-- This is a real story. --

Winter is coming!

ice and a sailboat
A view from the top of the mast. The black object on the upper right is part of rubber boot, a foot of mine. On the deck of Aomi, you see a rubber boat, paddles, anchor ropes and an automobile tire to use as a fender or a sea anchor. The deck and the Ice are covered with a thin layer of snow. There are several footprints of penguins on the ice in the upper right corner. (Magnify)

In an Antarctic base, I made up my mind and said,
"Please let me work in the base during winter. I tried to get out of the Antarctic, but every day is a stormy day. If the bad weather continues, Aomi will be buried with ice and snow. There isn't enough food nor fuel on board."

The answer was quite natural.

"You have not to come to the Antarctic because you can rely on bases."

Yes, I have been trying to rely on bases from the beginning. I expected help from the bases and thought of taking refuge there in case of emergency.

Just before I left Buenos Aires and headed for the Antarctic, I had called the U.S. Embassy and asked, "Is the Palmer Station in the Antarctic Peninsula still active?"

Three years ago, when the voyage to the Antarctic came to my mind, it was a mere dream and seemed almost impossible for a small boat like Aomi. I didn't even know the fact that some big sailboats had already visited the Antarctic.

Between South America and Antarctica, there is the Drake Passage known as the worst sea on the Earth. Does the small sailboat of 24 feet withstand the severe storm there? Is it possible for Aomi without a radar to sail the sea of icebergs at night?

Even if Aomi could pass the Drake Passage fortunately and arrive in the Antarctic , ice would shave off her FRP-made hull and make holes. If Aomi is surrounded with numerous ice floes, cannot move at all, and winter comes, the pressure of ice will destroy Aomi.

I knew that well, like every sailor having common sense. Even so, I still wished to try. I dreamed of reaching the southernmost continent of the Earth and the frontier world of snow and ice with my power at any cost. Striking scenery and exciting experiences, I could not image before, would be waiting for me!

"Though I don't know what will happen in the end, I'll try anyway," I made up my mind, and visited "Instituto Antártico" and "Biblioteca Nacional" in Buenos Aires to get information on the Antarctic. During the day, I modified Aomi for ice and coldness and worked hard at night as a private teacher to make money for the materials.

I reinforced the FRP-made hull with stainless-steel plates and meshes to protect from ice and put steps on the mast to go up and watch the ice. I also replaced the grease in winches with that of low viscosity, tuned the density of battery-liquid to 1.28 for coldness, made a prototype of ice anchor, and prepared everything for the icy water.

And then, Aomi headed for the Antarctic, capsized on the way, lost the mast, and barely came back to land.

However, I did not lose the dream. I did not give up. I got a new mast, repaired Aomi for one year, tried again, and finally reached the Antarctic.

The first anchorage in the Antarctic was a famous volcanic island, Deception Island, having the shape of a doughnut. Going further south, I passed through between brilliant islands covered with ice, walked in the rookery of penguins, cooked rice with the water from a glacier, and made footprints on the surface of the snow in the continent, Antarctica. Everything was new to me, and everything was fresh and vivid, every day was an unforgettable day.

However, I was not satisfied, I did not want to go back and decided to go further south. I, of course, knew well that a small sailboat like Aomi would be locked in ice if did not leave at once from the winter coming Antarctic.

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In the beginning, I thought it impossible for a small sailboat like Aomi to sail for the Antarctic. The Antarctic is a far and cold place with a great danger of striking against icebergs.

I was able to image the Trans-Pacific or Round the World navigation in a small boat, but sailing to the Antarctic was out of my imagination.

Why did I plan to sail for such a place?

a japanese book on Antarctica

When I was in junior high, I read a book on the first Japanese base in Antarctica. (The first wintering base is known with the heart touching story of dogs, Taro and Jiro.) This book might have made me dream the voyage to Antarctica.

Another motive might have come from the success of the sailing in the Chilean Archipelago in Aomi. Patagonia and Antarctica are said to be part of the same continent, "Gondwana," in ancient times.

It is quite natural that the Antarctic Peninsula and Patagonia are very similar in the configurations of the ground because they had been like brothers. The technique I had gained while sailing in Patagonia can be applied to the navigation in the Antarctic as well.

