Wednesday 6th December, 2000

Location

105 nautical miles to Cape Horn

Latitude

55.59S

Longitude

70.25W

Course

094 deg True

Wind

East at 15 knots

Sea

Moderate but lumpy at times

Air temp

5 deg C

Sea temp

4 deg C

Barometer

1002 mbs and rising

1130 hours: This is the territory of the Black-Browed albatross. I am later than usual sitting down to write because I have been in the cockpit for a while, sheltered behind the pilot-house from the very cold easterly wind that we are motoring into rather slowly. The sky has reverted from drizzle and mist to that most amazing deep blue of these southern latitudes, the sea is blue-green as we come up onto the continental shelf, flecked as far as the eye can see with dancing white-caps, and the air is full, yes full, of albatross. There are many, many birds around us all wheeling in Seamaster’s wake - then coming past close on our starboard side, looking sideways at us, then banking to their right and away behind our stern again. They are not alone, there are nearly as many of the chocolate and white Cape Pigeons often landing in the water in groups to feed and “chat”. The occasional Wandering Albatross look like heavy bombers amongst such a group of really delicate birds. The dark brown Giant Petrel a little smaller than the Black-Browed also have a rugged look about them, as though they will stand no nonsense.

All of these birds are known to follow ships and fishing boats and there is no doubt they have been attracted by some of the strips of crispy bacon rind that we had left over after Rodger’s breakfast “feast”. And maybe our propeller wash churns up some of the krill and larger plankton that are a metre or two below the surface.

Last night turned into a pretty bumpy experience with the wind backing unexpectedly to the east soon after midnight. Ollie and I were working on arrival documentation until late and had only just made it to our bunks when the first few thumps of a head sea were felt. We had previously dropped all sails when the wind died soon after dark as the glow of the sun travelling along the southern horizon is a feature of being so far south. Dusk at 2200 (10pm) and light again by 0300 (3am) with only a twilight in between. So the engines are getting a work-out, but still at a moderate level to conserve the fuel stocks for later use in places where there is no refuelling. I have had little sleep but will try and grab a “power nap” this afternoon.

Alistair is on lunch today: hamburgers, egg burgers, cheeseburgers, and altogether burgers. He says they are his speciality and I have no reason to doubt him. Even though I ate all of the huge breakfast that Rodger put in front of me soon after I came on watch at 0630, that was quite a while ago now and I am looking forward to the next offering.