|FI to Signy|
Birds & Bergs
FI to Signy
Our last day on the Falklands was extended as the ship took a bit longer to take on fuel and supplies than expected, so we had an unexpected extra day to enjoy the delights of Stanley, and have a last taste of freedom. It turns out that my last taste of freedom was a damp plate of fish and chips, and a pint of Guinness from a French can (avec le Floating Widget). We also enjoyed a swim in the swanky leisure center, built from the proceeds of increased aid from the UK after the 1982 conflict.
We sailed out from Mare Harbour late in the afternoon, passing HMS Southampton -- showing off her engines, our sister ship the James Clark Ross and HMS Endurance as they sailed in for their turn. After this unusual amount of traffic, we turn South again towards Signy, and have the increasingly rough seas all to ourselves.
The last couple of days have seen heavy seas and the rolling corkscrew pitching motion of the ship. Rearing up then stamping back into the ocean, stopping each time with a terrible shudder, a shiver running back and forth from fore to aft, before the next amorphous wall of water springs up to send us skywards once more.
Watching the heaving seas is compelling, its cold clutches brooding, shifting, dropping away then rising up with an icy stillness, punching with a fluid fist of iron. Conversation on the pitching decks often turns to one's chances of survival, how long our fragile bodies could last against the sapping embrace of the frozen ocean. We conclude that we'll not go swimming, then retire for a cup of tea.
We approached Signy through a large mass of variously coloured icebergs. Some giant's tables, as big as a town, showing only their long curving cliffs. Others mirror the mountainous islands they surround, jagged teeth of black and white amid the churning dark blue sea. The larger bergs shed smaller cousins, some clear as glass, others formed into visions of behemoth carcasses, bleached ribs washed by the waves, or saintly swans, gliding on the surface.
The approach to land brings more birds. No longer attached to the ship they flock everywhere, wheeling about above the blue white, grey white, bright white, surf flecked giants of ice we gingerly pick our way past. As we draw into Cumberland Bay we encounter pack ice, the remnants of last winter's shroud. The ship slows to force its way through, each grinding contact jarring against the hull, the ice cracked apart before us and pushed aside, as shards of paint scraped from the side of the ship bear witness to our passing.
We're now anchored in the glassy smooth bay outside the station. The still black sea free from ice, but ringed by snow drapped rocks springing into the misty clouds that veil their summits. Anticipation is running high as we've arrived at our first destination.
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