How this Blog works

Thank you for visiting my blog, I really appreciate your ongoing interest and support.

- For regular updates related to my travels, guiding work, film and book events or you are simply wondering where the heck I am at the moment, please visit: Travel/Guiding/Adventure blog.


-For South Georgia Expedition and Albatross updates as well as environmental articles of interest, please check out: Oceanmaid Ventures blog site )the site that you are currently on.

Cheers and thanks for your interest. Hayley

Monday, June 04, 2012

Regular updates on Travel/Guiding/Adventure Blog

Don't forget to check out the Travel/Guiding/Adventure Blog for regular updates. This one is seldom used however it does have the entire blog entries while I  was Kayaking around South Georgia for the Albatross. Check out the entries from January 20th, 2010 until April 6th, 2010. I was literally blogging from the inside of my tent, while alone amongst the wildlife in Antarctica.

Author of South Solo: Kayaking to Save the Albatross
Soul of the Sea: Documentary film now being shown in Film Festivals around the world.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Long swim for an Emperor Penguin

How fantastic,
The folks from New Zealand sure had a treat when this creature arrived on their shores.
I've been going to the Antarctic for 12 years and have yet to see an Emperor Penguin. I could have stayed at home all this time.
Enjoy the short news clip on the site below.

Friday, March 25, 2011

New Audio clips - 3 radio interviews

Hi Everyone.

As the documentary film is taking grand strides in being ready, it has encouraged me to gather a few resources I had yet to gather. And so....

In the Audio and Video page which you can find in the right hand column of this Oceanmaid Ventures home page, you will find 3 new audio entries.

- Falkland Islands radio - an interview when we were desperately seeking a skipper.
- Falkland Islands radio - an interview done just as we were about to depart with our new crew member Brian.
and finally.........
- CBC radio in Victoria on March 7th 2011with a nice touch from Orson Wells

Enjoy - oh, you may have to wait for a bit for them to buffer but push play first anyway.
Cheers for your interest.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chek TV interview

Hi folks,

I just noticed that Chek News ( finally posted the March 11th - Island 30 news broadcasts. They did a fabulous overview of the South Georgia Expedition and Albatross cause, as well as broadcasting my age across B.C. Oh well, a kid at heart I will always be.

Check it out at, click on Island 30 then on March 11th. I am the first news clip up so you won't have to wait too long.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tidbits - Sustainable Seafood and Inventing Fishermen

Sustainable Seafood - Check out the following sites which are excellent guides to follow to select
sustainable seafood.

Healthy choices, healthy oceans

- Marine Stewardship Council

Fishermen are becoming inventors.
Check out this fabulous technique that covers the baited hooks until they are well and truely submerged under the sea.

It is refreshing to see the people with varying talents and interests, working together to help eliminate seabird by-catch.

For more information, inspiration and hope, please visit

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thoughts of home at this desperate time

Over the last few days my thoughts have been entirely of home. Aotearoa - the land of the long white cloud, my homeland of New Zealand.

Tragedy has hit in the large city of Christchurch, my university city where as a student I lived and played.
The historical buildings where once I attended school are in ruins with people still trapped beneath the rubble of concrete, metal and other debris.

Some of my friends are now homeless and others I still have yet to hear from. I am thankful that my family live in the North Island and they are all ok but they too have friends who have suffered.
There are people here in BC that have loved ones living and studying in Christchurch. They too have gone through the toughest times and so far all have made contact with family in Canada.

Christchurch is vulnerable and those living in the area are very much so. With no water, no sewage, no electricity or a means to communicate with the outside world, many are heading to safety in areas north or south of the city.

Whomever you pray to or give thanks to, please take a moment and spare a few thoughts, send good energy and strength to all those in New Zealand.  Thank You!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Can You Help Save the Albatross

Look in the Mirror and ask yourself........"How can I personally make a difference, what is in my hands that I can change or control?"
-Buy seafood that is clearly marked as sustainable (Marine Stewardship Certified), encourage and educate friends and family to do the same.
-Dispose of your garbage so it does not end up in the ocean. Limit the amount of garbage you create. Reduce, Reuse, Rescyle. End this plastic nightmare.
-Make a donation to a seabird conservation organization. The funds help advocate the continuation of research, education and conservation, which is ultimately reducing Seabird-bycatch.
-Attend one of Hayley's presentations, help set up another by providing a venue, help establish an event. Schools, Clubs, Festivals and general public are all fantastic audiences.
-Learn more about what is going on with the Albatross and spread the word.
Our Hope is that the Albatross will Fly in their skies forever

Monday, October 11, 2010

Documentary receives $5,000

Thank You Mountain Films - Telluride

Katie Mustard (film producer) and I would like to announce our success in receiving a $5,000 grant with the Mountain Film Committment Grant. 
This will enable us to hire an editor to go through all the South Georgia expedition footage and create a documentary film trailer.

This is a fantastic beginning!

Thanks once again to Mountain Films

Friday, April 23, 2010

From South Georgia to.............

Video footage sorted and labeled, post expedition press release sent, some presentations booked, garden weeded, next door neighbours lawn mowed and the cookies baked - Alls well on the home front.

Monday, April 19, 2010

South Georgia in my Living Room

April 19th, 2010

As I go through my video footage, I delight in the symphony of South Georgia Sounds that fill my living room. My computer is hooked up to a speaker system, mainly to listen to music. I have found a far better use for it. Trumpeting King penguins, Whimpering Fur seals and the relentless wind of South Georgia brings my journey back to life as I re-live its beauty and drama within the comforts of my cottage, clip after clip.

I have been able to extract images from this high definition video footage which I am starting to post on the blog. I am already piecing together my story and feel excited about a presentation tour I intend to do in early fall throughout North America, and eventually this will be taken abroad. If you know of any clubs, groups, organizations, companies, venues, audiences whom you think would enjoy an evening of adventure, non-stop drama, beautiful footage and stunning images, keep me in mind.

Cheers everyone.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


April 17th, 2010
On January 22nd Vancouver Island based wilderness guide and expedition leader, Hayley Shephard set out to attempt the very first solo sea kayak expedition around the remote Sub-Antarctic Island of South Georgia. An exceptionally remote, storm thrashed island, South Georgia stands alone in the path of relentless storms and the savage winds of the Southern Ocean. Hazardous seas constantly batter the steep and rugged terrain and fearless animals gather in abundance and dominate the few accessible beaches. As inhospitable as it sounds, South Georgia is also one of the most extraordinarily beautiful places on the planet.

However like Hayley’s hero – Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer who turned disaster into the most famous lesson in survival, her expedition did not go as planned.....

Whilst heading east bound to South Georgia onboard the sailing vessel Northanger, Hayley and crew spent numerous days hoving-to in ceaseless storms. During this crossing the skipper lost a finger in a horrific accident causing the team to deviate their course to the Falkland Islands. Now a skipper short the crew was in desperate need to find a suitable sailor and it was after two weeks, just before the expedition was about to be terminated they finally found a suitable volunteer. Underway again and more storms later they finally arrived in South Georgia only to discover Hayley’s kayak, which had been shipped prior to their arrival, was severely damaged. Finally on February 28th, 3 weeks late, Hayley departed the shores of South Georgia, loaded with 2 weeks of provisions only to discover that she had chosen the worst summer on record to attempt her sea kayak journey. Due to the delay in setting off, time was tight and the wind showed no mercy. Worse still, Hayley’s flights back home were now jeopardized due to the earthquake in Chile which affected her outbound flights from Santiago. This caused limitations in extending the expedition. Finally it was clear that Hayley and the Northanger had run out of time, weather and simple luck.

