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Journey to the Ross Sea #5

February 16th

We have now been four days at sea and still have three to go until we reach Antarctica and the Ross Sea. Last night the weather took a turn for the worse and we were met with 60 knot winds gusting to 95. Some of the waves crashing over the bow were 14 metres high as we crossed the Polar Convergence at 60 degrees South and entered the biological and political boundary of Antarctica.

The portholes in our cabin were just like watching a washing machine go round as the Southern Ocean unleashed its fury against the Ortelius. Today, in the interests of safety, all outside deck access has been closed as we ride out the storm.

These sea days are filled with a series of lectures covering Antarctic history and the great expeditions of Shackleton, Scott, Mawson and Amundsen, together with talks on geology, ocean currents, seabirds, whales and ice!

It’s fascinating talking to my fellow adventurers and hearing their stories. One passenger – a retired school teacher from Australia – took up polar expedition cruises 17 years ago at the age of 60. She now has over 40 polar trips under her belt and shows no intention of slowing down.

The ship is also hosting Lewis Pugh and his team. Lewis is a true inspiration and in 2007 completed a remarkable feat and swam one kilometre in the Arctic Ocean across the North Pole in a temperature of -1.7 degrees. To put this in to context, your local swimming pool is heated at approx. 27 degrees, the English Channel at 18 and the water temperature when the Titanic sank was 6 degrees. For this endeavour Lewis wears nothing more than his Speedos, goggles and a swim cap.

Eight years later, Lewis is hoping to complete 5 separate one kilometre swims in Antarctica and the Ross Sea to raise awareness of the urgent need to declare this pristine environment a Marine Protected Area. If successful, Lewis’ swim in the Ross Sea will make him the only person in the world ever to have swum this distance at such a southerly latitude (78 degrees).

As mentioned in earlier blogs, Russia has proved the main obstacle in achieving this aim in previous years and the international community now has another opportunity to vote on this in October 2015.  Immediately after our trip, Lewis, a UN Ambassador for the Ocean, heads to Moscow to meet with Putin. Maybe 2015 is the year that will mark a brighter future for marine conservation in the polar regions.

For more information on this project check out his website lewispugh.com

February 17th

The day dawned bright and calm and the Ortelius is back on track steaming South at 11 knots which is a huge improvement on the 3.5 knots we managed through yesterday’s storm.

The first icebergs have just been sighted on the horizon……

Antarctic Voyage

The path of the upcoming journey!