A Continent of Ice.

It was around midnight when Geoff saw the first iceberg. At first it was thought to be a storm, grey and ominous, lurking in the distance, just like all the others we had encountered since rounding Cape Horn. We continued south but kept a watchful eye, the grey soon turned a pale white-blue and started to give off a subtle silhouette. Geoff, not entirely convinced or trusting of his eyes as we were still 75 nautical Miles off the Antarctic peninsula, turned to the radar screen and watched the white line spin - sure enough, a red dot appeared. The red blip on the screen signalled to us that we are now in dangerous waters. The larger ones we can see, the radar can pick them up a long way out. The ones that make every skipper nervous are the Growlers. These are the chunks of ice that sit at water level or just below, often very hard to see and as the glide below the radar, dangerous. 

Over the next 12 hours we cautiously pushed the Nanook towards the Antarctic coast, winding our way past icebergs to get to a volcanic caldera called Deception island before a strong Antarctic storm moved in. Deception island is an active volcano that you can sail into, Its high ash and snow-covered rim provides protection from every wind angle. However it has a dragon guarding the entrance, a narrow and treacherous passage appropriately named Neptune's Bellows. As we sailed up to the bellows, Neptune sent us many gifts in the form of a strong whiteout and 40 to 50 knot katabatic winds descending upon us from the cliffs above. With the main engine at full stick, we worked our way up wind to an anchorage called Whalers Bay. We dropped and set the anchor in a solid 30 knot head wind, made some dinner and all collapsed into our bunks, exhausted. 

We woke up to find ourselves nestled amongst the remains of an age long forgotten. The remnants of a once bustling harbour and whaling factory is all that remains here. Abandoned shacks and scuttled wooden whaling boats scatter the shore line. This is the final resting place for thousands of whales caught throughout the age of tall ships in the height of the whaling industry boom. Unmarked graves litter the shallows and their bones scatter to the icy winds. It serves as a reminder of the harsh power of mankind and how we drove these incredible creatures to the edge of extinction. In spite of all this, life thrives here, colonies of Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins now call this caldera home. So to do the Whales despite all the death we could feel in the air here. 

As dawn broke, we departed Deception island bound for the Antarctic Peninsula. We saw icebergs the size of cities float elegantly past us, their shapes and textures formed over thousands of years - groomed and moulded by the sharp winds of Antarctica. The landscape here is covered in hundreds of metres of ice and snow, serving as a time capsule for the centuries passed. To the eye, it looks desolate and without a trace of life, aside from the odd Arctic Tern flying overhead…and then you look to the ice cold depth. Here you will find life more abundant than you have ever seen. Hundreds if not thousands of Orcas, Humpbacks and Minke whales all call this incredible place home in the summer seasons. While many species of Seals and Penguins thrive here year round. All we have to do is look south to Antarctica to find a perfect example of what happens when mankind bands together to protect and preserve a common love and interest. We are capable of change and we've done it all before, it's been in us the whole time, we just need to remember.