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Cierva Cove and sailing South

Overnight we cross the Bransfield Strait sailing in winds up to 45 knots and heavy seas. Our speed was around 8 knots, just with Lower Topsails, Desmond, Dekzwabber and Fore Top Mast Staysail set. By 02:30h we found calmer waters in Huges Bay, on our way to Cierva Cove. As we take our first coffee and go out on deck we are welcomed to a dull and snowy morning, with more than 10cm of snow covering the decks. But at least we got off the strong winds and the weather and water was calm as we drift in the vicinity of Cierva Cove.

Overnight we cross the Bransfield Strait sailing in winds up to 45 knots and heavy seas. Our speed was around 8 knots, just with Lower Topsails, Desmond, Dekzwabber and Fore Top Mast Staysail set. By 02:30h we found calmer waters in Huges Bay, on our way to Cierva Cove. As we take our first coffee and go out on deck we are welcomed to a dull and snowy morning, with more than 10cm of snow covering the decks. But at least we got off the strong winds and the weather and water was calm as we drift in the vicinity of Cierva Cove.

Slowly the weather seems to improve, and by the time we are having breakfast, the visibility improves dramatically and the wind stops completely as the Europa makes her way deep into the cove through dense patches of brash ice, amongst icebergs of any size, shape and colour.

Quite promising for the morning activity, the planned zodiac cruise in that area.

Cierva Cove, in Huges Bay is framed at its head by glacial front of the superb Brequet Glacier, and it’s a place used by several species of seals to fish, hunt and rest on the ice floes.

As we found this area completely sheltered from the wind and waves, after breakfast we dropped the zodiacs and Sloopy and started our cruise. Soon we realice that this morning was going to be pretty special as we start driving between lots of icebergs, embedded in a sea of brush ice. Gorgeous glaciers are all around as we cruise. Within a few minutes of leaving the ship and deal with the brash ice covered sea, we already found our first Crabearter seal of the day. From then on as we look at the ice floes around we keep discovering more and more of them, framed in a fantastic landscape of ice. We don’t have to fool ourselves with their name, as in Antarctica we can barely find crabs, but their main food resource is Krill, up to 95% of their diet consists on that shrimp like species. We visit several of them napping on the ice, and we also drive around spectacular icebergs, some of them huge, showing different tide lines, carvings and shapes, including big ice caves, that we enjoy as we photograph our photogenic Sloopy in front of them. During the second round of the cruise we also spot a couple of blows in the distance amongst the ice, a group of four Minke whales was entering Cierva Cove and we could see them popping off the water using the small water pools between the brash ice for taking a quick breath and dive again.

We embark again by lunchtime and start our way off the bay, heading South. As soon as we start motoring on that direction, we can feel the wind increasing quickly, and in a few moments starts blowing again around 40 knots, as we sail the Gerlache Strait.

As we hang around, the Spanish research icebreaker “Hespérides” also looks for shelter for a while inside the cove, leaving shortly after us.

Making our way southwards under engine, we quickly pass from those 40 knots to 50 knots steady wind and with some gusts up to 62 knots! Like this we spend the afternoon until almost dinner time when we find some shelter in a small bay of the Antarctic Peninsula called Salvesen Cove, that forms the Southernmost tip of Huges Bay. The cove was partially outlined on the charts of the Belgium Antarctic Expedition under Gerlache (1897-99) and was probably named by whalers operating in this vicinity after Salvesen and Company, whalers of Leith, Scotland.

After a quiet dinner on flat calm conditions inside the bay, we head out again, as the activities for the day were not finished yet. Next was the sailing through the narrow Graham Passage. A scenic channel that separates Murray Island from the W coast of Graham Land. Captain Skidsmo named it after his whale catcher Graham, which was the first to pass through it, on March 20, 1922. Without much difficulty we can make our way through the channel, surrounded by glacier fronts, luckily for us in flat sea conditions and calm winds, as the sun sets. What a nice end for this day, enjoying Antarctica and her several faces, from wild, rough to calm, and also the wildlife inhabiting this unbelievable white continent.

Written by:
Jordi | Guide

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