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24 Hours in The Scotia Sea

I went on watch at midnight to find it clouded over. No chance to see the super moon. After only ten minutes in the deckhouse we were called on deck to pull ropes. Michael and I were on the top gallant clew and bunts trying to unset the sail but they were stuck.  It took a while for the permanent crew to find the problem, and I had to go on my lookout shift. It was very cold and blowing, so the little workout on deck kept me pretty warm. On my next shift I got really cold as it sleeted most of the half-hour lookout, and for the first time I was cold on watch. When the weather is like this I really see why the shifts on lookout or helm are only half an hour with one hour inside between shifts. During my time in the deck house, Jordi came in to clean. I was totally impressed to see him get down on his hands and knees to scrub the deck with a rag. How far from the ivory towers of the university, but what an act of being a shipmate.

I was planning on staying up after this watch, but getting warm in my bunk was too compelling. When leaving my bunk room this morning, there were flags draped all over for the third time on the voyage. Today they are for Finn our Canadian second mate. Belen, the other scientist with Jordi said there was a sighting of fin whales at around 1000. An appropriate birthday gift for Finn. Fin whales are the second largest whales to the blue whales as well as being the fastest. At over 16 knots they could easily outrun our ship. Roaming the ocean in small pods, they don’t have regular breeding grounds or migration routes like other whale species.

We were planning to have our St Nicholas pink elephant gift exchange on December 5, his birthday, on Elephant Island. Yesterday there was a note on the board saying chill your beans on the gift exchange, a new expression for me. We all presumed it meant we weren’t likely to make it there on the 5th. This morning Nick said he saw the gps in the wheelhouse and it indicated 400+ kt to Elephant Island, which at this rate we might make it by the 7th. But, one thing I have learned in the Scotia Sea is that things don’t stay the same long. On the short mid watch from 12-1400, it was cold grey and the wind and seas had picked up. By my shift on the helm my guess is that the winds were at 30 knots. Toward the end of the half hour it got sunny with blue skies. It was turning into a beautiful afternoon. Because of a couple people out sick on the watch, we were juggling the shifts so I had to go back out for fifteen minutes after a fifteen minute warm-up. Pretty much as soon as I got out there it started to snow. By the end of our watch we were taking down sails because the wind had risen to over forty knots.

During the afternoon, I listened to a talk from Belen, who talked about whaling and whale watching in Iceland where she works in the summer. Tourism has risen greatly there because of the whales, and they have raised the prices for tourist to try to limit it as there are limited resources on the Island.

My evening watch from 20-2400 was uneventful with rough seas but not too much wind.  My first stint on the helm was forty five minutes and pleasant.  I must admit it is fun standing on the helm when the ship dives into the valleys between the swells. It is awesome to see the power of the swells. During the last half hour of the watch the super moon poked out from the clouds and lit up the ocean on the starboard hind quarter of the ship. To the right you could see the light grey of the soon to rise sun off the port bow. At midnight the horizon was clearly visible.  What a great ending to the day aboard Bark Europa.

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Voyage crew | Voyage crew

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