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Scotia Sea

Riding the swell and weather arriving to South Georgia. Sailing downwind and passing squalls.  

A day of good sailing, but most of it rolling in the following winds and large swells. The West by North fair wind started shifting and changing by mid-morning as a line of rainy squalls pass over us. From the aft came then the West by South blows of 30kn. Riding winds and swells, the Europa then steers downwind course, and sails must be adjusted to it. Main Course is clewed up, Middle and Lower Staysails pulled down, Fore Top Mast Staysail furled too. Good lookouts are needed too since last night, as sailing fast we pass by several icebergs. 

7,8,9 even 10kn of speed show up in the wheelhouse screen, telling of a lively last day at sea until the anchor can be dropped at South Georgia. 

Again we all got used the watch system, doing our lookouts and steering, helping the crew to pull ropes or climbing aloft to furl. Safely sailing the ship towards the island where we are about to arrive. Living in the simple world of sailing in remote oceans, far away from land and its distractions. Where the meals are greatly appreciated, as well as a cozy sheltered corner where to rest between duties or a warm couple of square meters where to lie down for a rest. Tonight, with the end of sea watches we will step again into other habits, like ride the waves in the small zodiacs and land ashore for hikes amongst the abundant wildlife of the island. 

But before that, still some hours to go. A day that now brings showers and sunny spells in-between, until the evening when we approach land . By then the rain and low clouds seem to get a good grip on the weather. In the dimming light, haze and drizzle the jagged contours of the island’s northern shores insinuate themselves before it becomes dark and the Europa clew up the rest of squares still set, pull down the Staysails and her engines roar again after a few days of quiet sailing. Now she makes the careful last approach to her anchorage at the so called Elsehul Bay.  

Two anchors try to hold the ship on the northerly strong winds overnight. In the silence of the darkness, multitude of howls and cries eco on the steep cliffs and mountains that surround the bay where we lay. Elephant seals growl. Fur seal pups and a few of their mothers call each other all night long. The sounds of South Georgia. 

Lands first trodden by Captain James Cook and his crew on the Resolution. He who from a humble origin, became one of the most renown figures in the history of navigation. He set off in search of the mythical Terra Incognita Australis, the hypothetical continent at the south of the world. He was very close to find it, but apparently that was not his destiny. He managed to circumnavigate Antarctica without seeing it.  

A ditch-digger’s son becomes one of the greatest navigators of his own age, or any other age, and is sent out there three times to look for the one land he does not believe exists.  

John Harrison. Forgotten Footprints 

Instead he came across South Georgia lands. Originally described by Jean de la Roche 100 years before and by Gregorio Perez in 1756 on board the Leon. Its insular nature was unknown, so he first though it could be part of the southern continent. A thorough work of exploration and charting revealed that it was an island. Since this discovery, his feelings are still imprinted on the name of the southern tip of South Georgia, when he realised the land could be circumnavigated. Cape Disappointment. 

The descriptions of what he found here distill his aversion for the wild and rough environments. Despite all that, he took possession of the island for Great Britain, a claim that still lasts nowadays. South Georgia is part of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories.  

I think it exceeds in wretchedness both Tierra del Fuego and Staten Island which places till I saw this thought might vie with any of the works of providence 

Not agree or shrub was to be seen, not even enough to make a toothpick. I landed in three different places and took possession of the country in his Majesty’s name under a discharge of small arms. 

James Cook 

And to visit the island, everyone on board has the adhere to their protocols and rules. Lectures and briefings prepared us to set foot here. Clothes, boots and bags are cleaned. All in an effort to minimise the introduction of any alien biological material to this delicate and remote ecosystem. A unique community of interacting organisms that had suffered in the past the actions of sealers and whalers, animal and plant invasive species and the devastating effect of the rats over the bird populations. Great effort has been put on the restoration of the habitat and South Georgia its on the way of recovering its bountiful nature. Now and here, we are the aliens. 

Geschreven door:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader

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