(Here's a link to google maps,centered on the areas in the chapter, which can be zoomed and moved around, because I know some of you are like me and love to follow along and see the areas on the story.)
Note: on the map below, Cape Horn is on the island closest to the bottom.
A distant mutter of thunder shook the Florida skies as Joel, at the wheel of his black Camaro, neared his home. “Two months from today, we’re getting married,” he said, grinning at Lisa.
Lisa grinned back. “I can’t wait! August 11th can’t get here soon enough,” her grin faded as she added, “I just hope everything goes okay. Trevor and Shane are still God knows where. I just hope they don’t run into any delays. We’ve still got to worry about Bridget; according to Mr. Carlson and Jim, she’s now some kind of big wheel in a drug cartel and maybe still after Trev and Shane.”
“We’ll have police at the wedding, so I hope it goes okay. It should, and we’re going right to the airport from there,” Joel replied, a look of concern on his face as he rounded the last corner before his home, his headlights illuminating an unexpected presence in his driveway: a huge recreational vehicle. His eyes widened in recognition, his good mood returning in a flash. “Grandma and Grandpa; they’re here early!” he gushed, pointing at the familiar rolling behemoth parked in his driveway.
Joel dragged Lisa through his front door, whooping like a little kid at Christmas as he flew into his grandparent’s waiting arms.
Beaming with pride, Joel introduced his grandparents to Lisa, whom they had not yet met.
After the introductions were over, Joel’s grandfather said, “We’re only here for a few days. We’re going to spend a few weeks in the Florida Keys, then we’ll come back a week before the wedding. We’re here early; the park up in Jacksonville was full, so we just kept driving.”
“When did you leave Frankfort?” Joel asked, referring to his grandparents’ home in Kentucky.
“Three weeks ago, right after your honeymoon package arrived. We held off to make sure everything was okay with it; all too often, these free prize things are gimmicks or rip-offs. I figured this was one, but it turned out to be legit: the tickets arrived okay, and I even called the resort to make sure they’d honor it, and that the stay is transferable to anyone with the vouchers. Speaking of, I might as well give them to you now,” Joel’s grandfather said, deftly removing a manila envelope from his travel bag and holding it out towards Joel with a smile.
Joel’s father, Charles, moved fast, snatching the envelope from his father’s hand. “Ah, Dad, I’ll take that. Due to the problems we’ve had, no one, not even Lisa and Joel – especially not Lisa and Joel – is to know where they are going yet. Besides, we don’t want to spoil the surprise.”
Joel wasn’t thrilled with not being told the location of his own honeymoon, though a warning glance from his father let him know that any objections would prove futile.
Charles checked the contents, briefly glancing at the vouchers for the resort on Jamaica’s south shore before depositing the envelope in his den safe. As soon as he locked it, his phone began ringing. He answered it, and soon responded, “Yeah, he’s here. Is there a problem?”
Moments later, Charles returned to the living room. “Joel, speaking of the issues we’ve had, that was Officer Gonzalez: he’s on his way. He said he needs you and that it’s urgent.”
“Did something bad happen?” Joel asked, goosebumps rising on his arms.
Charles shook his head. “I did ask. He said that as far as he knows everyone is all right at the moment, and that he’d explain when he got here.”
Gonzalez had phoned from his car, so they didn’t have long to wait. As soon as Gonzalez arrived, he took Charles and Joel aside. “We don’t have much time so I’ll make this fast; I need Joel’s help. Bridget somehow got Trevor’s satellite phone number and called him, offering a deal. She’s expecting a call back. We think it’s either a setup, or an attempt to trace his phone somehow to find him. So, we decided to give her the return call ourselves. Joel, here’s where you come in. I’ve spoken to you and Trevor on the phone; you sound pretty similar. You know Trevor very well, so that’s another reason you’re a good choice to impersonate him. You also know Bridget well, so you might pick up on things. We’re set up at the police station to give this a try – we’re going to call from a satellite phone, like she’s expecting, only this one will be plugged into monitoring equipment.”
“Okay, want me to follow you there?” Joel asked.
Gonzalez hesitated. “We’re in a hurry.”
Joel grinned. “I can drive fast – just don’t give me a ticket.”
Gonzalez was already heading for the door.
Fifteen minutes later, Joel found himself in an interview room with Gonzalez and two technicians, who explained to Joel what he needed to do. “We’ll be adding some static to disguise your voice,” one of them mentioned, and then went on to add, “The number traces to a small business in Nassau. We think it’s just a relay to another line, but we’ll know more once the call goes live.”
