Pearls Around the White Continent
With plans in the works to send a couple to Mars, the BBC turned to high-latitude adventurers and CW contributing authors Deborah Shapiro and Rolfe Bjelke to hear how they cope as a couple during long periods of isolation. You can revisit their adventures circumnavigating Antarctica aboard their ketch Northern Light in this riveting five-part series.
In January 2005, after finishing our circumnavigation of Australia, we were in Tasmania preparing to begin our circumnavigation of the Southern Ocean. I chatted with Rolf about the breakables. All were still whole.
"What do you think? Shall we put everything in a box and leave it at someone's house?"
"Nyah," he replied. "Let's continue using them. If they break, they break."
It's possible to circumnavigate Antarctica nonstop in one season; at 45 degrees south, the total distance is only 15,480 nautical miles.
But to have time to visit the subantarctic islands that call to us, we planned to spend three consecutive summer seasons under way. It would be a voyage of learning and discovery. And a challenge. We called the expedition Pearls Around the White Continent.
The plan for the first leg would lead us southeast from Hobart, Tasmania, to Macquarie Island, an open roadstead at 54 degrees 30 minutes south, and to Auckland Island, at 50 degrees 45 minutes south, before a winter in New Zealand. The second summer, we'd go south again, back to Auckland Island and on to Campbell Island, at 51 degrees south, then sail nonstop 5,000 nautical miles to Chile. During the winter, we'd explore Patagonia. The plan in the third summer was to sail to South Georgia, then winter in South Africa, but plans seem to have a mind of their own sometimes-maybe we'd end up sailing across Drake Passage to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula before sprinting up to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
We'd spend our fourth summer on the wildlife wonderland of South Georgia, then sail 8,700 nautical miles nonstop to the finish line in Hobart, closing the loop on a circumnavigation of the Southern Ocean.
Before our departure, our friend Katie gave us two handmade bowls. "These are to remind you of your friends in New Zealand," she said. "Please come back again. In one piece." She meant us, I think, not the ceramic works of art.
Now I had precious cargo to take care of. I didn't really care about the other breakables we'd be using on a daily basis, but as we set out aboard Northern Light on our 22,500-nautical-mile circumnavigation via some of the wildest outposts on the planet, I cheated with Katie's bowls: I swaddled them in bubble wrap and wedged them into a corner of the galley shelves.
Rolf Bjelke and Deborah Shapiro have been cruising together since 1982 on Northern Light. You can contact them at email@example.com.
With plans in the works to send a couple to Mars, the BBC turned to high latitude adventurers and CW contributing authors Deborah Shapiro and Rolfe Bjelke to hear how they cope as a couple during long periods of isolation. Click here to read the BBC article.