Hayley spent an incredible two weeks kayaking and camping alone along the East coast of South Georgia Island, battling katabatic winds that at times nearly prevented her from reaching land. She was forced to erect her tent in 60 knot winds using boulders to keep her tent, kayak and self attached to the ground. While paddling in 4 meter seas, 2 km off shore she was unable to stop paddling for 4 hours straight due to the extremely unsteady seas. Hayley experienced the power and potency of South Georgia, living and moving amongst the abundance of creatures that call this wild and isolated place their home.

Although the completion of the island did not take place, Hayley embodied a similar persistent spirit as her hero, as she strived against all odds to fulfill her dream, and in doing so an urgent story was finally told. The Albatross, the world’s largest flying bird are rapidly becoming endangered. They spend most of their lives at sea, frequently circumnavigating the entire globe, therefore are the most vulnerable to the baited hooks on the numerous long-line fishing vessels. South Georgia is home to a number of Albatross species and Hayley was able to not only encounter the nesting Albatross intimately but film it as well. Everyday Hayley shared in their company and grace as she kayaked beneath the soaring 12 foot wingspan of the Wandering Albatross.

Thousands of people world-wide followed this epic journey and Hayley’s ambition continues as she prepares entertaining presentations to show internationally. A film is in the production stage and a book is being written – all with the hope that this quest for adventure will bring public awareness to the devastating decline in Albatross and more importantly, share the solution to save them.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Back to Reality

April 14th
Last week I thought I had brought South Georgia home with me when Alert Bay experienced their first snow fall of the winter.  Yep, 3 times it snowed last week and this week I am struttin about in shorts and a t-shirt!

Aswell, I am becoming the worlds best procrastinator due to these gorgeous sunny days we are having.  I can't bring myself to sit inside and tap away at my computer, however that is where I need to be to get my 'Things To Do' list accomplished.

I find myself gardening, cleaning out my shed and talking to New Zealand family on the phone while lounging on an outside chair.  I even power washed (water blasted) my deck and concrete path!  Anything to keep me from going inside. Hence why I have not posted a blog update for a wee while.  I apologise for that.

However in the next few days I NEED to send out a post expedition press release, telling the media far and wide 'The Adventures of my Solo South Georgia attempt'.  I would like to alert the world of the presentations I will be doing, the book I am about to start writing and the film that Katie and I will be working on. I would like to start establishing venues and slide show dates to begin a presentation tour to take place this early fall.

In the mean time.....
-I am hoping to recruit some keen Alert Bay kids, who would like to be introduced to kayaking with the idea that they paddle/train with me working towards entering into the Alert Bay 360 - a kayak race around Cormorant Island taking place in July.
-I am in the process of deciding what 'type' of book I intend on writing and will begin a book outline (once the rain begins to fall) and send it off to my publisher.
-I am in the process of labelling EVERY clip I recorded with my high definition video camera (yikes what a job).
-It is time to start pitching article ideas to magazines.
-I would like to get some photos sent off to sponsors so they can begin reaping the benefits of their generosity.
-And then I have to pay off my debt.  I am thankful to know a few people whom require their lawns to be mowed, weeds to be pulled and the odd job to be done about their homes.  Until my job with Strait Watch begins I will pick up some local work inbetween my things to do list.

I am not sure many people are still popping onto my blog for a looksee.  I intend to keep it going as a means to keep you all informed of the 'post expedition' progress and to alert you of when and where slide shows are occurring. So don't forget about me or the Albatross just yet :)  Take care and thanks for your interest.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


April 6th, Alert Bay B.C

5 flights, 6 days, a 6 hour van ride, 30 minute ferry and little sleep later I finally arrived in Alert Bay, just in time to celebrate easter monday.   How fabulous arriving home on the day one is encouraged to indulge in the eating of chocolate eggs.

With my many years of travel, working and adventuring away from home, this particular home-coming felt extremely significant.
Every time Beth-Anne and I disembarked a plane we would glance at each other with a giggly grin, knowing that we were one more flight closer to home.  When we arrived in Montreal, we just about skipped off the plane, relieved to be on home turf.  And by the time we reached Vancouver, we were beside ourselves with the close proximity to Vancouver Island and the final flight leg that would lead us direcly to friendly faces awaiting us at the airport.

We discussed how weird it was that we both felt so desperate to be home, agreeing that it seemed we were gone for 4 months not 2 and a half.  Perhaps the set-backs and delays throughout the expedition, the emotion and drama, without realising, was chipping away at our perserverance and patience.

At 12.05 am April 4th we walked through the arrival terminal in Victoria and there was Dean carrying two bunches of roses with a packet of salt n vinegar chips nestled in with the bright welcomed packages. Our luggage was first to arrive on the carousel and soon after Joyce and Jake (Beth-Annes parents) arrived and were excited and relieved to have their daughter finally home. 
It was strange parting from Beth-Anne. We had been connected at the hip for most of the time away and having set out on this expedition knowing each other very little, now having shared the ups and downs as well experiencing vulnerable, intense and emotional times, it felt rather odd.  We plan to get-together once we have both settled into our awaiting jobs and have an expedition celebration party.  An opportunity to share some stories and reflect on our southern sea adventure.

Back here in Alert Bay I am currently surrounded by gear and gadgets as I begin the unpacking process. It looks as though my 3 giant duffle bags exploded in the middle of my living room.   The sun is out, the inside passage seas are calm and all I feel like doing is avoiding this unpacking task and head out for a paddle. However I am short one vital thing.....
With my Necky kayak stored in the Falkland Islands, it is the first time in 11 years that I do not have a kayak.  Ahhhhh, what on earth is a girl like me going to do!  :)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March 31st – Ushuaia to Buenos Aries

Ahh it felt good to be handing over our luggage to the check-in counter at the domestic airport in Ushuaia. Beth-Anne spoke some sweet Spanish which granted us a bit of a discount for all our over-sized and extra pieces of luggage.

Ushuaia gave us a fine farewell with skies empty of clouds and saturated with glorious sunshine.

While on the plane I sorted through neglected paperwork and found notes from the recent Albatross and Prion Island monitoring program which took place this January. I decided to publish the detailed results provided by Sally Poncet on my blog. I thought, while we enjoy the recent posted Albatross photos, it is important to be reminded of their vulnerable status, particularly as I leap into my 'post expedition' project and continue to build awareness of the declining world-wide Albatross populations which continue to be under threat.

Long term monitoring of Wandering Albatross populations on both Prion and Albatross Island have been carried out since 1999. Here is a summary.



1984                 171                                    60

2004                 152                                    43

2008                 151                                    33

2009                 140                                    31

2010                 129                                    33

The funding which provided Sally and her research assistants to carry out this project came primarily from Peregrine Adventures, a tour company who annually bring keen adventurers to Antarctica. I have proudly worked with Peregrine and during each voyage the staff ran a 'Save the Albatross' Auction and raised thousands of dollars which went directly towards this long term monitoring program.

On a completely different note, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Beth-Anne – my support kayak queen - what a woman and what a star, she is simply the best.