Gonzalez set things in motion by sticking his head out the door and barking, “No noise near this room: this is critical!”
Joel had, upon arriving, been given an outline to follow. Now, he took a deep breath, glancing over the outline again, trying to calm down.
Gonzalez gave Joel a pat on the back. “Don’t worry about being nervous. Trevor would be too, so it fits.”
One of the techs hit ‘play’ on a portable stereo, which soon filled the room with the soft sounds of passing traffic on a somewhat quiet residential street – recorded just half an hour before by one of the technicians.
Gonzalez and the techs donned headsets to allow them to listen in, and with a nod from Joel signaling that he was ready, one of the techs keyed in the phone number and handed the satellite phone – encumbered by a data cable – to Joel.
Joel, pulse racing, listened to the line ring, and then click.
Bridget, sitting in the living room of her island home, was relaxing, martini in hand, chatting with some of her senior operatives. She’d been steadily expanding both the reach and power of her operation, including recruiting additional trained soldiers. The ringing of her phone caused her to glance up, a smile spreading across her face as she noted which line the call was coming in on. “Please excuse me, I must take this,” she said, hurrying to her office, where she pressed the button to answer line four. “Hello?” she said, in a pleasant tone.
In the Ft. Pierce police station, Joel tensed as he heard the familiar voice. “This is Trevor. Uh, I’m ready to hear what you have to say about ending all this,” Joel said, palms sweating.
“Well hello, Trevor. Thank you for calling back. First and foremost, let me assure you that I was never behind the travails you have so resolutely faced. However, I suppose it does not matter if you believe me, as it is in both of our interests to end this situation. I am also quite certain that you would find a million dollars quite to your liking.”
“Yes, but how could we make the exchange? I’m not going to trust you,” Joel asked, following the script.
“We shall enlist a neutral third party, a Swiss bank. However, if you shall not trust me, I cannot very well trust you. How do I know that you have it? The people who want it are not to be trifled with.”
“I don’t have it with me. I hid it. I’ll have to go back and get it – that’ll take me a while,” Joel replied, reading the line that had been pointed to by Gonzalez.
“Let us leave that aside for the moment, and focus on how to do this when it is in your possession. You may wish to take notes, as this will be rather lengthy. The people who want that tape will set up a numbered Swiss account. You will be able to verify that the funds are there and in your name, and that no one but you can access them or shut down the account for a period of ten days. Once you have the code, you will be able to phone in, and have the funds sent to wher–,” Bridget’s voice was cut off in mid-word.
“Hello?” Joel said in a tentative tone, hearing nothing but silence. “It’s dead,” he mouthed, handing the phone to a tech.
“The connection is gone,” the other tech confirmed.
The tech with the phone studied it for a moment, and then attempted to turn it on. “I think it’s bricked – it won’t even power up.”
It took several minutes for the techs, who had been recording the call, to notice the data stream and determine what had occurred. “They were sending instruction sets to the CPU, looks like they were attempting to hack the phone. Best guess at this point: they scrambled the operating system. I don’t know what they were trying to do, but it looks like that’s what they did. The Phone’s SIMM chip has been corrupted too, but if we put in a new one and refresh the operating system, it should work again.”
Gonzalez shook his head. “Not much point. I think we’ve done what we needed to do. Okay, could the hack have been intended to locate the phone?”
The two techs shared a glance, and then one replied, “Possibly. I’d have to do some checking, but from the way it came in, they were trying to take over the operating system, and that’d give them access to everything.”
“Try to find out, and make that your top priority. I need to know what they were after. Now, anything on her location?”
The other tech, who had been primarily in charge of that aspect, shook his head. “It ran through a second line, like we guessed. All I can say from the data is the other line probably wasn’t a very long distance call: the time lag is consistent for a sat phone, but if the other line was long distance, that would add lag. So, my best guess is she’s within one to two thousand miles of Nassau – assuming that was Bridget Bellevue on the line.”
“It was, I’m positive,” Joel said, speaking for the first time since the call.
“Okay, we’ve got some work to do here, so Joel, thank you, and let me walk you to your car. Keep your cell phone on and close for a day or so, in case we have any more questions,” Gonzalez said, ushering Joel from the room.
After walking Joel a dozen yards down the hall, Gonzalez asked quietly, “You’re sure it was her?”
Joel nodded. “I’ve talked to her on the phone a bunch of times; it’s her.”
“Sounded like her to me as well. We may need you for another attempt. Right now though, I think we’re done for tonight.”
