Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Into The Indian Ocean

Upon arriving back in Darwin, I had one goal--to get going westward ASAP. Fortunately Twister is not a demanding woman--after scrubbing her bottom and replacing a couple of small bits of hardware, she's also eager to set sail.  The provisioning is also done, and we're set to depart for Cocos Keeling Atoll Wednesday morning (tomorrow). It's ca 2000 nm due west from Darwin.  As usual, I plan for 100 miles per day, so hopefully I'll arrive sometime around September 18. I'm starting to feel the pre-passage butterflies which by now is mostly a pleasant excitement as opposed to the pure nervous apprehension I felt before departing San Diego April 18 of last year.

Latest rough itinerary for The Indian Ocean:
Wed 28 August: depart Darwin --  Ca 2000 nm passage
18 Sept:  arrive Cocos Keeling
23 Sept: depart Cocos Keeling -- Ca 2000 nm passage
13 Oct:  arrive Rodriguez
18 Oct:  depart Rodriguez -- Ca 500 nm passage
23 Oct:  arrive Reunion Island
1 Nov:  depart Reunion Island -- Ca 1500 nm passage
16 Nov:  arrive Richard’s Bay
After Richard’s Bay, I plan to make 1-2 day hops down the coast to Cape Town where I hope to arrive by mid-December.

Fellow sailors Paul (on Rebellion) and Dino (on Hadar, with daughter Sasha) are going the same way as me to South Africa. Hadar departed today while Rebellion will depart within a week. Paul’s Australian visa expires shortly, so he will have to bypass Cocos Keeling (which is Australian territory) and sail ~3900 nautical miles directly to Rodriguez. It has occurred to me to do the same, but after 18-20 days at sea, I will most likely enjoy the stop at Cocos. Still, the passage to Cocos will be my second longest after the first one from San Diego to Nuku Hiva.  Apparently there is also an around-the-world organized sailing rally (23 boats I was just told) that will be going the same way, so there is potential for some crowded anchorages.
In addition to the minimal work necessary to keep the boat sailing the right direction, there is my guitar and plenty of reading material to keep me occupied.  I have also set myself the goal of becoming, if not proficient, at least conversant, for lack of a better word, in celestial navigation (I find it helpful to tell people my goals to keep myself accountable)

I don't have any reason to expect that the upcoming passages will be any more hazardous than my past ones (in other words, much safer than driving on Southern California Freeways, for example). If for some reason I disappear off the map, it is most likely because I found a lovely, undiscovered atoll and settled there. Anyway, to get to the point, there is nothing I would rather have been doing than what I have been doing the last 1.5 years, so no regrets.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In Santiago

Spent the night in the Agunsa agent, Jimmy's office at the Santiago airport. Very comfortable lazyboy chairs.  Onward to Sydney this afternoon and another overnight layover before hopefully arriving Darwin the afternoon of August 24. Here are a couple of videos from the cruise (top: cruising along in the ice in Maxwell Bay, King George Island, bottom: night trawling through the ice in the Bransfield Strait):

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back in Punta Arenas

We arrived Punta Arenas last night (August 17) around 20:00 and cleared customs in time to hit the bars. Round two tonight.

Some photos from the cruise.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Out Of The Drake Passage

We went passed through  around The Straits of Le Maire sometime in the night and are
now slowly (not going the normal cruising speed of 10-11 knots because
we have to wait for the Chilean pilot we're required to have aboard to
go through The Straits Of Magellan) making our way up the east coast of
Tierra Del Fuego towards the eastern entrance to The Straits Of
Magellan. I'm attaching a photo (taken by the zooplankton team leader,
Kim) of one of my favorite amphipods (among my favorites because I think
they look cool and are easy to identify), Primno macropa. We typically
find a few but rarely more than a few, in most of the net tows. Two days
ago, we had the roughest seas of this crossing. In fact it was quite
comfortable. It was "only" blowing 45 to 53 knots and we had the wind
blowing from almost directly behind us (which is much better than having
it on the nose, both on motor and sailing vessels). We are scheduled to
arrive Punta Arenas (PA) the morning of August 18. We'll probably spend
most of that day packing up and unloading equipment.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The IKMT (Isaacs-Kidd Midwater Trawl)

This is the net we've been using most of this cruise to gather
zooplankton (a broad category which includes krill, amphipods, copepods,
some fish eggs and larvae, and many other taxonomic classes). Today
we're preparing to launch the Tucker Trawl which is a larger and more
complicated system. It has three nets that can be remotely opened and
closed at various depths.