Beth-Anne you have been an absolute trouper and I have appreciated your delightful company, your limitless wisdom and support, your ceaseless calm and on-going integrity throughout this expedition. You are the mellow sea in an ocean storm, you are the continual voice of reason, the backbone in challenging times and sunshine at the end of a dreary day. I know it wasn't easy, I recognize your every effort and I realize how lucky I was to have you continuously looking out for me and for the success of this expedition. Will you marry me :) I am so chuffed to have got to know you and I wish that we stay in touch and adventure together again.

Here's to Beth-Anne – a dedicated gem of a woman who suffered months of sea-sick misery for the plight of my South Georgia kayak expedition to help save the Albatross. I will miss you Beth-Anne - muchas gracias amiga mia

We landed at the International airport which is situated a good number of kilometers from downtown where our hostel is. As we walked in search of a cab it was difficult to make out our frames behind the towering bags and even more difficult to find a cab that could fit us all in. One Argentinian taxi driver decided to take on the challenge and the exercise gathered a crowd. We could not believe he was able to do it! 6 bloated duffle bags, 2 back-packs, 5 paddles and a small suitcase later, Beth-Anne and I squeezed into the little tiny gap that remained.

During the 45 minute drive, our heads poking up to breath occasionally and squished together like freeze-dried peas we discovered our threshold of discomfort had multiplied over the past few months. I passed comment to Beth-Anne, “Ya know when we suddenly feel uncomfortable, or in pain, or cramped in a situation, all we have to do is remember how we felt rockin and rollin at sea in the steel coffin for 7 days, and suddenly this situation seems real easy to tolerate."

And so, here we are all settled in to our hostel, about to find food and a well awaited haircut and pedicure. Yep, we'll be ladies before you know it, wahoo!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Expedition Albatross - photos provided by Beth-Anne

2 months ago today

This morning I headed to the hills directly back from the city of Ushuaia.  After only 15 minutes of walking I was completely immersed in Patagonian forest, meandering along a picturesque river and surrounded by trees, glorious trees.
When a place with scenes so dramatic such as South Georgia, you fail to notice the lack of trees. And having spent 2 months away from such flora I did not how I missed them so.

During my hike, there was a consistant breeze that rustled the branches and leaves and it was easy to tell which direction the prevailing winds hailed from.  All the trees had a significant lean to one side where the ceaseless winds accelerate up the Beagle Channel from open ocean.

Once I had reached the summit, I spent some time writing in my journal.  At one stage I glanced down towards Ushuaia and with my binnoculars I scanned the marina where the Northanger is usually moored.  Only a few sailboats were tied to the dock preparing for a trip.  I realised it was today, 2 months ago when we departed from Ushuaia, my stomach knotted with excitement and nerves and extremely eager to be on our way.  Little did we know then what adventures and dramas awaited us.

Tomorrow we fly to Buenos Aries, our first leg of many in our journey home.  I am definitely more than ready to be on my way, back to B.C, back to work and back to my friends and family whom await my arrival.

Stay tuned for more photos, calender of events and presentation dates, as well as progress updates on my book and film production.  So much to do, and it's all so very exciting :)Cheers, Hayley

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Expedition photos - provided by Beth-Anne, Matt Holmes and John Ashburner from KEP

I will continue to post images as we sort through them.  The update for March 26th "Drama on Terra firma" is below.  I have enjoyed reading all the comments that followers have posted on this blog.  Thank you so very much.  I treasure all your well wishes and words.  Cheers, Hayley

Drama on Terra Firma

A valuable lesson arrived the moment we stepped foot on terra firma.  "Katie (my film producer) perhaps you need to sit down for this update".

The Prince Albert II arrived alongside in Ushuaia in late evening on March 25th.  I woke to what I thought was a magnificent sun rise that was streaming through a tiny gap in my curtain.  In my half wakened state and camera in hand I rushed outside to capture the new-born day, and laughed when I discovered that the bright orange blazing sunrise was actually city lights.

It was soon time to place our bloated bags outside our cabin to be taken by ship crew to our pickup destination.  I placed my 3 duffles and bag of electronics, all named and labeled alongside the wall of the corridor.  We noticed, when returning from breaky that the bags had been removed which indicated our cue to disembark.
Passengers approached us and wished us good luck with all our future endeavors,  staff said their farewells as we expressed our gratitude for them having us on-board.  We had the opportunity to thank the captain personally, and I was chuffed (uber pleased) to receive his gratitude of our 'interesting' company.  "You brought much to our passengers, thank you". 

Once outside we loaded our luggage on the trolleys to walk them out of the port and into a taxi. Suddenly my stomach fell all the way to my toes when I noticed one bag missing.  The electronics bag, the bag with ALL the VIDEO FOOTAGE.
Trying to remain calm I found Robin (expedition leader) to tell him of the missing piece.  As usual in this type of situation those around offer words of comfort.  "Oh it just got mixed up with the other passenger luggage and it's probably on the buses to the airport".  Or "lets check your cabin once again to make sure you haven't left it in there", "you will get it back". And usually I tend to look at the positive, optimistic side with these kind of situations.  However I can not even describe the disheartening feelings and thoughts that went through my mind.  I felt so strongly, that my bag, with all the video footage was gone forever.

When we discovered that the bag was not found on the ship, I immediately took a cab to the airport "rapido por favor" I said to the cab driver, holding back a bucket-full of tears.
Once at the airport I looked through the 'Red tagged' luggage. No bag.  I found out that some luggage had already been directly placed on the plane from the luggage truck and therefore someone went to check for me.  No bag. There was only my truck to go through, all those bags were labeled with blue labels.  My orange label can not have been mistaken for a blue one, surely.  There was little hope left.
All of the footage, gone. My entire story, gone.  Every inch of South Georgia captured, gone.  All the dramas, emotions, ups and downs filmed, gone.  Feeling sick to my stomach, I put my head in my hands and cried having no faith that my missing bag would be recovered. 

I glanced up from my crouched position and noticed a man walking towards me, grinning.  In his hand he carried a bag, identical to the one I had lost.  As he handed it to me I recognized it as mine and without hesitation I wrapped my arms around his stout body "gracias, gracias", gave him a kiss on both cheeks, now feeling embarrassed and wiped the tears from my eyes.  As I walked out I thought to myself.  "How attached I had become to the footage, to my story, feeling as though after the challenging times and unfortunate events, it is all I have to work with, to tell my and the Albatrosses story". 

How on earth I let that bag out of my sight, I will never know, however the lesson was obviously necessary and valuable.  I now have the footage backed-up 3 times, each hardrive is in a different place with one of them pinned to my body 24:7.
I can just imagine Katie shaking her head. 

It was one of the calmest days I had ever seen in Ushuaia.  The reflections of the jagged mountains that surrounds this picturesque city gave us double the beauty and breathtaking scenery.  It feels as though we have arrived to yet another home, safe n sound on terra firma once again, with a few days to organize ourselves and gear before the flight to Buenos Aries.   We may even take some hiking and camping gear and spend two days in the National Park, hangin with the trees, getting our bodies and souls prepared for the Pacific Northwest, our rainforests of home. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 25th At sea, bound for Ushuaia

Our final day at sea, the first leg of our journey home near completion and so far so good. Beth-Anne and I are stunned. What just took us one day and one night on the Prince Albert II, took us 6 and half days by sail boat, a little over a month ago, just in reverse. Have we mentioned our gratitude for this extremely convenient (and comfortable) way in getting to Ushuaia.

Alas it is the last day for buffet lunches that comes with a choice of 8 desserts, the final five course dinner with dishes so deliciously and artistically presented it feels destructive to eat it.

