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Falkland Islands: Battles at sea

April 13, 2017

 

 

The sun is rising later and later with each passing day which allowed us a leisurely wake up before the morning transit from Beaver Island to Port Stephens. Distance: about 40 nautical miles. Conditions: sloppy. Consistent SW wind 15-25 knots.

A slow-burning sunrise threatened us from the east. Red sky in morning. Sailor take warning. Our transit was scheduled to coincide with a period of relaxed wind and hopefully a calmer sea state on the exposed western coast. The knife-edged sea cliffs of Beaver Island which I explored yesterday were not an anomaly, we would be passed by some of the wildest, roughest coast line in the South Atlantic on a big water day. I couldn't have been happier because the strong wind surely means a sea and sky full of energy. As we passed through Governor Channel into open water, I was not to be disappointed. Huge walls of water smashed into the rock sentinel at the end of Staat Island. We climbed rolling mountains of water which erupted into foam as their liquid peaks were torn asunder by the carnivorous winds. Pelagic Australis slid from crest to trough under head and main sail, her rolling tempered by the mass of her keel against the water and sails in the wind. It was not a smooth ride by any stretch of the imagination, but we were spared the true power and violence being demonstrated around us on all sides.

The sun now near our stern, a harsh golden light was softened by the salty air. The ocean exhaled with each crashing wave. The land shuddered. Ancient sandstone set down 400 million years ago in a long-forgotten seabed were now broken into a myriad of angular shapes. Jagged angles persisted as rocks broke along fissures, faults, and dikes. The sea continued its quest to soften the jagged edges but the land continues to succumb to the unrelenting attack. Fractures form. A new weak spot to inflict this salty curse. Solitary rock spires stand offshore without support. A soldier lost in enemy territory. The final stand of a defeated stretch of coast. The heartless attack continues unabated. A beautiful rock arch with Southern fur seals compliments the scene but serves as the last vestige of a noble head land. No quarter asked, no quarter received from this liquid hand. How many more sunrises will befall upon this wretched arch? We take photos of the withering old man, devoid of any redemption, facing the inevitability of its death. Of collapse.

Leaning into the rolling boat, I sat on the deck for the rest of the day watching the primal scene playing out before me. Windows would not suffice for this magical view of the all-powerful sea. I needed to smell the briny air and feel the cut of cold sea spray across my face. Crests of water enveloped the horizon as we slipped into another rift.  Mysteries are born upon a restless sea. In the shadows of these watery walls I wonder and search for meaning and direction. Sea birds effervesced from the sea by the hundreds. Born on strong winds, animated by powerful wings, albatross cut sinuous lines through the air in a wandering, purposeful track only they understand. Soaring dynamically from crest to trough they carve an s-shaped track through an invisible wave. As with sailing or flying, a direct line is rarely taken in a tumultuous sea. The headstrong navigator arrives in dire straits when trying try to overpower formidable foes. Those things that cannot be affected by will alone should be approached with caution and respect.

Rounding Castle Rocks the swell escalated its barrage on the West Falklands ten fold. Towers of white water shot to the sky, eclipsing the rock and tussock grass down below. A temporary edifice imposes its will over the bleak landscape and is gone as quickly as it is built. These temple bells will not be silenced for long. The next explosion is not long now. Far beyond the realm of man the sea speaks with words like thunder. 
 

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