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Blue Water Blogs: EUROPA

Posted by Tall Ships America on December 11, 2014

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Antarctica : the cold, almost mythical continent of glaciers and icebergs and penguins. It’s a land that has entranced Shackleton, Amundsen, Weddell, Scott and so many more. As Bark EUROPA spends the Antarctic summer sailing past Cape Horn, amongst the South Shetland Islands and along the Antarctic Peninsula, her crew and trainees share their journey to this remote world of ice and snow and rock. Below are excerpts from their logbook.


26 November 2014 – SOUNDS by Sue (Trainee)

“Shios sounds: This is the second day on board the Europa for the first Antarctic voyage of the season. I am overwhelmed by how fortunate I am to be a part of this exceptional adventure and am going to attempt to put into words my experience so far. For whatever reason today, I have been attuned to the sounds on board. A picture may be worth a thous and words, but can’t quite capture the audio…

“Clicking sounds: As the Europa slides through the bits of ice in the Garibaldi Fiord, we can hear the gurgle of the seemingly thick water being pushed away from the ship.  Then we hear a thunderous crack as the glacier itself settles and heaves. Sometimes the ear can hear what the eye can’t see. Cameras start clicking and the sounds of harnesses clang as people prepare to climb aloft to get a different perspective in search for the perfect photograph. The rain begins again and patters when it bounces off waterproof gear and drips into the fiord, and onto the deck.Then….momentary silence as things come to a halt and all are mesmerized by the jaw dropping vista. Glacier crackling on one side and waterfalls gushing on the other.

“Pleasing sounds: There are plenty of pleasing sounds…the sound of coffee and tea being poured into mugs to warm up the fingers and toes, the cheerful sound of the wash up crew coming from the galley as the tunes are turned up just enough to make washing dishes an informal dance party, the patient voices of permanent crew members giving lessons, lectures and asking for volunteers (somtimes voluntolds 🙂 ) the creaking of the ship, the sound of sails being unfurled and set, the hum of the engine as it helps move us through narrow channels and fiords. Of course I can’t forget to mention the laughter and friendly banter as everyone gets used to life on board and these new, sometimes unfamiliar, yet beautiful sounds.”

29 November 2014 – DRAKE PASSAGE by Aaike (Trainee)

“Taming of the wind: During this Voyage on the Wonderful ‘Europa’ I am made to realize the beauty of Mankind’s Achievements. Yes, it is not merely a trip to Antarctica, but a true Voyage to the southern parts of the southern hemisphere. The Ship; Man Made Machine of wood, steel, rope and canvas. Facing the elements like Wind, Seawater, Hail and Spilled Peanut Soup. Hovering over the waves and currents, without complaining much. Driven mainly by the taming of the wind, forcing it into our sails to drive us forward. Men and Women holding onto ropes and observing the surroundings.

“Muscle: The Men and Women; by forces of pure muscle strength, enthusiasm, will power and elegant balancing on ropes and ladders we say ‘NO’ to the waves and ‘YES’ to the wind to drive us on our journey. Experienced sailors and inexperienced trainees working together. Learning together. Looking after each other. Men and Women from different backgrounds who a week ago didn’t know each other are now becoming each others future Memories. For most, if not all, of us will never forget this Voyage for sure. These Memories, and all the people in it, will last forever.

“History: The History; we are travelling on Old Roads, that existed ages before man was born. Old Sea Roads that were discovered at the cost of many Lives of many Heroes. They made this Voyage possible. They are the ones we should be thankful for, next to our current comrades and our ship. My watch is about to start. I put on my contact lenses on the Drake Passage without losing an eye. A Great Achievement indeed. As I said; during this Voyage I am made to realize the beauty of such Achievements of Mankind.”

30 November 2014 – WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH by Marjolein (Trainee)

“Snow: …it has been snowing the whole day. Ropes are covered with snow, creating beautiful abstract patterns and the broken-white sails are partly covered with a fresh layer of pure white snow. This is full-on sailing to Antarctica, just like in the heroic accounts of the old days, when brave men and women (I have been told that women were often employed as deckhands and for maintenance) explored the unknown waters on the southern edges of our globe.

