Sir Ernst Expedition

Our descent of the Neumayer Channel was particularly windy. We had waited to have the wind behind us to leave the Melchior Islands and were thoroughly spoilt. Flying just the genoa, we finished the sail with the headsail reduced to a minimum in winds gusting <50 knots. On our port side, Dorian Bay held out its arms, but there was no question of entering it in those conditions. Port Lockroy, 3 miles further on was to shelter as with the wind forecast to weaken. Three sailing yachts already occupied the best positions. Our anchor was not far from an ice cliff. At 03:00, awakened by ice floes flirting with our hull, and when the wind had completely died down, we returned to Dorian Bay.

We had already been to this site during our first Antarctic cruise. Once through the extremely tight entrance, you enter a vast natural pool. A stone embankment blocks the big growlers and icebergs from washing up here. The site is calm in good weather and it’s easy to go hiking here.

A red cabin is painted in Argentinian colours. 50m above it, we visited the former British refuge which until the nineties housed three people responsible for informing pilots in transit to the Rothera Research Station in Marguerite Bay. A temporary runway was marked out so Twin Otter planes could refuel before these were replaced by longer-range aircraft.

But when we arrived, three growlers were cluttering up the entrance. It was not very welcoming and we preferred to send in the tender to do a recce. Once the decision was made, Francois executed a masterful chicane. Phew! We were in. Finally the tranquillity of a good anchorage. At least that’s what we hoped, as the forecast was for a strong gale the next day. In Antarctica, more than anywhere else, the verb to anticipate is a moveable feast. We therefore took extra care, 90m of chain carefully laid at depths of 4m. We wove a spider’s web of mooring lines, two going forward and two aft. Sir Ernst was ready to a face a gale. The crew went ashore and dinner was washed down as it should be.

Second early morning wake-up in a row, at 04:00 as the wind rose to 40 knots. We decided to tie in a second mooring line to the fore port side. As soon as that was done, the party began! And lasted 36 hours.

The second day would be tough with winds averaging 50 knots for several hours and gusts up to 63 knots.  We had been warned from reading the notes and sketches regards moorings, passed on by other sailors, indicating that Dorian Bay “can be windy”. Classic British understatement !

As if by magic, as forecast, the wind has stopped. Finally – a peaceful night beckons.

Tomorrow we continue our descent to the south.

Hervé at 66° 48 S and 68° 44 W.