Once they were in the parking garage, Joel asked, “She just called Trev out of the blue, to try to use his phone to find him? I guess the good news is she’s still trying.”
Gonzalez paused for a moment, deciding how much he could say. “I think so too. He was ashore at the time, so we told him to get the hell out of there and back out to sea.”
“Where is he?” Joel asked.
Gonzalez shrugged. “If I knew I wouldn’t tell you, but seeing as how he didn’t tell me, I don’t, so I can’t.” This was technically true, though when Trevor had called Gonzalez, he’d heard the crunch of snow underfoot, which had given him a very good guess, at least as to the region.
“So now Trev and Shane can’t even have the satphone on, so they’re cut off,” Joel said, in a glum tone.
Gonzalez smiled. “That’s probably the easiest thing to fix out of all of this, so you might be hearing from them very soon. Don’t let them say where they’re at or where they’re going.”
“I won’t, but they’ve been real careful lately anyway,” Joel replied, getting into his car.
Gonzalez waited while Joel drove away. Though he was no longer a member of the department since assuming the command of the state’s corruption task force, Gonzalez still had many ties in Ft. Pierce. Even so, there were several things he’d kept to himself, not even sharing them with the department techs, nor anyone else. One was the attempt to make Bridget think the tape was elsewhere. The other was to confirm to his own satisfaction that it was what she sought. ‘If Bridget fears that tape, then I have to get it, and damn soon,’ Gonzalez thought, his focus on getting Bridget. He had no way of knowing that his hope that the tape alone could end the threat to Trevor and Shane was a false one.
Bridget waited a few moments to confirm that the line was dead, and then phoned her hacker. The news that the attempt had failed again caused Bridget to shrug; she was displeased, but she’d mainly been seeking confirmation. The call itself had reassured her; she’d heard the sounds of the traffic in the background. She wondered for barely a moment whether ‘Trevor’ had been honest about hiding the tape, only to dismiss the notion out of hand.
Another line flashed for attention, and Bridget changed lines to receive a call from one of her operatives; the one who oversaw her contacts in Argentina. She began to smile as he gave her the good news: Atlantis was in Ushuaia and would not be allowed to leave for at least two days.
Another potato – Shane’s second throw – slammed into the patrol boat.
“Okay, let’s see what happens,” Trevor whispered, picking up his night-vision scope to observe the patrol boat. “No lights, no sign of activity. I think she’s stone cold and unmanned. Maybe we bribed that customs officer for nothing.”
“I sure hope so. I really fucking hate the idea of you tearing around the Beagle Channel in the Zodiac, especially with snow,” Shane pointed out again. He’d objected strenuously when Trevor had explained that part of the plan.
“I might have to anyway; we don’t know how long it’ll take to get the crew here. It’s seven miles on the course we’ll be on until we’re in Chilean waters, so that’s twenty-eight minutes at fifteen knots – though we’ll be moving slightly faster. It’s going to take them at least five or six minutes to warm up her engines enough to make much headway, so it all depends on how fast they sound the alarm and rustle up the crew,” Trevor said, patting himself on his jacket. “Don’t worry about me, I’ve got both wetsuits on; I’ll be warm enough. Let’s get the radar reflector and the radios into the Zodiac, and unlock the davits.”
Trevor had hoped that the patrol boat was unmanned, though he’d made plans in case it wasn’t. In that case, he knew he’d only have about five to ten minutes’ head start. He hoped to use it by hugging the northern shore and heading east, as if going towards the penguin rookery he’d asked the customs officer about – and bribed him for permission to go to in a couple of days.
By keeping close inshore, and using the cover of both shore and the snow flurries, Atlantis could evade the patrol boat’s line of sight. When that occurred, Trevor planned to take off in the Zodiac with the radar reflector, a VHF radio, and a walkie-talkie, and then head east at Atlantis’s original speed while Shane turned Atlantis towards shore. The idea was that the patrol boat’s radar would track the radar reflector, not Atlantis – she would be lost against the shore clutter. Trevor would play bait, talking to his pursuers on the radio, steadily increasing speed – the Zodiac could outrun the patrol boat – as he led them east, while Shane took the blacked-out Atlantis southwest at fifteen knots. Once Atlantis was well clear, Trevor would toss the reflector overboard and accelerate away, looping back unseen for a rendezvous deep in Chilean waters.
