Early on Saturday 10 February we left our inlet mooring on Lautarro Island to push on south toward Mutton Cove Island, at 66 degrees south almost at the edge of the Antarctic Circle, beyond which in the austral summer the sun never sets. To do so, however, Xplore had to pass safely through the narrow and berg strewn Lemaire Strait. Under a low, grey sky we ventured forth guided by Stephen, our skipper, and the only one to have passed this way before. The photo gives an idea of this narrow path of water-high mountains and ice on each side and bergs and growlers to be safely passed. At times we slowed our boat to 2 knots to avoid running into ice. A big piece could damage Xplore so safety was the only priority. As we cleared the south end of the strait we left mountains Scott and Shackleton- named after the celebrated Antarctic explorers on our east side and pressed on south under the Yankee sail and motor.
The total distance to Mutton was over 95 miles. Traveling at seven knots, we had many hours still to run. Watches on deck in the cold provided time to appreciate the extent and variety of Antarctica’s sights and creatures. Finally, at almost 11 pm we closed in on Mutton Cove only for the wind to become frisky and a snow blizzard to reduce visibility. Our work was not finished. For an hour one team in the Zodiac dinghy laid rock strops to the rocks of the cove and the other held the boat steady in the strong wind and anchored. By midnight we were safely moored, 16 hours after starting our journey. We celebrated with cheese, biscuits and red wine around the table of Xplore’s wardroom and deep sleeps all round.
Tomorrow, deo volante, we will reach 66 degrees 33 minutes south, the line of the Antarctic Circle.
Blog at http://www.icetent.net