Monday, February 29, 2016

A Good Year for February 29

This is a good year to have an extra day in February.

Back in the Tasman Sea, that body of water between Tassie and En Zed, February is generally considered the month most likely to produce fine, stable summer weather.

February is coming through for us in South Georgia, as well. If the current forecast holds, we are in the middle of an 8-day (!) run of high pressure, occasional sunshine, restrained swell and light winds. Back in my climbing days in Alaska (which I seem to reference every other time I post about sailing down here, I wonder why) I used to half-jokingly wish that I could extend April, the magic month when temperatures were up but the snow in the mountains was still good. Down here, I'm glad that we get one extra day of precious February this year.

Yesterday we busted all the way down to Larsen Harbour, at the far southern end of South Georgia.

Elias has been badgering us to come down here ever since we first started talking in earnest about visiting South Georgia, six months or so ago. This, you see, is the farthest north outpost of the Weddell Seal, normally a high-Antarctic, ice-associated animal that is the most southerly breeding seal in the world.

For some reason Weddells also hang out here. So Elias has been telling me for all these months that we "had" to come to Larsen, while I've been telling him that this was unlikely, that I'd be happy just to get to South Georgia, etc., etc.

Well, Elias' pestering appears to have borne fruit. I don't know if he was persistent enough to convince the weather to be so good. But I wouldn't rule it out.


Even though the weather has been good, pulling around the south end of South Georgia and into the mouth of Drygalski Fjord was an intimidating bit of sailing. We had an unexpected fresh wind against the tide. The water shone luminous green. The exceptionally stark and rugged mountains above us were backlit in a way that gave them a maleficent presence. Large icebergs were about. The boys were open to the delight of the place (Elias) but oblivious to the intimidation that I felt (both of them). It just seemed so remote and other-wordly a place, a place where daring to sail your own boat was an act of Icarus hubris. Sailing too far from the sun.

Larsen Harbour from this weather-tossed angle was an improbable slit in the mountain wall of Drygalski Fjord, clearly too narrow and too steep-sided to enter. But as we closed the distance it opened, and revealed itself as a perfect little protected nook where we could spend the night as on a millpond, albeit with a narrow crevassed glacier filling the mountain couloir directly above us. Last winter's snow drifts and this summer's fresh dusting of snow both extended down to the water.

And there, on a stony scrap of land between sea and mountain, right next to Galactic, was the sleeping Weddell seal of Elias' dreams.


  1. Amazing ending. What a cool goal for Elias to have.

  2. I'm wiping a tear. Beautiful.

  3. Have I mentioned that you guys are the coolest? You are. You're the coolest family I know (and I don't actually know you) :) Can't wait for book #2!

  4. I hitchhiked to Alaska with a guy that was a lot like you. He ended up in Fairbanks but was originally from Chagrin Falls, OH and did some sailing. He had the same kind of wanderlust but it's hard imagining him as a family man...maybe a chain smoking pool hustler? It's great to see you my friend! I love that you are doing this and it makes me happy to see your smiling faces!