Variable westerly winds, a bit from the South, a bit from the North, all fair to keep the great sailing towards South Georgia. First steering Northwards, then on a Northeasterly course when it starts blowing a more steadyNorthwesterly at a good 20 to 25kn. The time of the day for calling a few hands one deck for sailhandling, bracing sharper to Close-hauled.
The watches keep on going with the steering and the lookouts, apart from that people on duty, not many show on deck, unless a special occasion arise. In the afternoon a call can be heard one board: dolphins bowriding the ship. For a brief time, a small pod of the beautiful Hourglass dolphins seem to enjoy joining us, but our speed of 6 to 8kn soon seems to slow for those speed masters of the cold waters in the high southern latitudes.
Dolphins, fantastic sailing, not the coldest temperatures, good sea conditions, elegant albatrosses soaring around the ship. But the Scotia Sea is not often that pleasant and offering the kind of sailing like we are experiencing. On the contrary, its waters characterise by their cold and stormy conditions. Although it is less renown than its neighbour the Drake Passage, its moods are similar. A bad temper that has been challenging seaman since the 16 hundreds when they first set sail on those cold waters. Venturing further south both intentionally or as in many other occasions in the history of discoveries at high latitudes, blown off course by powerful gales and winds. And indeed, just like that, and before anyone else, the English merchant Anthony de la Roche spotted the first lands ever seen south of the Antarctic Convergence. None came exploring them for many years. Its was not until 1756 when Gregorio Jerez aboard the ship “Leon” confirmed its existence. But who actually set foot ashore on those legendary lands for the first time and claimed them was no more and no less than the famous Captain Cook in 1775. He named the island George, after George III. It is now known as South Georgia. He sailed his ship “Resolution” here in search of the mythical Southern Continent, that eluded him despite he ended up circumnavigating Antarctica.
He endured the harshness of the very same waters the Europa sails today. Cook left them unnamed. Stretching between South Georgia, Tierra del Fuego, the South Sandwich Islands, South Orkneys and the Antarctic Peninsula, these treacherous seas were actually named after the ship Scotia, used by the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition under the command of William S. Bruce in 1902-04. The Scotia was a refurbished sea-worthy Norwegian Bark that headed to the Weddell Sea fitted with modern scientific equipment and high exploratory goals. Their overwintering camp at the South Orkney Islands set the precedent for the first Antarctic permanent Station, still manned nowadays by Argentina.
For the next few days we sail the Scotia Sea to reach South Georgia. Seas that for now, despite being on the so called Furious 50’s latitudes, have been showing their kind side, fair to our navigation. 320nm lay behind us since passing by Danger Islands, our way off the Weddell Sea. 498nm are left to sail until the anchor can go down at the first shores to explore at South Georgia.
Photo by Ricky Simko