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01/16/2009

Port William, Falkland Islands

It was 5:30 am and blowing northwest 45 to 50 knots with heavy rain showers when Captain Biasutti brought Minerva to anchor in Port William, Falkland Islands. The gale force winds with a deteriorating forecast prevented us from heading directly into Port Stanley just a short distance away. Minerva had been scheduled to take on fuel from a tanker later in the afternoon but as the Captain and Expedition Leader assessed the situation, they decided to do this procedure during the morning instead as this fuel is required before we could continue on our way to the Antarctic. This is the last fuel station along our route! It was an interesting sight to see Captain Biasutti delicately manoeuver Minerva alongside the tanker Ust-Ilimsk in the heavy winds but eventually both ships were anchored and secured together.

The Expedition Team quickly switched to an alternate plan and after breakfast our onboard Enrichment Lecture series continued with our historian Bob Burton relating his 'Favourite Heroes – Stories of Antarctic Exploration'. This was a discussion of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.
Later in the morning, marine biologist Sean Todd told us how the heat differential between the equatorial and polar regions drove not only weather systems but ocean current systems as well. He explained how the antarctic convergence is formed and why it supports so much life, making it one of the most prolific areas in the world.

The wind continued to build during the afternoon, reaching a maximum of 61 knots at one point and at lunch it was announced that there would be no chance to get ashore in Port Stanley to do our excursions. While this was a disappointment, some of us still got out on deck to watch the fuelling operations, get some exercise walking laps or to photograph the kelp gulls, cormorants and the sunlight playing on the green hills of the Falklands. Others spent a pleasant day reading, doing puzzles or chatting with fellow guests.

Late in the afternoon Peter Clarkson gave his Enrichment Lecture on the Geology of Antarctica where he explained the concept of continental drift and how Antarctica ended up at the bottom of the world. Afterwards the Minerva Quartet played until we gathered with the Expedition Team for recap. Suzana had a very appropriate and humorous presentation on the Beaufort Wind Scale, something we certainly experienced today!

After dinner the Captain announced that refuelling had been finished early in the evening and the wind had finally dropped to a manageable level for him to let go from the tanker and depart Port William. At 9:45pm we were underway again for the Antarctic. The Drake Passage is well known to be a rough body of water and after today’s wind we were advised by the bridge to prepare ourselves and our staterooms for sea.
 

   

Upon our arrival at Stanley the wind was blowing at Gale force and the port was closed, we anchored in the bay called Port William.

The launches with our agents and local authorities demonstrated the wisdom of the captain's decision to stay at anchor.

During the day we had some lectures by our onboard experts, like this one by Sean Todd on Oceanography.

The strong gale winds are not a rare occurrence here, as demonstrated by this never published photograph from a previous voyage.

The bridge's anemometer recorded speeds of 55 knots with gusts of 66 and this only inside the harbor!


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