Kuli South Georgia Expedition

Oct 22


Published at 15:17
Dispatch created from email

It's been like the movie Groundhog Day for the Pelagic Australis.

Shortly after midnight Sunday, we shoved off from the rusting ruins Grytviken for the last time, aiming to reach Possession Bay by 7 a.m. for our last coring session before returning to the Falklands. When we awoke Sunday morning, we climbed from our bunks to the pilothouse to see the rusting ruins of Grytviken.

Headwinds gusting at up to 45 knots per hour made it impossible for the Pelagic to do more than four knots per hour. Nighttime snow obscured our view of the coastline. With such slow progress, and such gloomy prospects for ice coring, our ship retreated to Grytviken, caked with sea ice.

We made another try for Possession Bay on Sunday mid-morning. Naturally, those of us who are prone to seasickness bunked down. When we felt the ship come to a halt on Sunday afternoon, we poked our heads into the pilothouse to see the rusting ruins of Grytviken. Once again, stormy seas and snow squalls forced us back.

Possession Bay has left us dispossessed. Since our team must be back in the Falklands by October 30, we will almost certainly have to abandon our plans to drill ice cores on the bay.
Despite the endless weather-related setbacks, Paul considers our expedition a success. The ice samples from the Szielsko, Nordenskjold and Fortuna glaciers will allow him to lay the groundwork for a full-blown coring expedition to South Georgia in the coming years, he says.

Paul clearly accepts the idea that the pace of glaciological research may move more slowly than the glaciers themselves. This kind of patience seems almost anachronistic in a world where life moves at the speed of broadband where business leaders expect employees to produce today's results yesterday, where editors demand that journalists get scoops on stories that don't exist.

Our ice samples have been entrusted to James Wake, base commander for the British Antarctic Survey at King Edward Point. Wake picked up the samples at the Grytviken dock Saturday morning and ferried them back to his base in the front-end loader of a tractor perhaps not the most orthodox method of transporting scientific materials.

The BAS is charged with making sure our ice doesn't melt during the seven-month voyage to the University of Maine. That's right, seven months. Our scientists will not be able to begin assessing the outcome of their labors until May 2013 at the earliest.

Now, we have to play with whatever cards the weather deals us. Drawbacks aside, the cold snap is kind of picturesque. Mountains that were a lush green-brown when we arrived are now fresh wintry white. The confluence of winds sparks sudden mini-hurricanes on the water, sending unsuspecting waterfowl fluttering away in panic. Steam billows from the gaping maws of elephant seals as they emit growling belches from the depths of their bellies. Dan and Mario witnessed fur seals frolicking in the blowing snow on an 11-kilometer hike in the mountains above Grytviken. Fine memories for our final days on South Georgia Island.
  • Name: Grytviken
  • Elevation: 0 m
  • Latitude: 36° 300South
  • Longitude: 54° 1660West


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    2012-10-23 13:30:05 GonzaloC says: Great to know about you almost everyday. Thanks Alex. Have gentle seas in your way back to the Falklands !!
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    2012-10-23 00:13:36 sgranoff@gmail.com says: Alex, really enjoyed reading the expedition narrative and Paul's comments. Sounds like you have endured some difficult weather conditions. Hope conditions improve for a safe return home. Steve Granoff - Castine.
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    2012-10-22 15:41:07 Geoff Kuli says: Good luck with the weather. There's always a melancholy feeling near the end of a trip like yours. Live it up as much as you can.
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    2012-10-22 15:39:25 hoyle.gary@gmail.com says: Great expedition narrative! Tell Paul I'm still working on the Molly publication which is also going glacially slow.

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