My bags are packed and having only eaten two weeks worth of food during the expedition they are still bulging at the seams and remain obnoxiously heavy.

This update will be the final one I send to Dean via sat phone, soon I will be in the land of Internet and telephones so I look forward to reading your comments, seeing Deans creative touches to my blog and being able to catch up with my family.

I pulled out pen and paper today and started to scribe a 'Things to do' list, already planning how to approach my reality of what awaits me back at home. I began to feel a little overwhelmed as my list grew but at the same time I sensed excitement when imagining the opportunities that also awaits.

When completely immersed in the planning and preparing of an expedition, it is easy to forget about the challenges that come afterwards. I will be coming home to a hefty debt that will need to be attacked immediately which will require me to start work as soon as I return, therefore a juggling act will be taking place. I'm eager to start writing my book which will entail research and time, there is a film to produce and presentations to create and begin showing. It is important for me, while the experiences are fresh, to start the process of turning this entire expedition, with all its unexpected hiccups into a story I have imagined telling for over 3 years. As I go through this process I am excited about the doors it may open and opportunities that may arise from my South Georgia journey that will live on although I am thousands of miles away from that paradise.

A golden hour in paradise
saturated in an amber light
and prospering in the incessant sounds
of curious critters in constant debate.
Mounds of tussock are crowned with Fur seals
and every pebbled beach is thronged by Kings.
Elephant seals dominate with their massive frames
as they loll about cooling their bodies with polar-chilled sand.
The ceaseless polar breeze, like an encore, exposes the jagged peaks
revealing the forbidden heart of this isolated sanctuary.
Soon to be tarnished by the succession of flurries,
these treasures are devoured by the clinging grasp of fog and cloud.
Valleys of glaciers carve their way seaward,
depositing ancient ice into the clumsy arms of the unforgiving sea.
Rivers run wild with snow melt as they unleash the silty sediments
offering freedom to the historical earth.
Like a time-lapse film the sky condenses seasons into a single moment.
A storm stored in sooty-like clouds
impose on the suns freedom
causing the contrast of bright and dark to stir my insides.
And within the skies embrace
the company of feathered friends fill the air with graceful strokes
as they brush past tops of ocean swell and sweep by sea stacks
that rise sheer and stark.
Here I sit overlooking the bay, freckled with islets that are
home for nesting Albatross.
The sun slithers low, descending behind shadows
of the surrounding guardian peaks, leaving a trail of golden light.
My heart flutters as an Albatross flies overhead and
goosebumps form on my covered skin as this provoking scene stands before me.
For a moment, the uncertainty of my return fills my mind
yet my heart beats with no boundaries and speaks the truth.
I will one day return to this forbidden land and
be embraced by the powerful arms of South Georgia once again.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24th Falkland Islands – A day with Albatross

For our final day of excursions the weather and the chosen locations could not have been better. The Falkland Islands offered us unusually balmy temperature, blue skies and the sun blazing all day. A typical 15-20 knot breeze blew which enabled the Blackbrowed Albatross to be out and about with their wings stretched and soaring.

Our mornings visit was to Saunders Island, the 4th largest island in the Falklands lying north west of West Falkland Island. The island is run as a sheep farm and has an area of 132 square km. I felt like I was in the tropics as I wandered from the landing site over the rise to a gorgeous half-moon shaped sandy beach. Penguins played in the surf duck-diving and squabbling at the waters edge. Gangs of Rockhopper penguins came back from sea and hopped their way up the rocks and cliff edges to their crowded nest site. Amongst the nesting Rockhoppers were also Cormorants, making do living alongside their rebellious neighbors. Rockhoppers have an attitude about them simply by the way they appear. Scarlet red eyes and donned with a streak of gold on their ear crests gives them a look of mischievousness.

It was the nesting Blackbrowed colony I was desperate to see, knowing that the chicks would be close to their fledging age. Both at Saunders and our afternoon landing on West Island offered us the chance to sit beside an Albatross and literally hang out for hours. Both nesting colonies required a walk along the privately owned farmland where sheep grazed. At times the walk was uphill and I realized how my cardiovascular fitness was rather poor. Sea kayaking doesn't aid you in that regard. Beth-Anne and I breathlessly paused, disguising our need to stop by taking photos, then continued on laughing at each other for our boat-bound fitness levels.

You could tell we were getting close to a nesting sight because the wind increased as we made our way towards the coast that faces the prevailing winds. Albatross, like butterflies swarmed in the clear skies above making use of the steady 20 knot breeze. The swell broke violently along the rocky cliff bases and at times the Albatross rafted up on the waters surface in groups of 60+ utilizing a passing fish-ball. Occasionally we would hear a scuffle in the tussocks and notice that a lanky adult had just clumsily landed. It was now in search of its chick to unload the gullet-full of goodies. Once united, the chick would urgently and aggressively peck around the parents beak and you could see the adult trying to regurgitate the food on cue. The vocals had volume and the feeding would last only minutes. As abruptly as the adult arrived, it waddled to a clearing and took off directly into the wind. It really seemed as though the chicks were ready to leave home as they had out-grown their mud mound nests. Most had only patches of down remaining and during the afternoon every single one of them would take a moment to stretch its wings and flap them at a stand still as though limbering up for their first flight. It must be incredible to own such a set of wings and for an entire year be land-based. That first flight must feel sensational. I wonder if Albatross suffer from 'first flight' nerves?

During this day there were times when I sat completely alone with an Albatross only 3 meters from where I was perched. I was able to observe them for hours and capture it on film. I realized this Plan B for our journey home turned out to be the Best Plan EVER. Traveling to Ushuaia on the Prince Albert II granted us the opportunity to visit the outer Falkland Islands, only accessible by boat and to have this chance to spend a day with the Black Browed Albatross.

Strong winds are forecasted overnight and then expected to decrease for most of our full day at sea. Our ETA into Ushuaia will be in the early hours of March 26th. Wow – day by day, mile by mile, farewell after farewell, we truly are on our way home.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 23

Calm seas, glorious sunshine, blue skies – the first day of summer in the Falklands. But hang on, isn't it officially autumn/fall...the end of summer? Yep, so it seems, the Falkland Islands experienced their first day of summer today, all day. Ken Passerfield whom we met on our arrival into Stanley back in February said to me today, “Hayley if you tried paddling around the Falklands, you would not have got very far, the wind and rain and wind continued for most of February and well into March”.

It was a glorious day, not only sunny but warm as well. It was strange to reveal our skin to the air and sun but it felt good and welcomed.

It was a productive day. I found a place to store the Quark-borrowed kayak with Sullivan shipping, the shipping agent whom Quark deals with. My personal Necky kayak, which I felt that it was far too soon in our relationship to be parting, was placed underneath the house of our new found friend Ken Passerfield. In fact it was rather weird to arrive at his house and discover that the only access to the under-world of his house was a small hole, which my kayak fit through so precisely, it was eerie and uncanny, meant to be perhaps. It felt good to have the kayaks tucked away safe n sound, but unsettling to wonder when I would see MY kayak again. We met with Lin, Brian's wife and gave her a personal update of how Brian was doing. We heard from the Northanger and it sounds as though they have finally left South Georgia and are now underway towards the Falklands. This was good news for Lin. We were able to meet with Sally Poncet who has been working on the Albatross surveys on Prion and Albatross Island for the last 12 years. It was really worthwhile touching base and getting her perspective on the worldwide Albatross specie situation and engage in conversation which offered ideas for my approach with the documentary. I was able to squeeze in 45 minutes of lane swimming, after our inactive sea-days. It felt fantastic to stretch and work my body after having suddenly been completely inactive after kayaking. We popped into the Narrows Pub and touched base with Chris, 'skyped' Dean back home as well as organized Ushuaia accommodation with our dear friend Alicia.

