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Xplore has maybe been silent from news in the last two months, but we have certainly not be dormant. Late in October just prior to leaving Valdivia in Chile I happened by chance to meet a commercial diver who visited Xplore as he was an interested sailor and wanting to buy some parts that we had no more use for. In conversation as we drove into town, I asked what type of work he did, diving on industry pipe lines, inspections and.............. hydrographic surveys there in Chile. Within the short 15 minute drive I couldn’t stop asking him questions about the type of gear that they were using and his experience, like a kid in a lolly shop stuffing his face full of sweets, I couldn’t get enough information or ask the questions fast enough. We ended the drive in town, and I had explained what I had been trying to organize for over 3 years, but which was a dream and a plan that I had carried for more than 10 years, and that was to mount a private hydrographic survey in Antarctica. Since late October we have been busy, too much so, but with good reason, we have just departed Ushuaia in Argentina, and we are heading for Antarctica. On board Xplore we have 8 people and some very special equipment, and we are going to go to Antarctica to survey. The project is an initial test to see if a little old sailing boat called Xplore can do what the big boys of the hydrographic industry do, and that is to data collect and produce an accurate survey of the ocean sea floor using the latest in modern hydrographic survey equipment. This is a world first, not just in Antarctica, but truly in the world, because no one has ever hung $280,000 dollars worth of high tech equipment off the bow of a sailing yacht and been treated with credibility. We have with us some very clever people, Fernando who is the Chilean hydrographic company who we have teamed up with, but also Yoann who is from France is is a certified naval hydrographer who has been loaned to us to from Shom (France’s hydrographic agency) who will qualify and certify that the survey work that we will do meets the highest of international standards in hydrography as set down by the IHO. We have carried out sea trials and calibration testing whilst here in Ushuaia and everything seems to all go, the support of many countries within the hydrographic community has been great, Shom there in France, NZ, Australia and UK, along with some great help from a good captain and friend on National Geographic Explorer we feel that we as prepared as ever we will be. We are all excited, and just a little bit nervous about the project, we all want to do something very special here, and to prove that it is possible, because survey work in Antarctica is needed, only 2% of the Antarctic coast line is currently surveyed. To have a dream that you see through to fruition is going to be for me very sweet and satisfying, even though over the last 3 years many many doors have been closed and I have been told so many times that it is ridiculous to think that a small sailing yacht can do what the navy’s and commercial hydrographic ship of the world get employed to do. Time will tell? Stephen You can’t help but wonder how early explorers from the late 1700’s through until early 1900’s coped with the hard ship of the frozen south, I think of them often, like now mid way across the Drake Passage. Even today with all the modern equipment on board and incredible protective HL wet weather gear with goretex layers, you cant for a moment wonder what those poor sods felt like and that they even had any fingers or toes left after a voyage to the “Freezer” as we often call it, remarkable endurance and fortitude.

READY, TEST GO - Friday, December 28, 2012

DRAKEONIAN EXPLORER’S - Sunday, December 30, 2012

For the team on Xplore heading south for our special project its important that I give thanks and acknowledgment to them all, at the start and I am sure at the finish. Crew: Meghann Jones, Australian (culinary whiz) Debbi Smith, Scotland (trooper with a sandy wit) Hydrography: Fernando Landeta, hydrography technician,Chilean (cant help but smile) Yoann Boulaire, hydrographer Shom, France (so hydro, he was probably born on the sea floor) Observers: Alesia Ramanenka, Belaurus (quietly knowing) Ugo Angelelli, Italy (Mr history with gizzmo’s) John Clark, Australia (Irish and infectious) Thanks team, so no matter what or how much we acheive, the journey and experience is what truly counts, because we are out here doing it. Stephen Wilkins, skipper and expedition leader, Australian (where there’s a Wilkins, there’s a way)

I often find that I can’t write, or maybe I shouldn’t write unless it feels write. The morning after has taken some time to come around after doing the hydrographic project here in Antarctica. This project took a lot, not just of myself but also of everyone that was involved, on the boat and on shore. It’s hard to explain “Why” it took a lot, but it did, and for everyone that was involved I do thank you from the bottom of my heart. We did what many people said we couldn’t do, and that’s a nice feeling to have when you do actually achieve that goal, but for me it’s not the reason why I pushed on with dogged determination, there were very real and important reasons in my mind as to why this had to be done. Even now I still sit and think about where this could potentially lead, not just for myself but those who are looking at the results and the obvious potential for this style and type of hydrographic work in any remote and unsurveyed area of the world, and there is a lot of areas out there. Our little planet has become small, but yet there is so much that is still left to discover and know about it. We are told of the horror projections for population expansion over the next 50 years, we are reminded of the damage that the past and current population is doing to our nest, but yet in the name of science and intelligent management of this spinning globe there is so much that we don’t know about it, and most importantly how to manage it best for all future generations. I only see the small example of what we were able to do down here in Antarctica last month as a tiny reminder that dreams and desires can be made into reality. Let’s not ever think that something new can’t be done. As we have developed sophisticated skills and technologies, we have also developed debilitating bureaucratic processes and protective plans that can actually make us less efficient, productive and innovative. For me, I despise the “C” word, because the word “can’t” means that someone has already passed the thinking stages of maybe, could be, possibly and yes, and has taken an easier route by putting a potentially good idea into the too hard basket. Stephen

THE MORNING AFTER - Saturday, February 9, 2013