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Archive for the ‘Swimming’ Category

Our next port call was Jubany, an Argentine base  on King George Island. Deception Island, an active volcanic caldera, was on the way. It is one of the safest harbours in Antarctica, so the ideal place to test the starboard liifeboat. The island forms a ring with an entrance 230 m wide called Neptune Bellows. Once inside we headed to Whaler’s Bay, a large black sand beach. Due to wind conditions the lifeboat wasn’t put in the water, just lowered and raised a few times. Then the Humbers were put out to do a few runs to shore.

Due to the volcanic activity warm water bubbles through the sand at the edge of the beach, perfect for wallowing in. Once the water is more than a millimetre deep it is Antarctic cold again, but digging a hole in the sand a hot shallow bath could be formed. To good a chance to miss we stripped down to swimsuits (or underwear for those who didn’t think swimming costumes are essential packing for the Antarctic!). I dived straight in, momentarily panicking when I realised I couldn’t touch the bottom, then recovered in the warm bits and repeated for a while.


All along the beach were remnents of whaling stations: large iron boilers to extract whale oil, rusting tanks, derilict buildings, piles of whale bones and an old hangar. It smelt of rotten eggs and steam came off the edge of the water. It was a weirdly atmospheric, but felt like the perfect setting for a Doctor Who episode.
We stopped for some science overnight arriving at Jubany early this morning. The base comprised of orange buildings, with very little snow around, giving it a very desolate appearance.

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I thought I would have to wait until next (British) spring for any open water swimming blogs, I was wrong. Yesterday I got up close and personal with the South Atlantic in the Falkland Islands.

We went on a day trip to Volunteer Point, a 2 to 3 hour drive from Stanley. The main attraction at Volunteer Point is the colonies of three different species of penguins (see previous blog). Penguins live near and in the sea. Unlike some of the Falkland Islands beaches the sea access at Volunteer Point is not fenced off as potential minefields!

There were two areas where we could access the water, Volunteer Lagoon provided calm waters that could (with the removal of the penguins and addition of a few trees) easily be in the Lake District. The second option was Volunteer Beach, with waves like a north Cornwall beach, 4 to 5 foot breakers. Obviously we chose the latter; the clear green colour of the cold Southern Ocean waters was too enticing.

Whilst looking at penguins I was wearing full waterproofs, a ski jacket, hat, gloves and buff. The weather was bleak – foggy and windy. Stripping down to my costume felt ridiculous so we ran across the dunes and down the beach. Amazingly the sea didn’t feel as cold as I was expecting – but there was a strong rip current. It wasn’t just a dip – we played in the surf for a (short) while until I lost feeling in my feet. The sea felt amazing, and the walk back up the beach after was not as cold as expected and provided some good photo opportunities with the penguins! I was very grateful for the radiator in the hut at the top.

So the largest King Penguin colony in the Falklands is not the only reason to visit Volunteer Point!

As well as swimming I have managed to go on some good runs. From Stanley I went on a 14 km run to see my first penguins at Gypsy Cove, then about the same distance along the sea front the other way the following day. My only complaint is the road surfaces – loose gravel does not make my knees happy. We are now on the JCR in Mere Harbour, part of the military base. Bertha Beach, a few kilometres away, provided an amazing run with dolphins playing in the surf alongside.

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