By 6.30 pm we were back on the ship getting ready for our Captains farewell cocktail and dinner party.

In amongst our thermal underwear and fleece garments, Beth-Anne and I did carry a sarong/dress for our pre-arranged days in Santiago with our old flight itinerary. Once showered and dressed we realised we did not have any shoes other than gumboots and hiking shoes to go with our feminine attire. I went into the walk-in closest and found our bathroom slippers thinking...”these will do nicely”. We walked into the theater and our efforts were admired by most staff and passengers, however the head-waitress did not share the same opinion. We were soon whisked away and offered 'more suitable' footwear and soon blended in with the majority of passengers. It was another delicious meal onboard the Prince Albert II which we were very much grateful for.

I am excited about our days plan tomorrow. We are intending to land on Saunders Island in the morning followed by West Point Island in the afternoon. Both excursions offer opportunities to enjoy Rock-Hopper penguin rookeries and delight in the company of thousands of nesting Blackbrowed Albatross. I look forward to sharing with you our final day amongst the wildlife that surrounds these Southern Ocean islands. Abundant with unique species and dramatic scenery we are completely kept awe-inspired every step we take.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March 21st

On our 2nd day at sea Beth-Anne and I continue to appreciate our mode of transport as we steam forward into 40 knots of wind on our nose and current against us. Even in this vessel we have been pitching in steep, mountainous seas, emphasized by our cabin which is forward on the 7th deck.

I spent most of yesterday downloading video footage, putting together my presentation and catching up on journal entries and some sleep. My body alarm is still on early wake-up mode, I am wide awake at 5.30am every single morning. I have woken up a few times, completely confused as to where I am and wondering "why on earth is it so darn quiet?".

How absolutely fantastic that I got completely used to the delightful animal sounds while camping on the soil of South Georgia.

This morning I did a presentation for the passengers. A 'hot off the press' first account of my 'Solo Sea Kayak Attempt of South Georgia Island' for the Albatross. Although it was rough out and the movement of the ship was rather significant, it was a good turn out and the presentation was well received.

I have come to realise that it is rather a good fit, spontaneously catching a ride back on the Prince Albert II, as the Prince Albert II foundation is very much involved with the 'Save the Albatross Campaign, amongst other environmental projects. I hope to learn more about what they are involved in once I am able to return to the land of 'Googling'.

Beth-Anne and I are preparing our short stop in Stanley. While the passengers will be seeing Stanley for the first time, we will be dashing about in search of a safe and friendly place to leave the two kayaks, for potential pick up in November. As well we have people to track down to sign 'appearance releases' and salt n vinegar chips to purchase, amongst other important things. We are bound to stop in and see Chris at our old local 'The Narrows' for a pint of guiness, cheesey chips and perhaps a Skype call to our loved ones. I am sure family will be relieved to hear our voices before heading to sea for the final day, bound for Ushuaia.

I spoke with Robin, the expedition leader onboard and I was delighted to hear that we will be spending an entire day doing two landings, one at a Black Browed Albatross colony! On the edge of a tussock cliff ledge, thousands and thousands of nesting Albatross perched on their solid mud basket like nests will be only meters away from where we stand to witness such a scene. I am so excited to have this fortune.

I finally found my tracker, it was lost in my luggage since leaving Grytviken. I have reset it so hopefully it is picking up our position and now tracking our progress, sorry for the delay with that.
Thanks everyone, I'll keep keeping you posted. Take care, H

Thanks everyone, I'll keep keeping you posted. Take care, H

Friday, March 19, 2010

March 18th/19th

From my cabin onboard the Prince Albert II, Salisbury Plain is only a few hundred meters away and at 6.30am this morning we were on shore in an area I did not get to visit when I paddled here last week. It was an unexpected bonus to be here again and much was gained from our time ashore.

Dressed in our Kokatat paddling drysuits Beth-Anne and I stood out like Giant King penguins, however it was the practical attire we required. I spent nearly an hour wading in the surf trying to capture the Kings launching into the surf or what was more entertaining was them coming ashore, riding the hip-high breaking waves as they made for land. Salisbury Plain is the home for over 150 thousand nesting pairs of Kings Penguins and where we landed is the more population concentrated portion of the rookery. At this time of year it is not only one of the most popular landings to make, it is also the most muckiest. Again, another reason for wearing our drysuits. KOKATAT – Penguin proof, poo proof and waterproof!

Adults and nearly fledged one year olds, stood in muddy puddles, vocalizing to eachother in a chorus of trumpet tunes. If we looked closely amongst the crowds of Kings, some adults have eggs perched on their upper feet, under their brooding patch. As well in this active rookery newly born chicks not even a month hold were hidden beneath the adults, popping their heads out to receive the gift of regurgitated krill. They will remain here, on land for just under a year as they develop in size and waterproof feathering.

We boarded the Prince Albert II yesterday afternoon after a reluctant goodbye to Keri, Brian and Magnus. For Beth-Anne who had been onboard working with the Northanger crew full-time, it was like separating a kid from a candy store. We, as a team had bonded and it felt very strange to be departing with our mountain range of luggage, boarding another ship and letting go of the ties of a vessel and group of individuals who had experienced so much together.

Radio calls from the staff at KEP base came through with fond farewells and hopes to meet again. And finally once the kayaks were safely onboard it was time for Beth-Anne and I to face reality - to be taken to our 'owners suite' cabin on deck 7!!!!! The owners cabin!!!!! The fanciest cabin onboard this delightful ship!!! It has a walk-in wardrobe with dressing gowns for each of us, it has a three compartment bathroom with a bath, it has sky-lights above our beds so the southern cross can guide us into a restful sleep!!!! We, donned in our thermal underwear, outdoorsey-hair styles and bloated sports bags sheepishly moved on to the ship which will be our home for the next 8 days.

Before dinner during the scheduled recap and briefing, passengers were introduced to the new faces now seen about the ship. In the next day or two I will do a presentation onboard, telling the tale of the entire South Georgia Expedition Saga from start to finish. This will be a good opportunity to begin piecing together the story that I look forward to sharing with many others in the future.

After a deliciously divine '5 course' dinner we found ourselves immediately horizontal burying our heads in the fluffiest pillows and falling to sleep after exchanging comments and expressions of glee and appreciation for this opportunity to be homeward bound and in such comfort. The ship was soon lurching into offshore swell and Beth-Anne and I grinned as our stomachs, for once, did not blurch.

We have a single day of excursions here in South Georgia whilst onboard the Prince Albert II. This afternoon we will visit Prion Island. How incredibly fitting to have the opportunity to land again and be with the Wanderers before heading out to sea, bound for Stanley. More soon, it's time for us to dress and head to Prion Island.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 17th - Grytviken

It was a drizzly morning as I lay bundled up in my sleeping bag, hearing the gentle misty rain tapping on my tent. There was no urgency to pack and move quickly and so I listened to the sounds of South Georgia around me. There was a scuffle going on near by involving two teenage Fur Seals and from the feelings of thud thud thud on the ground beneath me, a rather large Elephant Seal must have landed from being out at sea.

