notes from the field

No. 20 - Getting the Hang of It

The gods have been appeased. After three days of getting battered by westerly winds generated by back-to-back lows circling the pole to the south of us, the weather suddenly changed. Within 6 hours the wind went from 50 knots to dead calm. The wind chop rapidly laid down and all that was left was a slow, greasy swell. We started two hours before dawn and set the trawl four times before watching the sun slip obliquely over the northwest horizon and bath the islands in a pink-red glow. For the next hour we watched the high ice fields of Elephant Island glow in a series of pastel colors -- horizon to horizon. As if we weren't spellbound enough, a sooty-mantled albatross made several passes at eye level within ten feet of where we were standing on deck. My capitulation had been rewarded.

Today we got in another four trawls. We're getting the hang of working the gear together and my job has been reduced to practically nothing. To celebrate, we cut some sashimi from Antarctic cod and ice fish -- the cod was rose-colored with a touch of fat and very flavorful, but the ice fish was milky white and for me it was too strange for a fish's lateral muscle. The cooks also filleted and baked a bunch of gibberifrons, a tasty nugget that's been common in our catches. Another good day.

But our luck appears to be changing yet again. Another low is passing to the north of us wrapping winds clockwise around itself and hitting us from the east. And tonight's weather fax shows little small-scale structure coming our way but an endless slope between an elevated high over the south Pacific and a deep low toward the pole. Could be some serious westerly weather. Yet again, maybe the Chilean forecasters, who rely on imagination as much as fact, are wrong.


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