Oh, what a difference a few hours makes! Almost on cue as we crossed 66 33’ south, the sky darkened and sea ice swirled out to meet us. By the time we were inside Matha, the transformation was as complete as if we’d sailed through the Lucy’s wardrobe and come out in some nautical Narnia.
At a fellow writer’s introduction, I’d just finished Midge Raymond’s My Last Continent, a couple of days before heading south. Without giving too much of the plot away, the novel chronicles events leading up to and following the horrific sinking of a (purely fictional) cruise ship in a narrow strait between Adelaide Island and the mainland, a strait nicknamed – quite appropriately – “The Gullet”. Raymond’s telling of the tale is gripping, and her Antarcticana is spot on.
The thing is, if you’d asked me yesterday where this gullet was, I would have had no clue. This evening I know that it lies 30 miles south, separating us from Marguerite Bay. Our captain has, perhaps read Raymond’s book, and has decided that we’re going to take the long way around Adelaide instead. Unlike the mythical and ill-fated Australis, we have a hardened hull and a seasoned ice pilot. But tempting fate and irony is seldom worth the reward down around here.