The lack of reaction to the potato bombardment actually made Trevor’s decision harder. He was leery of just running; he knew that with fifteen to twenty minutes head start, he could make Chilean waters before being intercepted. However, he was far from sure that the Argentine patrol boat wouldn’t just follow him in, permission or not, so he had something else in mind – along with the option of taking off in the Zodiac. “Okay, the Zodiac is ready, no sign of activity, and we’ve got snow. I’ve already drained the water traps. Get ready to cast off,” Trevor said, gritting his teeth as he fired up Atlantis’s engines, letting them idle for a minute to warm up, their soft rumble indistinguishable at a distance from the sound of the electrical generator, which he’d been running.
As soon as Shane released the lines and jumped aboard, Trevor gunned the throttles, turning Atlantis away from the dock and then, at maximum throttle, heading southeast.
“Okay, we look okay so far,” Trevor said, only to be contradicted by a voice coming over his VHF radio.
“Sailing Vessel Atlantis, Sailing Vessel Atlantis, return at once. Repeat, return at once. Ushuaia Harbormaster, over.”
The hail repeated three times, and Trevor observed, “Five minutes. That was fast. I guess they saw us go.” He clicked on his microphone and replied, “Ushuaia Harbormaster, Ushuaia Harbormaster, this is Atlantis, we are barely reading you. Say again.”
The hail repeated, and this time ended with a threat: “Return at once or you will be arrested and your vessel will be impounded.”
“Ushuaia, we have permission to depart for the penguin colony. We’ll be back tomorrow. Check with the customs officer; we paid him a lot of money already. He gave us permission, over.”
“Atlantis, you do not have permission. Return at once. This is your final warning.”
“Damn, that was fast,” Trevor muttered, and then transmitted, “Ushuaia, we do have permission, but you are breaking up. We are coming about; we’ll call you via landline from the dock. We are returning, over.” Trevor let go of the microphone, and told Shane, “Okay, time to find out what their radar capability is. Put the radar reflector in the bilge.”
“Atlantis, I copy that you are returning.”
Shane scrambled to take the cylindrical reflector out of the Zodiac and rush it to Atlantis’s bilge. With it below the waterline, it was out of sight to any surface radar.
Shane dashed back into the cockpit, and asked, “Maybe we should let your uncle know what we’re up to.”
“Good idea. I figured he’d call by now, but let’s call him. You do it; I’ve got the helm and I’ll keep watch behind us,” Trevor said, reaching into his jacket pocket for the satellite phone, and finding its battery as well. “Uh, the battery was out,” Trevor said, realizing that he’d forgotten about that.
“That might possibly be why your uncle hasn’t called, oh great and wise captain,” Shane quipped, giving Trevor a wink, though his mood quickly shifted back to one of worry and concern.
Shane made the call, and Fowler led off by saying, “I’ve been trying to call. I checked with the phone company; they said calling you wouldn’t be traceable. Our friend in Florida concurs, though for different reasons. I still advise leaving as soon as you can get clearance. Also, do not answer any calls if you don’t recognize the ID; doing so could wreck the phone or worse.”
Shane blinked. “Uh, we just left without the clearance. Trev came up with a plan to avoid anybody who comes after us, and I think it’s a very good one. I don’t want to say much over the phone though.”
“Shane, go send me an encrypted e-mail, right now! Let me know what’s going on.”
“They said we couldn’t leave for a few days, and they sound pretty pissed. Would turning around and going back be a better way?” Shane asked.
“Now that you’ve left port… if you think you can evade pursuit, do it. If not, be very cooperative. Now stop talking and send me that e-mail,” Fowler ordered.
Shane hung up. “I gotta send him an e-mail, telling him what we’re up to.”
“He’s yelling, isn’t he?” Trevor asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah, bloody right he is, though not as loud as he will when he finds out about your crazy plan. Give me a shout if anything changes.” Shane replied, heading inside to use the laptop – he couldn’t use it in the cockpit due to the light the screen gave off; Atlantis was running blacked out.
In Ushuaia, the harbormaster was mollified for a moment, though in light of the orders he’d received – courtesy of one of Bridget’s contacts – stipulating that Atlantis was to remain in port, he began calling the customs officers at home, finding the one he sought on his second try. He then inquired as to whether Atlantis had been given permission to leave for the penguin rookery.
“Yes, but only after clearing it with you and the Prefectura. I was very clear that must be done first, and I have told them that it would be the day after tomorrow before they could leave, at the earliest. I also made them aware that they must stay on the north side of the Beagle,” the customs officer replied, only to quickly amend, “It’s after midnight now but it wasn’t then. I told them this Sunday night, so I meant Tuesday. What is the reason for your concern?”
