29 December 2013

This might be the hottest day yet. Inside the cabin it’s 33º C. Outside there is not a cloud in the sky to hinder the sun so the heat is relentless. The sun is almost directly overhead now as well, 84º at noon today, so we are getting a real sizzling from it. The deck is scorching on bare feet and everything is bone dry. The sheets and halyards are stiff from having the salt dried into them and are reluctant to uncoil. Knots are hard to undo. I have to drink frequently but my body seems to be like a sponge that the water oozes out of as soon as I pour any in to it.
It’s as if the heat has worn out the wind as well and it’s just too much effort to blow today. It just wants to lie down and take it easy.

The wind was light most of the night too so we have a slightly poorer days run today. We’re still moving though and that’s fine.

We are about 50 miles to the north east of the Hotspur Bank. A pillar of rock rising straight up from the sea bed 3000 metres below. The contour lines so tight they seem to be piled on top of each other. Its summit levels out on to a flattish plain 50 metres below sea level with a single arm of rock another 30 metres high trying to reach to the surface. It was surveyed, I think, from HMS Hotspur in the early 1800’s.
Just inside there, between us and the coast is the Abrolhos Bank, an extensive shallow area stretching from the Brazilian shore to the edge of the continental shelf. Captain Robert Fitzroy of HMS Beagle surveyed this bank in some detail in 1832. He was a very competent and meticulous cartographer and his findings were used on nautical charts for many years afterwards.

On previous trips Fitzroy had been amazed by the overwhelming amount of flora and fauna he had seen but had no expert knowledge of and no time to detail it all. For this trip, a five year one which would take them westabout round the world, he insisted a Naturalist be onboard the ship to take note of all that was seen and to document it. The post was filled by Charles Darwin and the voyage ended up changing forever the way we look at the world around us.

We should sail over, or very near to, the Hotspur Bank in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

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