If I had to sum up my Antarctic cruise so far in one word it would be “wind”. We left the UK as the big storm was hitting and with only a brief respite in Santiago have been experiencing high winds ever since.
The howling wind across the flat plains of Punta Arenas on the edge of the Straits of Magellan nearly knocked us off our feet. The Drake Passage was most definitely a Drake Shake as we had a force 9 wind full abeam for the crossing, I am so glad to be on such a stable ship as we rolled all night with various crashes and bangs of items falling but never to great extremes. The wind has now abated a little but it is still strong.
This morning we thought we had found a small safe harbour in Mikkelsen Cove to visit a Gentoo penguin colony at a small Argentinean station on D’Hainaut Islands. The winds were at 35 knots so just within safe zodiac conditions. The Captain had positioned the vessel so the gangway was in the lee of the worst wind and just as we reached the top of the gangway Boris our expedition leader came out and said “sorry guys we are going to have to call this landing off”.
Almost immediately the winds picked up with squalls of up to 60 knots with blinding snow – it was a good call.
Despondently we returned to the mud room and took off our layers of outer clothing. It was good practise at how much gear you need to wear to stay warm. I spent a little time on the outer decks hoping things would clear but the visibility has now dropped and the wind continues to blow so I have headed in for a hot chocolate. We are now heading towards Cierva Cove in the hope that we will find some shelter here, we know the winds are even higher further south down the peninsula. I know Antarctica is a cruel mistress and travelling here is not easy, she is just reminding us. With the weather so changeable, who knows, it may be glorious sunshine later on.
The good thing that comes with high winds is bird life which have been a constant companions to our ship, Black Browed, Light Mantled Sooty and the occasional Wandering Albatross have been spotted along with Blue, Storm and Cape Petrels. We have also encountered many humpback whales who are migrating south from the warmer seas, we know it is all there to see we are just itching to be able to get off and experience it.