The sea has neither meaning, nor pity – Anton Chekhov
Last night was one of those ‘what the heck am I doing here?’ kind of nights… but I guess 7 metre, stomach churning, swells will do that to you. The stoic crew of the Alexandra Shackleton had to engage in a mighty arm wrestle just to get her to hold her course. But she survived the barrage of waves raining down from all directions to break into the daylight virtually unscathed from the wild weather.
It was a rough night indeed, featuring a rogue wave that picked up our support boat, the Australis, and carelessly tossed her 5 metres sideways – sending Joe French the cameraman from Raw TV careening through the air, smashing face first into the ceiling. Sporting a nice bruise on his eye, Joe is counting himself lucky as it could have been much worse had he landed elsewhere. Right now, he’s back up in the wheelhouse, filming like a trooper (aided by a reassuring man hug from Jamie to hold him steady). With the Australis lurching heavily from side to side, and dipping up sharply before crashing down again, it was like being on a rollercoaster without a seatbelt for 24 hours straight. Strapped into my bunk like an unruly child, I had to wedge one foot into the corner between the wall and my bunk mattress, and brace myself against the ceiling with an outstretched arm. Not exactly the right conditions for sleeping, I spent most of the night looking out my porthole window, which was underwater for most of the time. Not exactly the ocean views I had in mind…
The conditions have eased a little in the past few hours, but a new challenge has presented itself: the Alexandra Shackleton is experiencing an electrical problem, which means we have no VHF radio contact with the crew and no ability to see them on the radar. We currently have a clear sight of them, and they are all fine, however their radio is a key lifeline in case of emergency. Whether this is an issue with voltage or the amount of water below deck, we aren’t sure. Relying on hand held radio (which has a low range) we’ve ascertained that Seb Coulthard (the resident handyman on the Alexandra Shackleton) is working on the problem. With all the crew feeling nauseous, concentrating on a fiddley task like this is the last thing they need. Hopefully they will have a solution soon.
So far, the Alexandra Shackleton has covered 229 nautical miles since departure but with the winds expected to drop back to a civilised 15 knots in the next 24 hours, they’ll undoubtedly make slower progress. However, a slower pace might give the guys better conditions in which to eat, cook and rest… and get their VHF radio working again.
- Jo Stewart, Shackleton Epic blogger