare hands when fully crewed. The fact is we probably won't be using the oars until we are close in to land. If we need extra power then we may simply put two people on each oar. For most of the time the oars will be lashed to the rigging and serve as guard rails on the boat. We don't want to lose or break one.
As we rowed out into Escura Inlet we came up on a nice big, flat iceberg with a Weddel seal and a couple of chinstrap penguins on it. We gently nudged the bow of the Alexandra Shackleton into a split that had formed and gingerly stepped aboard the berg. It was a magic moment to see this wonderful James Caird replica against a large slab of floating ice. We were all pretty quiet and just tried to let the beauty soak into us. It was all wonderfully peaceful.
Once again, the Alexandra Shackleton looked at home. These moments are fleeting in a project like this. We knew it was special and to be savoured. Eventually we had to break ourselves away and leave the little floating menagerie to itself. We rowed back to our mooring discussing scenarios of how we should store and generally use the oars. Another box ticked.