“Chocolate: The sails were taken down by the ever smiling crew in miserable conditions during the early morning. (Cold? No not at all. Well, it ‘s not particular warm, but cold, no). The railings in the corridor quickly filled up with wet sailing jackets and boots, only to get wet again in a couple of hours. Even though the windows of the deckhouse are getting froggy (sic), it is a gathering place in these harsh conditions. The pot with steaming hot chocolate milk is a very welcoming treat, especially to the the stiff and icy hands of those who were on watch or high up in the rigging.

“Traveling mood: With increasing winds in the afternoon, sails are set again. The accumulation of snow is the trigger for some of us to throw snow-balls, even from the rigging. More smiling faces. What is each one of us thinking? The coldness, wet hands, snow-balls and the biting wind on our face, it all adds to our traveling mood. But doesn’t this add to our own heroic sailing trip to Antarctica?”

1 December 2014 – CAPE HORN by Frits (Trainee)

“YES! we were at Cape Horn!: Well, some people regretted that we did not arrive in a flying storm at Cape Horn today, inspired as they were by the movie of the big windjammers rounding the Horn in wind force 10… But we had moderate winds, calm seas and even some sunshine when we approached this ultimate southern point of South America and there it was, the lighthouse, the big flagpole and the boulder beach were we landed in the zodiacs, YES! we were at Cape Horn!

“Antarctica here we come: Of course, you could say it is just another small rocky island but I think that most of us were impressed by being at this mythical location, I certainly was! And we got back onboard, waved goodbye to the Chilean pilots and hauled anchor. And lo!, the winds picked up, sun shining brightly and we set sails, turned towards the south with albatrosses wheeling around the ship and we were sailing, sailing! Antarctica, here we come!”

2 December 2014 – ANTARCTICA – THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING by Europa Sailor

“It has been seven days since we embarked from Punta Arenas, Chile…how many people can say, “I’m in Antarctica”?!?!…

“As of this morning, we have successfully sailed through the Drake Passage…After all the weather drama, and pitching and rolling in our bunks last night, we arrived in the South Shetland islands this morning with enormous icebergs to greet us. Many of us are so excited to be at anchor in calm seas and to not have to compensate for ship movement during soup eating, drinking, walking, sleeping, dressing…you get the idea…

“Oh, and you’ll never guess….there were a couple of penguins to greet us too – several thousand in fact. I met Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins today when we made our landing on shore. I experienced another “is this really happening?” moment as these little guys wandered around the island and walked up close to us with no fear. They are such clumsy little fellows on shore, yet so graceful and speedy under water.

“The guests and crew of the Europa ring in December 2014 with a landing in Antarctica, meeting penguins, and experiencing the sun setting after 23:00 over Antarctic cliffs and icebergs…how cool is that?”

6 December 2014 – ON TOP OF NEKO HILL by Unknown
“Firstly, the snow edge behind us was breaking up little by little. Summer is really coming: endless little streams of water were flowing from under the snow cover and dripping on the rocks. As the tide was withdrawing and the water support disappeared, the small melting ice blocks were breaking apart on the shore. The glacier on the other side of the strait was making familiar thunderous sounds, although it did not calve. Most fascinating sound however was the melting of the ice: some of the ice blocks made an eerie hissing sound, which I imagine comes from the little air bubbles within the ice, which have been under great pressure for who-knows-how-long and are now happily popping and releasing the air inside.

“We continued our way through the scenic landscape and arrived to Neko harbour, which was breathtakingly beautiful in the afternoon sun. Calved ice bergs and smaller blocks were drifting around us. The glacier edge looked stunning and dangerous at the same time: Large cracks cut through the ice, filled with all shades of blue light. Smaller calving happened here and there causing small waves to cross the bay…”

7 December 2014 – SERENITY OF THE ANTARCTICS by Jeffry (Guide)
“Ahead of us lays ice, tens of meters high, with black mountain peaks sticking out. The intense blue compacted ice layers match the dark blue icy waters. The world is silence, apart from small patches of floating ice against the hull of the ship.

