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Storm at anchor

Aggiornamento: 13 nov 2023

Pendulum Cove Deception, South Shetland Island

This morning we allowed ourselves a few more hours of sleep, we all needed to recover the energy spent to face the 4 days of navigation in the Drake. Around 10:00h we all met up in the living room to have breakfast.

Outside it was pitch gray and the deck totally covered with snow. The wind blew from the North to around 15 knots. At 100 meters from our stern a sailing yacht at anchor, most probably arrived at night.

Despite weather we decided to go ashore to visit the ruins of the old whaling station that has also recently hosted an English research station.

The Norwegian whaling station opened in 1911 and was closed in 1931 due to the collapse of the market price of whale oil, but already in 1944 the structures were occupied by the British who established a scientific base there.

Unfortunately Deception hosts an active volcano that severely damaged the base in 1967 and later in 1969, when the British finally abandoned it.

In 1995 the Ruins of Whalers Bay were declared Historic Site of the Antarctic Treaty.

On the black beach small sulphurous steam clouds run swept by the wind and it is sufficient to dig a few centimeters on the shoreline to find hot water, even at 40/50°.

It was snowing and the wind, now above 20 knots, made the visit very uncomfortable. So we decide to go back on board to entertain ourself with more pleasant activities in the kitchen.

Around 14:30h, absolutely unexpected and in a blink of an eye, the wind reinforced up to 35 knots, too many for Whalers Bay. In fact, anchoring, despite the excellent grip, is in deep waters. The sea floor degrades quickly and already at 100 meters from the shore it is over 30 meters deep, too many to make me feel comfortable with our 80 meters of chain. Deception Island offers two other anchorages, Telephone Bay and Pendulum Cove.

The first from the nautical chart seems to be very well sheltered, it is in fact a small harbor designed on the northwest coast of the island with a very narrow access. The problem is that from the size of the bay I understand that there is not enough space to swing.

Pendulum Cove is also located on the north side of the island, but on the eastern shore and compared to Whalers Bay is better protected. So we decided to move heading towards Pendulum.

Meanwhile the wind is refreshed up to 40 knots, snowflakes looks like projectiles and visibility is reduced to less than one hundred meters. Fortunately, Port Foster, the name of the great spire formed by the Deception Island caldera, is free from dangers.

We entrust the Radar and our cartographic program with the responsibility to bring us in "port".

We walk the 4 miles that divide the two berths in little more than half an hour and we drop the anchor in 15 meters of water, this time dropping also a second anchor and all the 80 meters of chain and cable that we have on board.

Completed the anchoring we take refuge in the saloon to prepare something hot to drink. Meanwhile the wind reaches a top speed of 53 knots, we listen on the VHF radio a conversation between the yacht we had spotted in the morning and another obviously sheltered in Telephone Bay.

Our former neighbour asked the other skipper about the situation in Telephone Bay and about the possibility to enter and anchor aside the other boat.

The skipper's answer, without hesitation: do come inside with caution and we will find a solution.

The wind continued to scream all afternoon and evening and only around 23:00h decided to let us rest quietly, collapsing, at the same speed with which it had arrived, at just 10 knots.

Forecasts for tomorrow foresee light winds from the south/south east that will turn to the east on Saturday.

So we will wait the day after tomorrow to resume our descent to the south.

Tomorrow, if the weather will allow, we would like to dedicate the morning to maintenance and cleaning work and in the afternoon we would like to visit the Spanish Scientific Research Station Gabriel de Castlla here at Deception.

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