WEST­ERLY WINDS

Business Traveller (India) - - UPFRONT -

“The west­erly wind was pin­ning my hood hard against the back of my head so it was a Force 7 or 8, on the Beau­fort scale. We were sur­rounded by mon­strous swells, each eight to ten me­tres in height, which were them­selves be­ing shred­ded by the wind.”

This is zo­ol­o­gist Matt Lewis fac­ing the full force of vi­cious winds in the South­ern Ocean, not far from Antarc­tica. De­scrib­ing them in his book Last Man O , he wasn’t ex­ag­ger­at­ing. This re­gion, between the 40th par­al­lel south and the Antarc­tic Cir­cle (the Roar­ing For­ties and the Fu­ri­ous Fifties), where cy­clonic storms spin round the globe, sees the strong­est av­er­age winds any­where on the planet, some­times ex­ceed­ing 80 knots. In bad storms, waves can climb to 20 me­tres high, as Lewis knows, to his cha­grin. In 1998, the ves­sel he was work­ing on, the Sudur Havid, was flooded and even­tu­ally sunk by enor­mous waves, forc­ing him and the rest of the crew to aban­don ship. He and 20 oth­ers were res­cued, but 17 of his crew­mates weren’t so lucky.

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