© Stephen Eastaugh, 2018. All Rights Reserved.
I write this blog on the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is dark and unstill, full of wet life. Underneath the surface is a river of Krill, The water temperature is about + 5 Celsius, grey clouds clump above the ship. There is a slither of sunshine so the MV Orlova cruises through metallic-like liquid as we pass Shag Rock on our way to the South Georgia. I have been allocated cabin 321 situated by the noisy engine. On the first voyage it was rather sauna-like in climate. A comfortable studio but oddly tropical in temperature making it somewhat confusing when peeking out the port -hole and seeing icebergs float by.
Over the past weeks I have been working in the gym on two mixed media works - POLAR GARDEN and DECEPTION IS. (Caldera/ouroburos) Rather than using the exercise equipment I took over a wall in order to work on these large paintings that involve stitching as well as painting. Polar garden is basically homage to all polar plants, which I admire due to their ability to survive such a long harsh winter. There are over 40 types of moss growing in Antarctica and 100 forms of lichen, some of which are a few thousand years old. I have also been noticing very pretty snow algae which paints the ice red and green.
Other smaller works I have been creating in my cabin. These are stimulated by views and topics such as the ice algae, posts, poles, and aerials, breathing holes, domesticating ice, remote islands and human shelters. I am not busy translating the abundant wildlife into art but I do enjoy observing all the creatures in their wild habitats.
I lost my hat out on deck one afternoon when an icy gust sent it vertical into the domain of the wandering albatross. These massive birds with an average wingspan of 3.5 metres glide over the southern ocean with minimal flapping and plenty of grace. They have no need for my hat. Their search is for food, which is energy to continue their journey. Over the past weeks I have watched whales breaching, seals porpoising, penguins copulating, reindeer munching on moss, jellyfish wobbling, Elephant seals grunting and moulting, fish swimming, birds galore, and strange colourful humans; all the above busy turning food into energy. What to do with the energy is the question. Survive of course or perhaps indulge in a pub -crawl on the Falkland Is? Which is what I managed to do on a brief stop at Stanley as well as wander about this cute village of 2000 folks.
At South Georgia I listened to hundreds of fur seals calling. The noise is high and a touch eerie. Is this the noise that spawned the singing siren myths? Alien squeals, yaps, and barks that could sound female especially if you were a male sailor away from your loved ones for many months or years.
A short historically flavoured walk from Fortuna Bay to Stromness through Shackleton Valley took me along the last few kilometres of an exceptional Polar journey. Seriously scenic!
A lot was seen the past month. Here is a list of landings made.
Voyage 1. South Shetland Islands - Aitcho Is, Half Moon Is. and Deception Is. (Whalers Bay). Antarctic Peninsula - Paradise Bay, Port Lockroy, Jougla Point, Vernadsky station, Petermann Is, Neko Harbour and Danco Is.
Voyage 2. Falklands Islands - New Island and Stanley. South Georgia - Elsehul Bay, Right whale Bay, Salisbury Plain, Prion Is, Fortuna Bay, Stomness, St. Andrews Bay, Grytviken, Gold Harbour and Cooper Is. South Orkney Islands – Coronation Is. South Shetlands – Half Moon Is, Deception Is. Antarctic Peninsula – Cuverville Is, Paradise Bay (Almirante Brown.) Port Lockroy, Jougla Point, Petermann Is.
Today I detect guano aroma in my cabin. Penguin poo perfume is not the most appealing scent so this could be a good time to disembark.
Ushuaia is a charming boomtown at the end of the world with its colourful tiny houses and excellent empanadas. This is where I wave goodbye to the excellent staff and crew onboard the MV Orlova and await a plane that takes me northwards to the grape harvest season. Time to crush grapes rather than guano.