FROM 2-14. Cape Town-Kerguelens

Under the red planet

We are now south of Tasmania. I've gone on enough about the night sky – tonight Mars actually looks red – much redder than Betelgueuse, which is just dull orange. Luminous ocean again. Wearing my arctic balaclava in the cockpit to keep the uninsulated shiny bits warm.

Yesterday – or was it today? Neurons in decline – an aircraft contrail crossed above us – heading west, perhaps on the great circle from Sydney or Perth to S. Africa. A bit of a surprise. Must be a wonderful view of Kerguelen and the other islands from 6 miles up but unusual to have a really clear day to see them.

No contact with Kerguelen yet. We are assuming that if we do arrive, they won't tell us to go away. We've exchanged SMS messages by satphone with Alessandro, now nearly 500 miles SE of us and we have spoken on the radio to the skipper of the NZ research vessel Kaharoa, about 400 miles NW, engaged in laying Argos buoys out here in the extreme boonies. A real Kiwi voice and we've established a schedule to talk each day. Nice.

And so far, suspiciously easy. Softish day, brilliant sunshine, a couple of new albatrosses. One was a Black Browed, medium sized, breeds in the Falklands where we saw lots in 2005. The other, I can't identify. A big one, grey head, white collar and seemed to have grey underparts, pinkish white bill which might have had a dark spot towards the end. Dark on top with the usual white patch between the wings and mottled shoulders. White flecks on or close to the primaries. While it was with us there was also a tiny storm petrel frolicking around us, so we had both extremes of the albatross family (the big one weighing in at 10 kilos or so, the Stormy at a few hundred grammes – sparrow sized). The usual graceful Prions and big gaggle of white chinned petrels.

Now windless and wallowing, expecting a NW change later and a bit of a blast tomorrow sometime.

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