FROM 2-14. Cape Town-Kerguelens

The Swirl of the Pallids

Pallid silvery sky, delicately textured in darker fluffs. Occasional loom of the sun in halo of luminous cloud – Turner would have exaggerated it to get the effect. Sea deep almost milky blue – odd when it seems it ought to be grey too. Prions, slightly darker but their shaded greys in between the blue of the sea and the angels' wings in the cloud. Lumpy, vicious sea – big swells from the north with spiky dragon skin surface from the local wind. Brilliant breaking crests with flying cascades of pearls and diamonds. Violent rolling passage, moving around inside a continual blind trapeze act. Easier on deck because there's a horizon and so a frame of reference.

Excitement and some apprehension at the approach of an unfamiliar, alien coastline with beartraps everywhere for the unwary. The same shiver as we approached Amchitka in the Aleutians and Cape Horn and the Falklands and the Greenland fiords – and especially Point Barrow and our first ice and then at the other end, the M'Clintock Channel. Trying to think of all the possibilities – lee shore, rocks, kelp, surge, how to anchor with Berri's various bits of gear, bolt holes, magnetic anomalies, instant williwaws…it all churns around and won't rest till we get there and can have a look. I remember a conversation in Falmouth with a venerable and hugely respected sailor about age, experience and the increments in apprehension each time you prepare do something out of the ordinary – extending even to things that are normally easy. Maybe it's a characteristic of the cautious. Or the geriatric! Helps me to wonder how Cook would have dealt with it – with extreme caution and minimal risk, I think. He stood off rather than risk going between the islands in poor visibility.

About 200 miles till we can expect to see the islands to the NW of Cap d'Estaing. I see from the Admiralty chart that Bligh's Cap is actually called Ilot du Rendez-Vous not Reunion as I wrote yesterday. All of you will be able to see more – and almost certainly more detail – on google earth than we will on the spot. You may be able to see the huge kelp patches all along the north and east coasts.

Malcom, can you see a jetty at P o F? I seem to remember something like a concrete quay. And a big SW swell running into the little bay by the church.

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