In the Low-Pressure system highway of the Scotia Sea, the next one crosses our path, with its wind shifts and changes. It blows and turns from the NNW. In the early morning, the watches deal with Southerlies and Southeasterlies up to the 30kn, luckily easing down by breakfast time to less than 20kn.
It is time to turn the engines on and use them to push the Europa against them along the overcast morning.
Icebergs of any kind and size don’t give a break to the lookouts, constantly reporting drifting bits and growlers.
In the background, here and there loom large tabular icebergs, some of them a couple of miles across. Big but not even close to the proper size to be given a name.
But a look at the position reports that we receive of the ice around reveal some of the largest ones in the vicinity. Those that are at least 10nm long are the ones given code names that sound like those used for military aircraft: C-16, A25A, etc...
The codes derive from the quadrant of Antarctica where the iceberg was originally sighted, often by satellite. 'A' designates the area from 0 - 90 deg W (Bellingshausen, Weddell Seas), 'B' the area from 90 - 180 deg W (Amundsen/eastern Ross Sea), 'C' the area from 180 - 90 E (Western Ross Sea/Wilkes Land), and 'D' the area from 90 - 0 E (Amery Ice Shelf/eastern Weddell Sea).
After an iceberg is sighted, the US National Ice Center assigns a quadrant letter and a number based on its origin. The biggest one being tracked at the moment around the area we plan to sail on our way to the Weddell Sea is the A25. Square-shaped and about 40nm in length on each side, it is the 25th iceberg tracked by the center in quadrant A since it began tracking big bergs in 1976. Those huge icebergs are tracked even after they split and continue to be watched until the pieces are smaller than the threshold to receive a name. Such pieces get a suffix letter after their original name, so for example A25A is the first fragment to calve from iceberg A25.
As we keep dodging ice that pops up on our course, the wind doesn’t stop to turn around. Southeasterlies become a good 15kn breeze from the W, NW, and then Northerly, with a forecast pointing to a soon blows from the West again.
On those conditions we set sail. Topsails, Top Gallants, Outer Jib, and middle Staysails pull the ship forward while from the back, the engines push her too until the afternoon when there is enough wind to turn them off.
By the start of dinner, the ship heels again to Portside, she takes once more water on deck with swell often climbing over her railing as she sails Close Hauled on a good 250º course.
So far so good, until nighttime comes with misty conditions. Europa sails into the fog in the twilight and under increasing winds. Lookouts often report bergy bits and growlers, challenging to spot at a distance in those weather conditions. The ones on deck pull ropes under the freezing cold and rain in the dark, while the growing swell now and then fills up the Main deck. Another night of wet feet and clothes to be dried somewhere below decks before we are called on watch again in a few hours.