Once I was up, having now a well established packing system, all gear was soon stowed and I was ready to don my drysuit and launch into the small breaking surf for the final time.

The calmness of this morning was a perfect addition to my mellow mood and once on the water, every stroke I focused on as it propelled me towards the completion of this journey. I tormented myself with the imaginings of rounding the point, just having successfully completed the entire circumnavigation. Disappointment flooded back like water released from a broken dam and it was then in attempt to pull myself together I went through all that I have observed and experienced on my kayak trek along this eastern coast of South Georgia. I reminded myself that despite these circumstances, the only difference really in having not been able to complete this expedition as I wanted, is purely my attitude towards it. And with that thought I directed my morning thoughts and focus towards feeling positive in all that has been accomplished.

My visit with Shackleton was key to the morning of 'moving forward'. I sat beside his Granite grave and said out-loud “Well mate, it wasn't quite what we expected eh?” “I reckon, the best thing about all this is that we are here and isn't it so bloody beautiful?” A few more words I shared with my silent listener then re-launched and made my way towards Northanger. I was relieved to have no fuss made on this arrival as I was deliberately left to arrive anonymously.

I joined the crew for freshly made bannock and a cup of steaming tea, then soon went about the morning rinsing and drying gear. I was grateful for the offer of a shower which, after a month you can only imagine how divine that felt. That evening we were kindly invited for a meal at the base. Friendly and familiar faces was a welcome aswell as the bottle of bubbly we drank in celebration of what was accomplished and what is still left to come from the post expedition plans and projects. It was Saint Patrick's day therefore it was encouraged that we joined the rest of the base staff for after dinner celebrations. I was happy to be completely immersed in the social simplicity of learning an Irish dance, and that we did until late in the evening.

Today – March 18th is a day for final packing, a day of farewells and bon-voyages, a day to begin yet another leg in this incredible journey. I do feel ready for home. I have been away for nearly 2 months and by the time I set foot on my home turf it will be over 9 weeks. I have a presentation to prepare for the Prince Albert II as we sail to the Falklands, so already I will have the opportunity to begin piecing together my story.

I am not sure of the ships schedule, we may be fortunate to have a full day in South Georgia before departing for the Falklands. I am assuming Beth-Anne and I will be able to take part in the landings planned and make the most of more filming opportunities. Ahh how weird and wonderful it will be to be on a ship without having any responsibility.

I will keep the tracker on so please feel free to follow our progress and I will continue with the blog updates (thanks to Dean back home). Hopefully we will be able to post a few photos as well, to keep things lively and interesting. Dean has been able to send a few comments people have posted on my blog. I really look forward to finally getting on the internet and be able to read them all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments. I will treasure and I appreciate every word.

Cheers and thanks to you all


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16th, Day 17

Cumberland East Bay

My final night under canvas is only just around the corner from King Edward Point and the abandoned whaling station of Grytviken. Strong N, NW winds are forecasted therefore I didn't want to find myself too far away where wind could prevent me from getting in to my final destination. The ship will wait for no-one.

It was an early start and a beautiful one, with a sunrise broadened along glassy seas within the sheltered arms of Ocean Harbor. I was on the water by 6.30am and was eager to begin this final stretch of open seas and an exposed coast I was curious whether or not the swell had diminished, however there were plenty of tell-tales informing me that it had not as whitewater pummeled the reefs and rocks that lined the entrance to the bay.

My intended day of reflection vanished immediately as I exited the harbor. Mountains of sea lifted me high on the crest of each wave and once in the trough the horizon and sight of any land vanished like magic. My kayak was shoved this way and that as the waves rebounded off the coastline like a rebellious child, creating seas of confusion. It was an uncomfortable ride and for the next 4 hours I would not be taking my hands off my paddle nor would I stop paddling. Every stroke was not only propelling me forward, each stroke was also a support stroke, keeping me steady and at times upright.

I was tense, my kayak felt less stable than usual, perhaps it was 'last days' nerves I was feeling. I started to imagine something terrible happening on the last leg, the last stretch of my paddling experience in South Georgia having survived so far South Georgia's school of hard knocks and harsh lessons. I had to concentrate and watch every wave, every motion as the seas moved towards me, under me and around me. At times I traveled nearly 2 miles off shore and selected the outer route around offshore islands and islets, avoiding the white water chaos and carnage of the inner routes. It made for more miles but safer ones although it was rather unnerving being so far away from land in such big seas.

Black Browed Albatross made use of the up-draft currents from this ocean swell therefore kept me company for most of the journey. Not wanting to take my hands off the paddle I drank little and ate none and so my body started to feel the lack of fuel . As the morning progressed South Georgia displayed it's hidden treasures as the clouds dispersed and the jagged Mountain peaks and ridges showed themselves. I was relieved to enter into Cumberland East Bay, familiar surroundings and only then did the seas mellow in size. As soon as I was able I stopped and gulped down water and hungrily ate my Cliff bars. Instant fuel offering me energy to fulfill the final hour of paddling. At the east of the bay I found a nook where the surf was less and landed on a steep rocky beach. Elephant seals and Fur seals claimed there piece of beach and I searched hard for a place to put my tent. With this narrow, steep beach there was no room for my tent and beyond that was tussock mounds crowned by the occasional Fur seal and puddles of muck. And so between the Fur seals and puddles of muck I now call home, for this night anyway.

I made the most of afternoon light and took a hike up the backside of where I am camped. It led me to a rise which overlooked Grytviken, KEP and the entrance to Cumberland bay. All around me the mountains hovered like protective parents and the two icebergs that drifted in the bay were lit by the suns rays. The rhythm of the surf soothed me from way up here, and it was this spot where I chose to write in my journal and go over in my mind the previous 16 days I have spent intimately on and beside the shores of South Georgia.

I recall a moment as I paddled this morning, I noticed my reflection in the water-proof housing of my camera. I could see, like a mirror my face reflected in it. I was wearing the Necky cap and poking out from each side were my straggly braids giving me a Pippy Longstocking appearance. “That's me”, I said out-loud to myself. “That's me paddling alone in South Georgia!”. I am doing exactly what I had envisioned for all those years. I dreamed about this, then planned how I was going to make this happen and after 3 and half years of hard work, I finally set foot from shore and paddled away, alone in my kayak in an attempt to paddle around the entire Sub-Antarctic Island of South Georgia. I had played this entire scene in my mind so many times. Wondering how cold it will really be, how big will the seas become, how fast will the wind pick up while I am out on the water. Will my tent stand up to the furious winds I have seen with my own eyes and will I have the nerve to actually do it once I am there. So many questions and curiosities have been answered. I have been to the South Georgia school of hard knocks and harsh lessons and I did good . I did not complete what I had set out to complete and yes this in itself does bring a strong feeling of disappointment. Despite the fact that there were a number of reasons and circumstances beyond my control which influenced this outcome, I still struggle with trying to let go of the disappointment and unconditionally embrace all what has been accomplished. That I am sure will come with time. I am wise enough to know that I have not failed. How can one fail if they actually tried and gave it their best shot. Against all the odds, I tried. We tried. One could look at this as failure if I simply do not embrace the experiences I had, the treasures I discovered and the unfathomable beauty I witnessed. And this could be seen as failure simply by not having the mindfulness to actually learn from each set-back and obstacle that happened to be put in our path. The lessons were limitless, the unexpected side-line adventures took us where we all needed to go for reasons that only time will tell.

