Saturday, February 23, 2002

South Georgia Island III

As we sail from the protected fjord into Cooper Sound, the wind roils the sea's surface into an angry swell, blowing the tops off waves and sending us all staggering for shelter. Schools of Gentoo Penguins don't seem especially worried as they porpoise and surf through the maelstrom. I dash below to grab my biggest telephoto lens and stand in the wheelhouse doorway, dodging walls of spray as the boat pitches wildly in the seas.

Somehow in all the excitement, I notice the lens isn't there any more. I feel it slipping from my hand, slowly and inexorably, and watch it hit the rail, bounce once off the hull and disappear into the emerald green water, sinking like a proverbial stone. A very, very expensive stone.

We round South Georgia's eastern edge and slam into the guts of the storm. While the setting sun turns the sky a lovely salmon, our 20 meter steel yacht catapaults through a sea gone mad. With each wave the bow leaps skyward and at the very peak leaves us weightless for an instant before slamming down with a shuddering groan. Green water floods over the railing and a wall of spray slams the wheelhouse windows.

The crowd quickly dwindles as one by one the passengers retreat to their bunks or the nearest unoccupied sink to reconsider that last slice of pizza.

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