South of 50 – In the footsteps of Shackleton


words and pic by SCARRE CELLIERS

Tuesday, 10 November: I came on watch at midnight to the most fantastic night – almost breathless, spectacular starry sky (our fist clear night since leaving the Falklands five days earlier) and a little later there was enough dawn light to produce a silhouette of the island. Classic lenticular clouds capped the steep rugged peaks and huge glaciers tumbled directly into the sea. King Edward Point (KEP), the administrative centre of the island, was just being lit by the sun’s first rays as we approached at four in the morning. The cacophony of the elephant seals that littered the pebble beaches was loud and varied. Brian had to be very nimble to avoid a couple of pups as he jumped ashore to tie Faraway to the jetty. The view across the bay to the historic whaling station of Grytviken was almost as mind-numbing as the temperature, with the rusty old structures and dramatic mountain behind reflected in the partially frozen bay.

Once the formalities had been dealt with, we immediately set sail again, but now we were heading west, which was directly into the prevailing wind and sea. This was uncomfortable, slow sailing, but the scenery, that we had been unable to see the previous night, was spectacular. We also identified some of the key features that we planned to pass on our traverse in a few days’ time, and it was daunting! Everything seemed higher, steeper and bigger than I had imagined.

By the next morning we had rounded the head of the island and were sailing east again, in steadily improving conditions. At mid-morning we dropped anchor at the head of King Haakan Bay and began ferrying our gear to the perfectly protected landing site of Peggotty Bluff, where Shackleton had started his traverse.

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