Icebergs may force closure of Antarctica Racetrack

Antarctica Cup: March 1 2008: Satellite image of huge iceberg and hundreds of smaller bergs situated close to South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic. This massive berg measures 42km x 12km and is located at 53.84S, 34.65W and is the likely source of thousands of other smaller icebergs.ÊSouth Georgia by comparision measures 180km. The iceberg field spans hundreds of miles and avoiding individual icebergs as he has done in the past will be very dangerous.Ê I have attached a couple of picture

As Russian solo circumnavigator Fedor Konyukhov draws to within 1,000 miles of Cape Horn, the continuous rain squalls and threat posed by an increasing number of iceberg sightings are stretching the 56 year old Russian adventurer close to the limits of endurance.

'It has been pouring rain for 36 days of the 39 days I have been at sea. Everything is wet and damp. So much fresh water in the Southern ocean is unbelievable -- and it is all being wasted. If we could only transfer these clouds over central Australia, the region would soon become a tropical rain forest!

I have done a good many expeditions across both the Arctic and Antarctic, but this time I am finding these wet, cold conditions extremely debilitating. After a month at sea, I desperately needed a good wash, and eventually forced myself to take a shower on deck. It was very quick, and I then rushed back down to my sleeping bag. But that is no sanctuary, because I woke up still shivering and shaking.

To make things worse, I have now seen 10 icebergs during the past week. How many more have I missed? I am on constant alert and getting very little sleep.'

Another issue Fedor now has to contend with, is a torn mainsail. Two vertical splits have appeared down the centre of the sail above the second reef point. These have been caused by the constant flogging in the very light winds experienced during the past two days.

'The breeze has returned now, which is a relief, but I have to plan to pull the sail down and stick a Spectra patch over the area. To do this, the surface needs to be dry -- and for that it needs to stop raining! Here on 55 South we get only 5 hours of darkness, but it is mostly grey and foggy. Below decks, it is like living in a cold, wet cellar. Above deck just add chilling wind and rain to that scenario.'

The latest news from the C-Core Ice detection service, providing routing advice to the Antarctica Cup Race Management suggests that there will be no let-up in these conditions even after Fedor has rounded Cape Horn. Pradeep Bobby writes: 'Our detection data from the March 1 satellite pass show a lot of icebergs - more than I have ever seen before. There is a massive berg 42km x 12km located at 53.84S, 34.65W close to South Georgia Island which may be the source of thousands of other smaller icebergs that are listed in the results.

The iceberg field now spans hundreds of miles and avoiding individual icebergs as Fedor has done in the past will be very dangerous. The large fissure in the middle of this iceberg, indicates that the iceberg could be unstable and may break up soon, which would mean even more ice pieces. The picture drew a lot of excitement in the office today, mingled with fear for how Fedor would chart his course.'

This concern is replicated at the Antarctica Cup Racetrack race control centre in Albany. Bob Williams, the Race Director says: 'We are monitoring the situation on an hourly basis. The rules allow us to close off one or more lanes within the Antarctica Cup Racetrack and once Fedor rounds Cape Horn, we are looking to limit Fedor to the outer lane between 45° and 50° S between the longitudes of 30° to 50° W - 10° to the east and west of Gate 10 on the Antarctica Cup Racetrack . We are asking our weather and ice experts for more information and will make our decision within the next 24 hours.'

Dateline 11: 30 UTC 5th March 2008 Day 39 of the Antarctica Cup Racetrack record attempt

Position: 56° 29'S 101° 54 'W
Speed: 8 knots Course: 97°