Let's check the position on maps.

a map of Antarctica

Antarctica looks like the bottom of the world, and its shape and size are unclear when you see the map on the left. There is a view from the south, on the right.

Do you know how big Antarctica is? It is twice the size of Australia. The closest continent is South America, and a peninsula is sticking out of Antarctica toward South America, as seen on the image above.

The distance from South America to the peninsula named "Antarctic Peninsula," is just about 1,000 km. It is only 1/10 of the Trans-Pacific navigation which Aomi made before. There was no reason for not going to the Antarctic.

The Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica is one of the stormy waters called "The worst sea on the Earth." It isn't a usual sea to sail.

As it is evident on the map above, the Drake Passage is further south of Cape Horn, and known as "the cemetery of ships" or "the cape of horror." Can I sail such dangerous sea in a small boat Aomi?

Even If Aomi can arrive in Antarctica, she will be surrounded and locked in ice. The sharp edges of the ice may make holes in the F.R.P. made hull. There were so many problems I couldn't fix. I didn't know what to do.

However, I wished to go anyway. I had desired to go at any cost. Antarctica was close to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, where Aomi was staying. How could I have suppressed the passion for the Antarctic?
"If I miss this chance, I will never have another chance again in my life."

"Anyway, I'll challenge," I made up my mind and started to collect information.

One day, when I visited the Japanese embassy in Buenos Aires, a man working there gave me newspaper-clippings.

There was a description of the weather in Antarctica. Let me quote it below.

a newspaper clipping

Just a few hours before, the sky in the white night was deep blue. It had been like summer with the temperature which went up to the freezing point.

Suddenly, clouds covered the sky, and everything turned gray. There were no boundaries between the sky, land, and sea.

"Because of this, it is hazardous even in summer. We have many victims," said captain Barrios.

When the snowstorm got a little weaker, we left the Base Marambio and had a trip of 2-3 hours to the Base Esperanza. In the meantime, the sky cleared as if the snowstorm had been unreal.

(Written by Syuun Tanigawa)

Furthermore, there was such a report in the clippings.

"Before we came to the Antarctic, we had met a Japanese yachtsman named 'Yoshi Kataoka' and his sailboat Aomi. He is now sailing Chile and Argentina. He is also planning to navigate to the Antarctic at the end of this year. It is very risky for a single-handed sailboat, because of the difficulty in watching icebergs," said Mr. Argoud anxiously.

iceberg Can you guess the height of the iceberg in the photo above? Just the part above the water is this high. The whole iceberg must be very large because 90% of ice is under the water. If Aomi hits it, she will sink in the sea immediately.

limit of ice

The above chart shows the area where icebergs have been seen. The red line is the path of Aomi. You have to pass the dangerous water shown in white-gray color to get to the Antarctic Peninsula. In the area, Icebergs have been seen before, but It doesn't mean the existence at all times.

However, as Aomi approaches the Antarctic, the chance of seeing icebergs undoubtedly increases . She might hit icebergs at night.

bed mirror

To avoid the accident, I made a window in the sliding hatch and put a big mirror for trucks to watch for ice from the quarter berth (bed). Spare mirrors and safety joints are, of course, provided for the loss in case of wave attacks.

The above photo is the view through the mirror from the bed. The black objects in the mirror are the mast and the boom. You can see the horizon as well.

Another problem in the Antarctic is the erosion of the hull caused by relatively small ice and floes.

brash ice
If Aomi's hull were made of steel, there would be no worries, but it is fiber-reinforced-plastic (F.R.P.) Ice may make holes in the hull.

reinforsement of the hull
After much consideration, I decided to cover the hull with stainless-steel mesh. The floating ice which scratches Aomi's hull would turn into shaved ice. shaved iceThe mesh was coated with fiberglass, resin, and gel-coat-paint afterward.

I also put 4 mm V-shaped stainless-steel plates to the stem (bow) to protect from the collision with ice, made watertight compartments, and a structure called "ice-beam" to reinforce the bow as well.

Though making many preparations against ice and coldness, I wasn't sure if they were effective or not, because there had been no such a small boat sailed to Antarctica.

Now, I have done all the preparation I can do. The result is unknown, but I will realize what I have dreamed of anyway.

The back of this page is a picture of snow taken in Antarctica.

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