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Crossing the Antarctic Convergence area

Climate quite variable today, waking up to a dry morning with sun breaking through the clouds, but quickly becoming overcast. Later on we got some rain and drizzle, related with the several squalls that we encounter on our way South.Before breakfast the wind had decreased to 20-23 knots and started veering to the NW, as we sail at 6.5 to 7 knots southwards, setting the Main course under those mild conditions.

During the morning the wind starts gusting up to 35 knots, and some sails are taken away. Top Gallants, Outer Jib, Deckzwabber, Desmond and Middle Staysails are furled. Keeping a good speed though, of 7.8 knots, steering 175º. After all those gusts, the wind blows steady at around 30 knots, and for a while the sun shines while the Europa elegantly enjoys the great sailing towards Antarctica rolling and pitching on swells up to 4 metres. In the afternoon the wind starts backing to the W and becomes variable again, gusting up to 45 knots as squalls pass by close to us. As soon as the wind field stabilizes a bit around 35 knots we set the Deckzbabber, achieving 8.5 knots of speed on a SSE-ly course. All this variable weather is due to a Low Pressure system located West of us, from which we are catching the NW-ly winds from its forward side, with its associated cold front and squalls.

As we make progress Southwards, today we could see how the sea conditions, swell and surface water temperature had changed quite dramatically, we were just crossing the Antarctic Convergence area, leaving behind the temperate Sub-polar waters and entering the cold Antarctic waters. The surface sea water temperature dropped fast 1.5º C in a couple of hours, between 16:00h and 18:00h, and kept diminishing steadily from then until reaching 1.5º to 2º C. Quite surprisingly that happened from the latitude comprised between 58º S to 58º 30’ S, while usually this area is located further south, between 59º and 60º S.

This abrupt decrease in temperature represents a biological boundary for many species. Sure when we get a bit more South during the next day we will start having more wildlife around, more related with Polar ecosystems. Precisely related with that subject were the lectures of the day, with Lex talking mostly about wildlife adaptations to the life in Antarctica and Jordi giving an overview of different aspects of the Polar Ecosystems, comparing climate, types of ice, oceanography, marine circulation and biological diversity, between other subjects, between Antarctica and the Arctic.

On our eight o’clockie Eric informs us about our position, the crossing of the Antarctic Convergence area and our progress. By that time the wind blows at 30 knots, backing to the West and becoming W by S. We are steering 155º at a good speed between 8 to 8.5 knots. We have already sailed 208 nm from the islands at the Atlantic mouth of the Beagle Channel (Picton, Nueva and Lennox), and 172 nm during the last 24h.

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