In The Ice Again

61° ' S 54° 12' W (southeast of Elephant Island). 23:50 GMT, Sun Aug 12
In open water, the temperature is never more than a degree or two below
freezing (just like the summer), but when we are in the ice, the temp
drops to -15 to -18 °C--an impressive demonstration of the
temperature-buffering capacity of liquid water. We've spent the last 24
hours or so back in the ice but not so thick that we have to back and
ram to move. A couple of hours ago we completed probably our last
net-tow in the ice. We are now transiting northeast to the next sampling
station (and away from the ice). We only have a few more days of work
and the word around the coffee machine is that we'll be heading back to
Punta Arenas a day or two early to avoid a depression (storm) forecast
to come our way.

I've thoroughly enjoyed myself on AMLR again, and being here in the
winter has been amazing. The sea-icescape is mesmerizing and
awe-inspiring. It's so stark and beautiful and so obviously hostile to
human life.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

In The Ice

19:39 UTC, 9 Aug 2012
62° 17' S, 56° 12' W
-17 °C, wind: 20 knots. In The Bransfield Strait, ~40 miles due north of
D'Urville Island.

We made it as far south as 62° 30' when the ice became too much to work
in (we need to be able to clear some open water behind the boat to lower
the zooplankton net), and we headed north. That was 6 hours ago. We've
been trying to make our way out of the ice since. Occasionally we find a
path with thin ice and can steam along at 6 or 7 knots, but we are soon
impeded by thicker stuff and have to back and ram to make way. As I
write this we are backing up at 2 knots. Outside it's white as far as
the eye can see. The land(sea)scape is stunning. There is a layer of
snow covering the ice, growlers, and icebergs, so if it weren't for
being on a ship, I would not think we were on the ocean. It could be
Norway in the winter except there are no trees. I'd really like to get
off the boat and play on the ice.

Monday, August 6, 2012

We're Anchored In Maxwell Bay,

King George Island, calibrating acoustic equipment. Eearlier we towed
the IKMT net and gathered some zooplankton for the zoo team to get some
practice ID'ing the critters. Tomorrow we start work for real (weather

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Crossing The Drake Passage

So far it's been a smooth crossing of The Drake Passage. I suppose
that's partly from being on a bigger ship than last year. We are 61 nm
(or 7.5 hours at our current speed) from our first sampling point unless
the captain decides it's too rough to have people on deck. Hopefully the
attached map will show up.
The Nathaniel B Palmer (hereafter NBP) is quite a contrast to last
year's ship, The Moana Wave (MW). The NBP which is an ice-breaker, is
308 feet to MW's 210. I am still getting lost as I wander around the NBP
which is also luxurious--toilets and showers in every cabin, a
reasonably well-equipped gym, sauna, free use of satellite phone for
everyone, and internet (limited to 10 MB per person per day, but
seriously, internet in Antarctica?). Another way the NBP is different
from the MW is the crew. The officers on the NBP prefer to keep a
certain distance and formality between themselves and the science party
while on the MW we were all one big family. The NBP officers have
assigned seats in the galley and a separate lounge (off-limits to us).
Which is not to say that they are unfriendly, just that they have a
different way of doing things. Maybe The MW is the exception and The NBP
the rule. I don't know as this is only my second time doing this sort of
thing. Either way, I'm stoked to be aboard and sailing to Antarctica again.

PS As I mentioned there is (limited) internet, so if you want to email
me, you can use my regular gmail address

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Approaching The Drake

We departed Punta Arenas 1400 local time yesterday (Wed 1 Aug). The
Palmer is an impressive ship as I think I already mentioned. The
weather has been beautiful so far. When we pass through the Strait of
Le Maire and into The Drake Passage it will become bumpier. From what
I've seen of the forecasts, it doesn't look like anything too bad,
though. We spent two days in port setting up our lab space and
securing equipment. Now we have a couple of days of downtime as we
transit to The South Shetland Islands where we'll start sampling. I
am once again working with the zooplankton team. Due to sea ice, we
will not make it as far south as last year's summer cruise.