Halvard Mabire on the GOR: Approaching Kerguelen

Halvard Mabire on the GOR: Approaching Kerguelen

Thursday December 8 2011 Author: Miranda Merron Location: none selected

There we are! At 11.21 GMT “Campagne de France” has rounded the virtual mark at 42ºS,49ºE which forms the end of the first southern ice limit. We are thus in free waters until the next ice limit at 45ºS,100ºE. We have “only” the Kerguelen Islands to leave to starboard. The straight course to hit the western end of the second ice limit passes just North of these islands anyway.

We got round this mark with no trouble, taking care not to catch the buoy with the leeward backstay. We had actually marked this eastern end on our chart with a north cardinal buoy to be left to starboard. In fact I have sometimes hd the impression that we were making a long coastal voyage.

With the arrival of virtual course marks the whole thing begins to look like a children’s game, which begins like all children’s games with: let’s pretend that…. And as we are just big children we said to ourselves, “let’s pretend that there is a buoy to leave to starboard”, and so it was just as if we were looking for this cursed north cardinal. We were in any case a bit disappointed on rounding this buoy not to see a scoring boat. What kind of organisation is this? Josh could easily have been there with his Smart Boat, with Clive to capture a few good shots and Ollie to interview us. Furthermore the weather was beautiful. They would have been better off there than in an office in the cold northern hemisphere.

This needs thinking about for the next Global Ocean Race.

Apart from that, the Crozets are to the South of us and the Kerguelens on the bow. These are all part of France, but without the same preoccupations. Anyway, we feel rather at home. A pity we haven’t time to stop. We must come back some day….

Like many French (who aren’t alone in this respect because general amnesia is a complaint that spreads throughout the world faster than the plague), I am slightly poorly informed about the history of our country and I don’t know the history of these islands in detail. All that I know is that those who discovered them did so under sail, in boats that went upwind about as well as smoke and at a time when there were no “aids to navigation” at all. Neither did polar nor other Cotton weatherproof gear, nor any of the equipment that has now made navigation even here anything but a superhuman achievement.

The discovery and exploration of the Antarctic began seriously in the 18th century and we need only imagine the living conditions of sailors at that time to grasp the courage of these revealers of the oceans as well as the hardship they endured. At that time discovery and exploration were the destiny of a conquering Europe. We can surmise that today James Cook, Bougainville, La Pérouse, Dumont d’Urville and other great discoverers too numerous to mention would have trouble finding their destiny in a world where sadly there are no more blank spaces on the charts and you can “fly over” any region with a few clicks in Google Earth. I hope that in honour of the men who first found and then offered these piles of rock to their country, France will always hold and cherish these southern jewels. For the time being it does. Let us hope it continues to do so.

It is fitting that the supply ship for the Kerguelens carries the name of Marion Dufresne, one of the great explorers. It would be nice to see that name come up on our AIS, particularly since there aren’t a lot of others around this corner of the world.

Perhaps Ollie could do a little write-up on the Crozets and Kerguelens? That would certainly interest the fans who follow the Global Ocean Race on this site. It might be more enlightening than one of the various speculations on possible options for future strategy!

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