-- 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 a part of a 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. A thin layer of snow covers the deck and the ice on the water. You can also see 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 the winter. I am trying to get out of the Antarctic, but every day is a stormy day. If the weather continues, Aomi will be buried in ice and snow. I don't have enough food nor fuel on board."

The answer was quite natural.

"You shouldn't come to the Antarctic because you can rely on bases."

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

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

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

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

Even if Aomi passed the Drake Passage fortunately and arrived 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. The striking scenery and exciting experiences, I could not image before, will 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 to buy materials for the modification.

I reinforced the FRP-made hull with stainless steel plates and mesh 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 low viscosity grease, 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 my 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 sail 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 for me with a great danger of striking against icebergs.

I was able to imagine the Trans-Pacific or Round-the-World navigation in a small boat. Sailing to the Antarctic was, however, out of my imagination.

Why did I plan to sail for such a place?

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 parts 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 must 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's an unusual sea to sail.

As shown in 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 a dangerous sea in a small boat Aomi?

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

However, I wished to reach Antarctica anyway. I had desired to go there at any cost. Antarctica was just 3,500 Km ahead of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, where Aomi was staying. How could I have suppressed the passion for the Antarctic?
"If I miss the chance, I will never have another chance again in my life."

"Anyway, I'll try," 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.

A clipping described 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. We saw no boundaries between the sky, land, and sea.

"Because of the sudden change of the weather, it is hazardous even in summer. We have many victims," said captain Barrios.

When the snowstorm became a little weaker, we left the Base Marambio and had a trip of a few 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.


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

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

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

Though having made 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 like Aomi 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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