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Adventures At Sea

February 28, 2000

Brad Avery

Editor's note: This is the second in a five-part series on OCC's Alaska

Eagle's 2,300-mile journey from Tasmania to New Zealand.

o7 Jan. 18, 54 South 161 East aboard Alaska Eagle.f7

It's a beautiful day in the Southern Ocean, with a 30-knot southwesterly

pushing us through big lumpy seas toward the Auckland Islands 100 miles

away. Alaska Eagle is running along at a steady 10 knots with a reefed

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main, staysail and small jib topsail out on the pole.

We spent the last two days anchored off the research station at

Subantarctic Macquarie Island, where we were the first yacht to visit in

more than three years. Soon after we dropped anchor we were invited to

dinner and met on shore by Louise, leader of the 40-person staff of the

Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition.

It turned out that Louise and several other station members were keen

sailors and enjoyed seeing Alaska Eagle sail past in gusty conditions

before we dropped anchor.

Dinner at the station's comfortable dining hut was full of good food and

conversation. We enjoyed learning about the interesting research being

conducted on the island's flora, fauna, and geology. It was great to meet

40 scientists and graduate students who couldn't be happier with their

self-imposed exile at one of the world's remotest islands. We discovered

that Macquarie, now a World Heritage site, is an exceptional island.

A lone sentinel in the Southern Ocean, Macquarie lies 900 miles south of

Tasmania in the path of the West Drift, on the edge of the Antarctic

Convergence Zone. Eighteen miles long by three miles wide, the island

runs north and south, presenting a slender barrier against the westerly

storms that march relentlessly around the world. The only other places

that share the same latitude are Cape Horn and South Georgia Island. The

weather is wet, windy, and cold year-round, with a mean temperature of 40

degrees. Rain falls about 25 days a month and strong winds are recorded

22 days a month.

The Macquarie Nature Reserve is home to millions of King, Royal, Gentoo

and Rockhopper penguins. Thousands of huge sea elephants and fur seals

also inhabit the island's narrow rocky beaches and tussock grasslands.

Along with 68 other species of birds, the endangered Wandering Albatross

nests along the island's steep coastal slopes.

The morning following our dinner ashore provided unusual weather: light

winds and sunshine. It was good hiking weather, and Alaska Eagle rode

easily in the exposed anchorage at Buckles Bay.

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