When I recall the historical accounts of past explorers and adventurers there is a commonality with each story. Their expeditions never panned out the way those involved anticipated, which made for a fabulous story. Sure we did not suffer 2 years living on the ice and making small boat journey's across the Southern Ocean in the middle of winter, however we too have a story to tell.

Tomorrow morning when I turn the corner beyond King Edward Point, I will keep the land close to my port (left) side. I will land on a small beach, giving the local Fur seals and Elephant seals their space and meander up to a small graveside I know well. I will stand before Sir Ernest Shackleton's grave and take a moment to reflect on the reason why we are both right here. Sure, one of us is a few feet under the ground and the other, well I'd say they are pretty happy to still be alive and kickin. We are here simply because we dream and we live those dreams despite how impossible they seem at times. We follow our truest of hearts and in doing we have had the privilege and the honor to relish in the awe-inspiring beauty of South Georgia and be touched by the mesmerizing sights and scenes one can only witness here. I am so grateful.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March 15th, day 16 Ocean Harbour

S54 20.398 and W36 15.872

I woke and rose early, keen to get under way knowing we had 50 nautical miles to cover to get to our destination. Once underway it was clear to me that we were up for a rough ride as the swell from the strong but brief storm caused the seas to be steep and lumpy.
The movement took some of us by surprise. Beth-Anne headed straight to her bunk and I laid low and offered to do a watch knowing the fresh air would help. For most of the day South Georgia remained hidden amongst dense and rain saturated clouds. Icebergs had been blown towards the coast so there were a few obstacles to keep a keen eye out for.
Towards the end of the day I enjoyed seeing the coast line I would paddle tomorrow from a distance. Cobblers Cove, Godthul and Ocean Harbour came into view and the outer coastline was a wash of white water from the waves that crashed then disintegrated.
Once anchored in the protective bay of Ocean Harbour I immediately launched my kayak eager to be on my way and establish a camp site before dark. Once on the water I decided to paddle about abit, no specific destination in mind, really just keen to take a looksey around the area.
A still standing, whaling ship wreck was made home by a number of nesting cormorants, fur seals dominated most of the sounds and scenes of the bay however I saw the largest Elephant Seals so far on my voyage. One surfaced fairly close to where I was obliviously drifting, it looked like a submarine as its 4 tonne blubbery body suddenly appeared at my bow. It immediately showed me whose boss as he inflated his sexy trunk, which was then followed by the guttural sound of its not so sexy grunt.
It was just after 5.00pm and the light was getting dimmer and so I found a patch of beach and pitched my perfectly dry tent in the rain.
As I sit here now perched on my camping mat, my sleeping bag wrapped around my shoulders and writing this blog entry by torch light, it is as usual the Fur seal calls that dominate my night-time entertainment. Although I think a few more Ellies have since landed therefore those guttural, burp-like sounds will be what I will try and fall asleep to.
Ahh it is divine to be back in my cosy, safe tent and for a change there is not a breath of wind. I do have a good weather window tomorrow morning, so I will be up at first light to paddle the 15 nm to Cumberland Sound. The following day a strong NW system is building therefore I do need to be within a short paddle distance from King Edward Point for the morning of March 17th but I will be camping tomorrow night, just close by.
Tomorrow will be a day of reflection as I paddle for the last time along the scenic shores of South Georgia and by evening my mind will be filled with, expressions, thoughts and feelings as I try to sum-up what this journey has meant to me. I am pretty certain I won't sleep tomorrow night, in my attempt to make my final night alone, camping on the shores of South Georgia, last the longest time.

Good night to you all and pleasant and peaceful dreams


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Update – March 14th, Day 15, Prince Olav Harbor

Wow, to know of a storm approaching and watch the weather simmer then suddenly witness with our very eyes the storms arrival. It slapped us and the surrounding area hard. The boat had a rocking motion as though we were at sea and the waves crashing on the shore could be heard from within the soundproof salon. And then by late afternoon, as though it was only a dream, all was calm, the storm had dissipated only hours after it's arrival. How absolutely fascinating.

It was a day to get gear sorted. Wanting to paddle and camp as much as possible during my last few days here in South Georgia, I used this day to pack my other gear and dry my expedition equipment. A dry sleeping bag and tent for my last two nights camping on the shores of South Georgia will be a luxury.

Tomorrow, with a tail wind we will head out and travel south, hopefully reaching Ocean Harbor by 4.00pm in the afternoon. Ocean Harbor, Godthul and Cobblers Cove are three landings I would like to approach and two I will be camping at leading my way back North to King Edward Point in Cumberland Sound. I intend to meet up with the Northanger who will be anchored near Grytviken on the evening of the 17th in preparation for the arrival of the Prince Albert II the following day. Beth-Anne and I will be soon whisked away by ship while Magnus, Brian and Keri prepare for their own open ocean crossing, leaving the next day bound for Stanley.

Here in the protective bay of Prince Olav Harbor, it was a calm and placid evening as the skies cleared. A gorgeous sunset complimented the glassy seas which had the residue of the past storm as the swell undulated gently beneath our hull.

By tomorrow I will more than ready to get back in my kayak, alone once again to completely saturate myself in all of South Georgia's glory for my last three days remaining. Ahh just the thought of saying goodbye brings tears to my eyes and a tug at my heart. It is during this expedition that I have only just begun to realize just what this island means to be and what it does to me. I've known it since our first meeting 11 years ago, but as I write this, and as I playback my 14 days of aloneness where I've journeyed beside the shores of the island I can't begin to fathom actually pulling away from this isolated, rugged, mountainous island and say goodbye to a place whose treasures will remain a mystery to me.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Audio March 13


March 13th Day 14 Running South to lash down in a protective bay

My alarm woke me just before light at 4.45am. By the time I was packed, gear stowed in my hatches and launching onto a calm sea, the early morning light gave evidence of the perfect day of paddling that awaited.

As I adjusted my seat and paddled a few strokes I noticed that my body was feeling strong and had finally adjusted to the load I was carrying. For the first time since setting out, I paddled in gentle rhythm to the rolling swell and the glassy mirrored seas made things feel all the more graceful.

In less than an hour I had reached the entrance to Right Whale Bay where the Northanger was at anchor. I tried too reach them on my handheld VHF radio and got through immediately. I hadn't received a weather text from them so I was eager to see if the winds were going to remain from the SW at a mere 10-15knots. So far it looked that way and I was thrilled to have a chance at least in reaching Elsehul or even going a tad further and slightly rounding the North Coast before having to turn back to go south.

The news was not good. Keri was nervous about the huge storm which is soon to be approaching our coast. Winds from the E, NE are expected to pick up in the early wee hours of tomorrow morning and potentially rise to 50 knots. She informed me that Eleshul would not be a wise anchorage to wait out the storm therefore we need to make our way back south to Prince Olav immediately. I was gutted. This was one of the very rare wind-free, glassy calm, perfect paddling days and I have to abort my northerly journey. Although I was so disappointed, I understood the reasons and accepted them, however before rendezvousing with them, I sat quietly in my kayak, drifting with the current, rising and falling with the swell. The odd Gentoo penguin came close and circumnavigated me, curious of my presence and a Black Browed Albatross glided silently above. I looked out longingly to the North and wondered what was beyond Nameless Point and Elsehul, what awaits my curious mind and
adventurous heart. I will find out not this day.
And then I had a fabulous idea!
Since we would be passing the Bay of Isles, I suggested we call King Edward Point and ask permission to land briefly on Prion Island since the weather has not co-operated with our previous attempts. Yay, we were granted permission therefore the day was salvaged, and what a delightful bonus it became.

