It is not in the storm nor in the strife, we feel benumb'd, and wish to be no more, But in the after-silence on the shore, when all is lost, except a little life – Lord Byron
Today’s outlook: torrential rain, high winds, snow, hail and ice. Yesterday’s clear skies have been replaced with the gloomiest weather imaginable – a never ending cascade of water in all forms (solid, frozen, semi-frozen) raining down from the sky and coming in from the sides. Joe French the cameraman from Raw TV described it as ‘Scotland on steroids’ and I’d agree, Scotland has nothing on these conditions.
The sense of relief and jubilation felt yesterday has now been replaced by a weird sense of loss. Despite the hardship of the boat journey, it was a colossal beast that the crew had been working towards for years. The journey has occupied such a huge amount of space in everyone’s lives, now that it’s gone there’s a sense of: ‘what do we do now?’ But this was always going to happen. Due to the extreme nature of what the guys have just been through anything that came afterwards was bound to be a let down.
With conditions like this rendering the crossing impossible to start, there’s not much to do. The three who will attempt the crossing in the traditional gear (Tim, Baz and Ed) are still in ‘expedition mode’ so they are being held hostage in the Alexandra Shackleton, which is attached to the Australis via a tow line. Seeing the Alexandra Shackleton stagnant and stripped of sail is strange. I’m used to seeing her battling away in the distance, not hanging out the back without a job to do.
With weather like this it would be easy to hide in your bunk with a hot chocolate, but it’s not every day that you call South Georgia Island your backyard. It’s also not every day you get rolled by a gang of seals, but that’s what exactly happened a few hours ago. Despite the less than perfect (read: hideous) weather, the need to stretch my legs won out over the need to stay warm and dry. Alone on the beach at Peggotty Bluff, I wasn’t alone for long as soon enough I saw 15 seals descending towards me at a rapid pace. I’d been told not to run, so I stood my ground and tapped some rocks together to make an ominous noise, designed to scare them away… which did absolutely nothing but make them more interested in me. So I ran… and so they chased… and they got me. Oh the humiliation of being chased down by a pack of fur seals – the Golden Retrievers of the Antarctic. I’ve heard many people say “Oh, they are just like lovable puppy dogs”. I’m not buying it. They have teeth and hunt in packs like wolves. The fur seals with the faces of angels are actually cold blooded stalkers, hell bent on terrorising out-of-their-depth journalists. With a malfunctioning hand held radio and no human in sight, it was a pretty grim wait for the zodiac boat to come get me. I knew the TV crew were filming in a cave on the other side of the beach, but how do I get there? Do I chance it and wait by the big, heavy (but slow) elephant seal or do I run the gauntlet of territorial, rambunctious fur seals that just grabbed my pants with their sharp teeth? How did life come to this?
Before venturing to this part of the world you’re advised to remain five metres from all wildlife. But what happens when the wildlife take that rule, chew it up and spit it in your face? You run… and hope that the camera crew aren’t filming and you don’t end up a reluctant youtube sensation.
- by Jo Stewart, Shackleton Epic blogger
Post script: Jo made it back to the Australis with nothing but wounded pride.
Check the Daily Update on the home page for more expedition details.