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Around the World with Captain Mercer: Gerlache Strait

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012

4 a.m. It is already light and has been for over an hour, there is hardly any dark period down here. We are in the Gerlache Strait, ice-covered peaks on either side of us, towering over us. A spectacular sunrise, it is worth being awake just for the opportunity to see it.

We are still weaving and dodging the ice, although they are fewer and easier to spot in the calmer water. Our intention is to be off the entrance of the Neumayer Channel for 0800 and a transit. Our alternatives are Paradise Harbour and the Errera Channel, however, there are 4 expedition vessels in the area and some of them are making for these destinations, it’s an unwritten understanding that we don’t crowd each other, so we will stay out of their way and move to these areas after they have left, later today.

We pass a Argentine Navy vessel, the “Suboficial Castilo”, a Search and Rescue vessel. So small it is dwarfed by the nearby bergs; he has joint Chilean and Argentine Navy personnel on board and he hails us, asking for our details and the number of guests and crew on board. Having completed this exchange, he wishes a safe passage and continues on his way.

North end of Neumayer at 0700; some brash ice, however it is relatively clear, 1st officer, Leon keeps the con, let him learn :-). Towering, ice encrusted peaks either side of us as we zig-zag through a series of ‘S’ bends, slow enough to stop should we need to.

After Neumayer, we exit into the Bismark Strait, heading east, with the intention of getting back into the Gerlache Strait. A visit to the Argentine Polar station at Paradise Harbour and then the Chilean station just north. Both visits require manouvering through the ice and the Chileans come out of their huts, waving wildly, Chilean flags in their hands.

Out into Gerlache, this time after negotiating a great deal of ice, this time with the intention of visiting Cuverville, however the word from an ‘exploration’ ship is that the ice is heavy, we will try anyway, however have to abort, we turn to the south, down the Gerlache, negotiating numerous lumps of ice.

Late afternoon and having negotiated Gerlache, we turn to the west, into Bismark, vainly hoping that Lemaire may have opened, in vain though, thick ice blocks the north end and visibility is reduced by snow; one can’t even see the tops of the peaks surrounding ‘Kodak Gap.’ I decide to drift for the night, until we start towards Palmer Station, early in the morning.

Captain Mercer is at the helm of Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage.

1 Comment
  • Terri Breininger

    Dear Captain Mercer,
    I am enjoying your blogs immensely. We will be on the Veendam repositioning cruise in less than two months and I am following your adventures in South America as we prepare for our own adventure.

    I enjoyed meeting you on the NA in September and hope that I again have the opportunity to sail with you.

    Terri Breininger

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