SOUTHERN OCEAN on our way towards Tristan da Cunha. Variable winds and weather as we do a combination of sailing and
motorsailing across the Southern Ocean on the roaring 40ºs.
Shorter periods of sailing have to be often interrupted by motoring our way, dealing with unfavourable conditions. The weather situation, the swell, the trajectory and intensity of the Low Pressure systems that are passing over this area of the Southern Ocean, it is making our way towards Tristan quite complicated, both for sailing and for routing our course.
After wearing ship last night and trimming the sails and yards the engines were turned off, enjoying the nice sailing. But not for long as the wind died in about half hour and the engines were turned on again. As the night went by, we tried to sail again, now setting more canvas on slightly increasing wind. And again the wind lasts another half hour before the engines run again, now until after the morning coffee time, when all canvas is set (but the fore topmast staysail and the gaff topsail), all on 15kn of north-north-westerly wind. We keep steering on a 065º course at a speed of approximately 5kn.
The foggy conditions that started yesterday lasted until this afternoon, when the sun shines for a while. However In the morning sometimes we can see patches of blue skyover our heads while the ship sits in a thick fog layer hovering over the ocean surface. These low hanging fog banks can be related with the increase of the average sea surface temperature that we are experiencing during the last couple of days. We actually left the colder Antarctic waters behind, and we sail now north of the convergence area.
Despite all this weather variability and the several changes on sails configuration, the talks and lectures kept going on today. Eduardo, always busy preparing his interesting talks, enlightened us further into some navigation concepts; Jordi repeated his favourite talk about Kelp. Today he spoke about its distribution, colonization of new areas, life strategies and he introduced his Thesis on population genetics and Phylogeography, about sequencing DNA to get a global picture of the history and spreading of the plant over the temperate waters of the Pacific coast and Sub Antarctic areas around the globe. Our mate Jelte introduced us to depressions, also known as low pressure systems.
The improvement on the weather during the afternoon brought with it good visibility and a bit more wind, making it good conditions for bird watching. And indeed several new species for the trip were spotted today, together with another great sight of a huge Fin whale popping up close to the ship. White chinned petrels were around, but also their close relatives, Spectacled petrels, showed up today. This is one of the most interesting birds in this area, as the breeding areas of the only 3000 to 4000 existing pairs are just restricted to Inaccessible Island in the Tristan da Cunha Archipelago. Most probably a Little shearwater showed up today as well. Also a Tristan Archipelago breeder, but with other populations nesting on offshore New Zealand islets and St. Paul island.