Thump, thump, thump...
The boat kicks and rolls, tossed about on the wave like a chew toy by a Doberman. A nervous giggle bubbles up from one of my companions throats as a new wave breaks over the wheelhouse, white foam retreating from the porthole window as the boat lurches to meet the next wave. A glance out the starboard porthole revels only the deep aqua blue of the ocean below as we cut forward at almost a 50 degree angle. Suddenly we are weightless but for a moment then we crash into the bottom of the next wave rising to meet us.
Then the engine cuts and we are at the mercy of the wind once more. I can hear the waves sloshing on the other side of what feels to be a paper thin hull. Our speed slows and the waves fall into a steady, rhythmic thump, thump against the hull. Poseidon knock, knock, knocking as if to ask if any among us might want to join him in the icy depths below.
But the Sarah Vorwerk is a stout vessel. All 54 feet built for rough seas. Where we landlubbers crawl and claw our way from our berths, her skipper strolls the deck with all the confidence of a man born of the sea. Henk has made this trip many times before, at least three runs per season for the last 18 years. His devilish grin puts us all to ease as he waves a hand... "Yah, yah there's nothing to worry about."
Our quest was to visit the Antarctic Peninsula at the very earliest in the season possible. In that we have succeeded. We receive word that the Lemaire Strait is still completely iced in, only the largest of icebreakers have the hope of passing and so we head instead for the South Shetland Islands. We drop anchor in the sheltered cove of Deception Island and our first mate and one companion who have been suffering terribly from seasickness spring miraculously back to life. Henk remarks that this is the first time he has seen Deception covered in snow.
|Abandon Building in Whalers Bay|
|A Weddell Seal sleeps blissfully unaware of the history of Whalers Bay|
|A memorial to a carpenter|
|A skua takes flight after a long bath in a pond of melt water|