“Early birds gather on the foredeck, in awe with serenity of the Antarctic landscape. Graham passage, lined by immense glaciers that reach the waterfront, is narrow and full with icebergs. Icebergs reach great depth, which can be seen in this crystal clear waters. Europa is slowly manoeuvred through this rarely visited strait, avoiding the largest obstacles. The lone call of a Weddel seal echoes through the passage.

“We have left the South Shertlands behind us. A beautiful introduction to what the white continent has to offer. But the exposed location makes it tricky area for landings with the changing weather conditions. Our patience paid off, we did enter flooded caldera of Deception Island yesterday morning after having sheltered for a full day. The old wooded whalers buildings, steam that arise from the black volcanic sand, the Cape Petrels feeding in the thermal water, the two simple graves, Neptunes Window, and cormorants collecting nesting materials on the beach. Today we visit an other relict from the old days: Captain Harko showed his skills by manoeuvring Europa alongside Governor in Foyn Harbour. This wreck, an old whaling vessel with 16.000 barrels of whale oil on board, sank in 1916. Almost hundred years later, its rusty bow still stands above the ink blue waterline. The whole scene has an eerie feeling, even though all crew was rescued after a fire destroyed the ship. To give us back a peace of mind, we sail through the Wilhelmina Passage, which is of an unmatched beauty. Large icebergs float in the water with impressive mountain ranges in the background.”

8 December 2014 – WHAT A VOYAGE by Frits (Trainee)
“…what a sight, these snow covered mountains and glaciers sometimes glistening in the sun, then again brooding under a grey sky! And so we continue, surrounded by icebergs, mountains, glaciers……what a voyage!”

8 December 2014 – CUVERVILLE by Aaike (Trainee)
“Sunsets that can last for hours. Little birdies, seemingly undisturbed by our presence, walking on their self-made highways to the beach, to play in the water. Quiet ice platforms and cubes, like floating diamonds in the water with infinite beautiful shapes that an artist can only dream of, glimmering in the light. Full moon and sun relieving each others watch over us. Content mammals lying on their backs and bellies, contemplating the world and secretly smiling at us. Waves dancing around a Tallship, changing the scenery every second. Islands, passages and lookout points, patiently waiting to be discovered. Peace all around us, for miles and miles and miles. No sounds, but only the quiet happiness that fills our souls.”

9 December 2014 – MESSAGE FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD by Jeffry (Guide)

To my beloved ones: I sent you a postcard from the bottom of the world.
This card has to travel far, and I have no idea how long it will take to reach you.
But the bearded postman promised that you would get it. Promised.

With love,

“We have travelled far to sail the White Continent with Europa. In fact, if we travel any further most of us will get closer to home, instead of moving away from it.

“And so we anchored, after a short night, in front of Port Lockroy this morning. Port Lockroy, an old British Research Station was established in 1944 during WWII. Before it was used during the whaling industry, being a sheltered and thus a safe harbor. The former research station is now a museum and one of the world’s southern most post offices.

“It was clear; the British Antarctic Survey has put a lot of effort in the preservation of this unique building against the brutal environmental influences. The interior of the 1940 to 1960 was still intact, with a wonderful collection of scientific instruments, clothing and complete workshop.

“The post office, with beautiful postcards and stamps, was manned by three cheerful girls and a young bearded man. The large kitchen table, covered with a red and white blocked tablecloth, became the most popular place in the building. All of us were writing cards. The bearded postman would stamp our cards personally, after we had dropped them in the red post-box.

“The island next door, Jougla Point, had large colonies of Gentoos and bleached whalebones sticking out of the snow. But a breeding colony of Antarctic shags were the highlight of this tiny island. These blue-eyed cormorants showed elaborate courtship behaviour. And some breeding couples had even copied penguin tactics: stealing nesting material from their neighbours.

“In the afternoon we left Port Lockroy behind and sailed with many sail set through the Neumayer Channel. We only did a couple of knots, but sailing through this glaciers infected strait was one of a kind. And at the moment, we are entering another magical place: Paradise Harbour. Around us, once again, black mountaintops and pure white glaciers. And we can’t get enough of it!”

To follow Europa’s Antarctic adventures, subscribe to our blog or go to http://www.barkeuropa.com/logbook.


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