+27 (0)82 4000 470 rob@robcaskie.com

Visiting Shackleton’s grave again 5 days ago reminded me powerfully of just how the allure of the South never waned for men like he, Wild, Joyce, Macklin and many others.
After my spectacular two months with A&K, I flew home for 19 Days in February. Home now being Cape Town. It was a frantic, happy time, with battlefield tours, talks, grand kids and Karen. For those who consider Johannesburg – Heathrow a long flight, they should try Cape Town – Qatar (10 hours), then Qatar – Sao Paulo (16 hours), followed by Sao Paulo – Santiago (4 hours). Overnight, then fly south to Puerto Williams (another 4 hours). The headwind was such that we ran low on fuel, and had to refuel at Punta Arenas before flying on to Puerto Williams. Arrived at the ship at 10.30pm, in pouring rain, feeling rather spaced out.

This Silversea contract of 5 weeks involves a round-trip into Antarctica, then Cape Horn to Cape Town, via South Georgia and Tristan da Cunha. It has a been a wonderful experience, from end of season Antarctica (penguins and seals largely gone), to Albatross colonies on the Falklands, and on to the indescribable majesty of South Georgia. The programs on South Georgia to eradicate rats, mice, reindeer and invasive plant species have proven wholly effective. As a result bird populations have exploded, as have the Fur Seal numbers – now 5 million on South Georgia alone. Watching guests landing by Zodiacs, and standing with their mouths agape staring at hundreds of thousands of King Penguins, interspersed with Elephant and Fur Seals is an experience I shall never tire of. Nor forget. Sixty one fortunate guests chose to walk the route Shackleton, Worsley and Crean took from Fortuna Bay to Stromness. On shore we shared the history of sealers, whalers, ship repair yards and the like.

As Captain Knowledge Bengu of the SA Agulhas II suggests, one hundred years ago, ships were made of wood, and men were made of steel. Today the ships are made of steel and the men are made of …
Those early seafarers were a doughty lot indeed. Cemeteries hold graves from whaling/ship repair accidents, drownings and the occasional fight fueled by tensions and liquor at weekends. A whale flensing knife is a deadly weapon.
The long crossing from South Georgia to Tristan da Cunha is proving rough and slow. Burning plenty of diesel pushing into strong headwinds. Ships like these take on 600 000 litres of diesel (yes 60 tons) at a time. Imagine the bill!
The South has been extremely generous to us this season, but I am SO looking forward to the next chapter based in Cape Town. Roll on Mother City and 28 March.
My cup runneth over..

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