The first storm, the first iceberg
5 January 2018
Heavy storm around the 85th meridian.
15 January 2018

Katharsis II: Ready to brave new storms. “THE CREW” (video)

09.01.2018. 3,000 miles since we’ve set sail.
(coverage from the 63rd parallel south)

Reaching and crossing the 60th parallel south on the night of 5/6 January 2018, Katharsis II cruised into Antarctic waters and embarked on the key stage of the Expedition circumnavigating the continent around Antarctic coastal waters. Sailing steadily to the east, the crew is regularly changing the onboard clock, adapting it to the actual time zone. The current zone (UTC+5) means that that the local time of Katharsis II is four hours ahead of Polish local time.

Katharsis II crew will spend two more months on the sea on very challenging waters. The scheduled loop around Antarctica will take us as close to the continent as conditions permit. The fastest route is not necessarily the shortest one as we may encounter reversing currents and less favourable winds close to the land. Our ice-clad itinerary features two very interesting places – the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. Katharsis II should reach the outer limits of the Ross Sea in late January. If there is plenty of ice, the sea ice matrix will be similar to that encountered by sailors during their 2015 expedition, they will be forced to sail around the ice barrier with no option to take a shortcut. The area of the Weddell Sea may present them with an even bigger ice formation that may extend well beyond the 60th parallel. But we will learn what lies ahead in mid-February.

The first Antarctic sea we visited en route was the Commonwealth Sea around the 63rd parallel. Dark nights are gone, what facilitates observations. It’s easy to navigate around bergs, but smaller fragments of ice are a different kettle of fish as they become visible only from a distance of several hundred meters. Luckily, over the next several weeks, Katharsis II crew should enjoy the comforts of good visibility. To-date, sailors ventured twice into a stretch of growlers drifting behind mammoth-sized bergs. Manoeuvring between them at full speed requires the ultimate focus and skill. Sailing past bergs, the captain always reduced the speed of the yacht by furling headsails, what made steering clear of obstacles much easier.

Very soon Katharsis II will face the first major challenge at this stage of the expedition. Our yacht is nearing the 85th meridian where, as sea ice maps suggest, there are plenty of floes. Meanwhile, we are being approached by a deep low (with 930 hPa in the centre) with gale-force wind and waves exceeding 15 meters. Such conditions are expected to last 3 days from Thursday, 11 January until Saturday, 13 January. This is certainly going to be an eventful time. We’ll do our best to mitigate the effects of such massive low by descending close to the continent and ice shelves where weather is expected to be milder.

Captain Mariusz Koper says:

“Gearing for the gathering storm, I’m also thinking about our crew. A well-selected team – this is one of the most all-important challenges faced by a captain getting ready for a long voyage. This is particularly important during harrowing expeditions to polar regions where we need to be ultimately self-reliant and always help one another.

I am lucky to be sailing together with passionate people, whom I may ultimately trust as sailors. This is simply a must in extreme situations where a single mistake may bring about a disaster of unpredictable magnitude. We were getting ready for an ice expedition in challenging weather conditions where one needs to be ready to face any situation, even an unexpected one. Obviously, sailing experience is important and extremely valuable, but equally important is to select the right personalities. We are bound to spend several months together in very confined space. We become a family, we have to learn to support each other in each and every situation.

I’m convinced that with such team in tow, I am able to take up such massive challenge like circumnavigating Antarctica around its coastal waters. It’s a task which to-date has not been completed by any yacht and this crew has all the makings to successfully handle it.”

Mariusz Koper.

Watch the video THE CREW presenting portraits of all members of Katharsis II Expedition recorded shortly before its start in December 2017.

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