We're six hours out of South Georgia on our way to Brazil, but suddenly we get a BIG surprise on the radar 12/2/07


It’s 1000 on Monday morning and we’ve embarked on our 1,900-mile passage to Rio de Janeiro. It’s pretty rough but Adele is thundering through a lumpy sea with a remarkably easy motion, only the occasional bang and shudder.

It’s blowing 35 knots true (average for this trip) and we should be on a comfortable broad reach with the staysail and mizzen only set, but we’ve had to head up for a couple of hours. The reason is ice. No sooner had South Georgia begun to disappear over our stern than something strange appeared on the radar.

Strange because it looked like another bit of land, it was so big. But it’s been immediately identified as ice, a massive berg with an estimated 50-mile long face, and that’s the bit the radar could see! How far it extends to the east is anyone’s guess, but it’s massive and it’s taken us nearly three hours to weather it.

Most of it is in the form of a very long low plateau or table but there are one or two ‘skyscrapers’ along its length one with rounded edges suggesting it’s already capsized a couple of times and another with much more angular and sharp-edges. The likelihood is that it’s floated up from the Weddell Sea.

Luckily for us it’s not only daylight but the sun is shining for once. Skipper Andre weighed anchor at 0500 this morning, a deliberate move to give as much daylight as possible to deal with eventualities like this. Good move!

The pressure charts show the breeze should move into the west at some stage soon making the angle even better for us, but the systems in the south Atlantic are not at all stable at the moment and almost anything could happen.

We rounded off our amazing visit to South Georgia with a lung-bursting hike over the Barff peninsula having landed at Cobblers Cove. Up over the top of the first ridge took us into sleet, snow and a biting south westerly but the reward was the sighting of quite a few reindeer (originally introduced by the Norwegians 100 years ago), a lot of nesting petrels and eventually a colony of macaroni penguins. The macaroni is so called because when the species was discovered by the English it was fashionable to wear hats adorned with feathers and this penguin has a impressive headdress of feathery plumage, although yesterday it was flattened by the weather conditions.

The downside of our hiking efforts is that our foul weather gear became very foul indeed as we scrambled over the guano-covered rocks of the colony. It’s basically processed krill and boy, does it stink. It’s almost impossible to get the stench out of our oilies and the on-watch crew smell like a canning factory.

Accident on board…

… With several crew on iceberg watch – we have nine targets on the radar – there’s a crash in the cockpit and watch leader Nigel Ingram is thrown across the deck as the yacht lurches in the big southern ocean sea.

Unfortunately, his head makes contact with a very solid teak table (table’s OK by the way) and there’s a three inch gash in his head and a fair bit of blood.

Engineer Paul immediately dons surgical gloves and starts mopping up while chef Claire who is also Adele’s on board trained medic goes to work on the wound.

The cut is cleaned with saline solution, hair is cut away, he’s taped up and bandaged right round his skull. Thanfully Nigel seems OK but Andre and Claire are taking no chances and will be checking for concussion. He must rest below and we must keep him under observation.

Two things to note: Out here accidents that might seem manageable at home in the knowledge that A&E is just around the corner take on greater significance and it is essential to have sound medical experience onboard. Second, in conditions like these with big cresting waves even Adele is being shoved around and it’s a long way to fall across the cockpit or the saloon. One has to move around with immense care both above and below decks.