Brian, Beth-Anne and I went ashore with cameras and binoculars in hands. Since this is visited by tourist ships and other yachts a very subtle boardwalk has been built which assists people keeping on the right trail, defines the areas they are allowed to walk and helps reduce erosion and keeps the wildlife at a distance. What a fabulous idea.

The first finger led us to a single adult sitting proudly on a nest. I sat mesmerized by it's pure white frame, curious how and where they put their 12 foot wings. There wings have 3 joints, therefore like origami, they fold, tuck and fold again. The second finger led us to a look-out which gave us a view of 7 other nesting sites with the backdrop of the entire Bay of Isles with Salisbury Plain in the distance. Our 2 hours ashore went quickly but in that time we watched a single Albatross walk awkwardly amongst the tussocks, going from nesting site to nesting site. At one stage it took a detour directly towards the boardwalk where Beth-Anne was standing. She encountered a close pass-by, and I caught it all on film, capturing Beth-Anne in absolute ecstasy.

We watched, we filmed and took in the mesmerizing beauty of South Georgia at its best. It literally took our breath away having the opportunity to land here, see these giant flying birds nestled so close to where we stood, imagining how many miles each of them had under their wings. I decided to do an audio broadcast from the highest point, to glance over the scene and share it with all those who are so faithfully following this journey.

We were soon due back to the boat and continued our way South to Prince Olav Harbor. Here we will lash down for the next two nights and for one of them I intend to camp. I might as well make the most of this opportunity and see if I can pitch my tent during a real gale and hope it holds for the night. By the morning of March 15th, we should have a weather window to then head south beyond Cumberland Sound. My wish is to be dropped off south and spend my last two days and nights camping and kayaking my way back to Grytviken where we will rendezvous with the Prince Albert II.

Stand by for storm updates

Friday, March 12, 2010

March 12th - Day 13

March 12th - Day 13

S 54 01.214 and W 37 34.631

Craigie Point

Although I had a relatively good forecast apart from the SW 35knots building by 3pm, today ended up being the most uncomfortable and creepy morning on the water yet.
Woke to calm conditions but heavy snow had fallen over night and it was still falling as I packed up camp around 5.30am
After meeting up briefly with Northanger I set out, rounded Cape Buller in near white out conditons. Chubby snowflakes fell generously and it all seemed aa rather tranquil beginning.
It didn't take long for the gentle head wind to pick up, carrying with it snow driving into my eyes and stinging them. I had to paddle with my eyes half shut and my head down. Sunglasses didn't do the trick, they made me paddle more blind than without.
It was a rugged section of coastline, boomers and erractics caused swell to spontaneliously explode over these hidden rocks, at times I felt like I was paddling through a mine field and with the low visiability it made for more of a challenge.
There were few places to land, and if there was a beach, it was steep and surf beaten.
Soon squalls started to hit along with the snow blizzards, and the dark grey sea and skies limited my visability even further and simply gave me the willies.
I was aiming for Right whale Bay where Northanger would be at anchor but suddenly the squalls became more frequent.
SW wind had already started to produce itself and along with that comes the katabatics doing their lethal dance out from the bays and valleys.
I noticed a small pocket beach with little swell and thought best I get off the water, now that an opportunity has produced itself.
Once turning into the bay severe winds hit me as though I simply paddled into a wall. Will I even be able to make it to shore I questioned. The thought of not made me paddle vigorously.
Once close enough, the best part of the beach was taken up with adult male Fur seals sparring with eachother, I chose the more exposed but less of a hassle section.
The challenge continued as I tried to set up my tent in this now full-on breeze, with the coldest hands I think I've ever had.
I crawled into my pole-less tent carrying big river boulders and eventually was able to erect the tent, poles an all without it taking off in flight. I will be sleeping with my buddy boulders tonight.
Once in my sleeping bag, food in my belly and luke warm hot choccy in my hands I found some comfort. At this point I did question for the first time on this journey "Why on earth do I chose to put myself through this bloody uncomfortable and a little creepy style of adventure"
I sudden urge for domestication flooded my thoughts. All I wanted to do was make a roast dinner, dig a little in the garden and ready my book near a warm and cosy wood stove..
Ahh but it was a gorgeous part of the island I saw today (in the seconds it was clear enough to see)... despite the relentless wind and the chill it carries....I still am addicted to South Georgia.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


March 11 - day 12 Salisbury Plain.

Ahhhh South Georgia continues to torment me as fierce katabatic winds blew all day, sending incoming surf along the beaches hurtling backwards at a furious speed. Prion Island was right at my finger tips as I could see it from where I am camped. White caps laced the entire collection of islands out in the bay, like a guard keeping us away.

The wind is screaming down valleys of glaciers therefore it is frigidly cold. I tried to capture the drama by film but the wind made it impossible for me to keep the tripod and camera steady and my fingers although in gloves could not stand the cold.

My tent poles flexed and stretched making my tent look as though it was in some kind of yoga pose. Many times I was out checking to see if my anchors and pegs were holding. I decided to use my full and heaviest dry bags as sand anchors. Pelican cases make for a fabulous sand anchor too, as long as you don't have a need for any time inside. It has been a long and nerve racking day.

Dean posted a few blog comments on an email he sent to me earlier today. I appreciated the wise and supportive words written by some of you whom are following this journey closely. Thank you for your insight and for taking the time to share it with me, your encouragement has helped over the past two days. And....I have some exciting news to share with you.

Both Dean and Sally with help from Heidi with Quark Expeditions have spent time trying to re-arrange Beth-Anne and my flights back home. We were finally successful at getting our flight moved to April 2nd but it was re-routed to depart from Buenos Aries. The next challenge - us getting from Stanley to BA without traveling through Santiago has been a challenging part. However the problem has been solved. AND it gives US 6 extra days in South Georgia!!!!

Yesterday I did abit of research and discovered that the Prince Albert II, the last tourist ship visiting South Georgia departs March 18th from Grytviken heading to Ushuaia. And so I sent the Captain and Expedition leader an email, stating our need to reach Ushuaia. Within a few hours I received a reply from the expedition leader welcoming us onboard. Keri, Magnus and Brian support this decision and are relieved that we finally have our entire journey back to Canada secured.
Although this still does not allow me time to continue heading north and around to the SW coast...
1. I would need 8 days of continuous perfect paddling weather (it ain't gonna happen - not this summer anyway).
2. And if I did head that way even for a few days, I could be stuck in a bay with a bad weather system which would not enable Northanger to come get me, travel back around to the north then on towards Gyrtviken to meet the ship.

HOWEVER - It sure is better than leaving on March 12 or 13th.
My wish list with the time that we have now been graced with would be to spend 2 days paddling around the North, jump on Northanger and head south, perhaps trying for Prion again. Then jump back in my kayak at the southern tip of Sth G and paddle to Grytviken therefore paddling the entire east coast of South Georgia, alone by kayak to help Save the Albatross. Yahooo!
Unfortunately, even this plan is a little unrealistic because weather still needs to co-operate. But lets see what we can do.
And so I will spend another night here on the Plains of Salisbury, hanging with the handsome Kings, avoiding the rather territorial Fur seals, enjoying the continual symphony of the South Georgia orchestra which never stops playing their splendid tunes. I will touch base with Northanger this evening, get a weather update and make a plan from there. Who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Cheers and thanks for your continual support and interest.


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