Sunday, May 12, 2013

Homeward Bound

King Sejong Station on King George Island.
Crew members loading supplies onto the barge and into zodiacs.
Frozen aftermath of the bad weather, a life-saving buoy on deck.
For the past five days we have been at King Sejong station, the Korean base on King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula. We came to the station to give the researchers more supplies for the winter (including food and fuel), because  many of them will be spending the winter on the Island. There was no pier at the base in order to offload supplies and our boat was too large to pull directly up next to the base, so we had to transfer the fuel and supplies via small zodiacs and a large barge. The first day we managed to get most of the food supplies offloaded, but then the weather got really bad and we could not offload anymore. When the wind picks up and the waves start to get too big, it is not safe for the zodiacs and the crane. Since we were their last chance to resupply for the winter, we had to stay at the base for five days until there was a window of good weather to finish resupplying. Unfortunately, the weather was also too poor for any of us to go to the base, so we waved enthusiastically at the Korean scientists but did not get to meet any of them. We finished loading on Friday, and yesterday began our long and slow journey back across the Drake Passage to Chile. In a way it was a blessing we had to wait at the station, because the weather across the Drake has been horrendous the past few days and we are managing to slip right in between two very large low pressures systems in order to make our way across. We are expected to get some high seas by later tonight, but that should be just in time for us to start rounding Cape Horn and getting into Chile. We are hoping the weather cooperates for a few more hours! We should be arriving in Chile on Tuesday, after going through the Straits of Magellan in relatively protected waters for most of Monday. Many of the scientists are sad about our late arrival though, because everyone had to reschedule their flights and tell their families they would be home later than expected. This is quite common on these trips though, as the weather and the ship can often be unpredictable. Overall, we are happy we were able to give the station the supplies they needed, and so far we are happy that the weather has been our side for this crossing. Wish us luck for the next 20 hours or so, I woke up to a red sky which can sometimes be ominous based on an old sailor's saying:

"Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.."

We know a storm is coming though, so hopefully we make it past before it hits us. It is looking pretty good though! We are looking forward to being back in port and having a nice dinner in Chile!

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