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The volatile moods of the Scotia Sea

A truce. Scotia sea calms down for a few hours today. Since departure winds have been blowing pretty strong, both from the side and from the aft. Europa heels and rolls and pitches, until today when gradually the wind dies. The following breeze eases and the ship’s speed decreases until even having all her square sails set braced square, she practically stops. The sun shines and the temperature feels warm. A few hours of a truce from the heavy conditions we had and the ones forecasted to hit us again soon.   

But the calm didn’t last long, already in the afternoon the wind started to pick up again. The engines have worked for just a couple of hours, the rig only flying the Top sails and a couple of lower staysails when it is time again to gather hands on deck to sheet down the rest of the squares, hoist yards, unfurl and set middle staysails and all of the head rig. Conditions gradually but steadily pick up promising an evening and night full of exciting sail manoeuvres on deck and aloft. 

Northwesterly blows 15, 20, 30, and up to 35kn and gusting even more. First Royals come down, and then Middle Staysails and Top Gallants follow. And when the blows hit hard during the night, our powerful Outer jib is pulled down and packed away. Over the Main deck, the large Desmond is replaced by the smaller Aap. The rig is now ready to take the increasing rage of the Scotia Sea.  

The temperamental Scotia Sea and its cold waters always had the reputation of being stormy. Between the passing by Low-Pressure Systems sweeping along the Furious 50º latitudes, now and then it allows for short breaks in its windy weather. Sunny spells and calmer waters usually don’t last long before it shows again its angry face. Then we dress in our waterproof and warm foul weather gear and we have to practice once more a secure footing to walk around on decks and down below. 

About 750nm from the Falklands lies South Georgia, but the Scotia Sea stretches all the way between Tierra del Fuego, South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, South Orkney Islands, and the Antarctic Peninsula, and is bordered on the west by the more renown but shorter and not necessarily rougher Drake Passage.  

The first known sailors to venture into its waters were already braving its storms in the 17th Century, but it was in the 17 hundreds that the passage started to be more famous. By then, Captain Cook sailed on board the Resolution into these treacherous waters following his mission of finding the elusive Southern Continent, which despite his enormous efforts, skills, and long time spent in those high latitudes, never found. 

Nevertheless, his name is carved onto those waters as the great explorer and navigator that he was, and he will keep coming back to our stories during the next days, as he was the one who explored, charted, named, and claimed South Georgia for the British Crown. 

Cook and his crew suffered the rigors of the Scotia Sea, but it had to wait until the beginning of the 20th century for its name to be published in the charts. The Scotia Sea bears the name of William S. Bruce’s bark, used by the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (1902-04) on their scientific exploration of the Weddell Sea. Their overwintering camp at the South Orkney Islands set the precedent for the first Antarctic permanent Station, still manned nowadays by Argentina. 

Written by:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader

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