The painting depicts David Lewis at the helm of the steel sloop Ice Bird late morning of 26th January 1973 in latitude 64 degrees 21 minutes south approaching the ice bergs lining the west coast of Anvers Island on whose southern shore Palmer Station is situated.
Under a subsiding force eight gale from the north-east, and having been previously twice dismasted, Ice Bird is under a jury rig using the boom for the mast with knots tied in the original staysail to shorten it, and the trysail set.
The perspex dome above the hatch and the rope system from the tiller into the cabin, enabled the ship to be steered and navigated primarily from the relative comfort of the cabin minimizing the time needed to be spent in the sub zero conditions. The steel plates bolted over all windows meant that there was “… perpetual gloom below…” Only the frames remain from the storm dodger and self steering gear.
In his book Ice Bird – The first Single-Handed Voyage to Antarctica , David provides a description of his first sighting of this landfall. “Beyond the thirty foot seas, amongst which the yacht laboured, gaps in the cloud-wrack revealed icefields sweeping up to vast snow mountains and, nearer, a jagged snow-streaked rocky pinnacle and a jumble of pallid tabular bergs.” …….” By midday winds continued to decline, seas still huge, if less dangerous … & sun intermittently visible.”
Later in the day as he nears the south-west corner of Anvers near the end of his first leg, he describes the magnificent panorama as “sixty miles of ice cap and glacier topped by serrated summits two miles high..” and states how “I sat in the cockpit choked with emotion.
David Lewis set sail from Sydney on 19th October 1972 and sailed through the roaring forties and furious fifties with constant gales, snow storms and freezing temperatures until some six weeks out from Sydney the Ice Bird capsized and was dismasted. A temporay jury rig was made up using the spinnaker pole, but after another capsize a more substantial rig, using the main boom as a mast, enabled Ice Bird to struggle on to Anvers Island where repairs were made which subsequently enabled him to continue his voyage as far as Cape Town.
Specifications and details on Ice Bird.
Designed by Dick Taylor – Sydney. Built 1962
Built of 1/8″ steel – hard chine design with 6′ fin keel
Ballast: 2.5 tons lead
LOA: 32 feet
Beam: 9ft 6in
Sloop rigged with roller reefing
Engine: Dolphin 12 hp petrol