“They are at sea now. I have ordered them back and they say they are returning,” the harbormaster said.
The customs officer did not like the sound of that; his solicitation of a ‘fee’ was something that could prove problematic if it caused trouble. “They are young and stupid, but not criminals. We can handle this ourselves. Are they returning?”
The harbormaster had been alerted by his night duty officer, who had seen Atlantis charge out of the harbor. He could not see her himself; by the time he’d reached his office, she was already gone from sight, lost in the snow, her lights off. “I do not know. Shore radar had her going southeast, close to a bearing for Puerto Williams. However, she faded out after agreeing to return. I am calling the Prefectura.” He hung up before the customs officer could object, as he suspected he might.
The Prefectura – coast guard – office was closed for the night, though a patrol boat crew was on call. The harbormaster alerted an officer to the situation, and then let him begin contacting his crew. At this point, Atlantis had been away from the dock for twelve minutes.
Eight minutes later, the officer – a capitán de corbeta, a frigate captain, equivalent to a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy – was the second to reach the patrol boat, arriving just moments behind his engineer. “Start the engines,” he ordered, well aware that the process would take time he did not have.
The engineer raced to his task, which began with draining the fuel tanks’ water traps. Water often accumulates in partially empty fuel tanks, a problem made worse by Ushuaia’s cold, damp climate. The water had to be removed, and though the engineer tried to hurry, he was hindered by his numb hands. The task took him nearly five minutes, and had to be completed before attempting engine start.
Large marine diesels, due to their lower RPMs, do not have glow plugs to preheat the cylinders to ensure full combustion. They use compression heating, which requires a considerable amount of cranking to achieve ignition, especially for a cold start in near-freezing temperatures.
The engineer began the task of starting the first engine, following the usual procedure of cranking for fifteen seconds, and then waiting fifteen seconds. As the engineer expected, the engine rumbled to life after four minutes, soon turning fast enough to provide power for the second engine’s starting procedure.
However, in this case the captain had been ordered to sail with all possible speed. He was still short one crewman, but gave the order to cast off. The patrol boat eased away from the dock, barely making any headway. The captain turned her to follow Atlantis’s reported track, powering up the patrol boat’s radar as he did so.
As the patrol boat motored slowly out, the engineer focused on starting the second engine which, due to wear and moisture, took nearly five minutes to ignite.
With both engines running, the captain eased the throttles forward, gradually accelerating to thirty knots. Atlantis had a twenty-eight minute head start, but the patrol boat had close to twice Atlantis’s current speed.
Aboard Atlantis, Trevor checked the navigation screen, studying the small archipelago of rocky islands in the central part of the channel. His course took Atlantis within a hundred yards of the southeasternmost island’s eastern point, which was now off her starboard beam. Trevor needed to know what was behind him, so he powered up the radar, taking the risk of emitting for a few moments to get a quick look. He spotted a return from Ushuaia Bay, and knew that it had to be the patrol boat; it was heading right for Atlantis at thirty knots. In response to the sighting, Trevor yelled, “Shane, get the radar reflector, hold it high for about thirty seconds, then put it back in the bilge.” He flicked on the AIS transponder for a few moments to be certain that the patrol boat saw Atlantis, her course, and speed.
Trevor powered down the radar and AIS while spinning the wheel, turning Atlantis hard to starboard until she was heading west-southwest at sixteen and a half knots – Ned’s replacement of her sail drives plus lightening her and adding the ’57 bows had given her a knot and a half more speed on engines. Within a minute, Trevor had interposed the rocky island between Atlantis and the patrol boat, and also the shore-based radar. The tactic he was using was to let them see him running to the southeast, and then vanish to cut west-southwest toward his true goal, ten miles ahead. “The patrol boat just came out of Ushuaia heading southeast, and we just made the turn and entered Chilean waters,” he yelled to Shane, who was in the salon and typing furiously.
Altering course to hew closer to the northern shore of Chile’s Navarino Island, which formed the southern shore of the Beagle Channel in that area, Trevor pushed on towards the mouth of Murray Channel, now just nine nautical miles ahead. “About thirty minutes to Murray Channel,” Trevor shouted to Shane. They both knew that the time would seem like an eternity.
“The e-mail is sent, and I left the satphone internet hookup on so we can see any reply fast,” Shane reported, as he entered the cockpit.
“Thanks. Okay, if this works, the patrol boat will race down our course to the southeast. We should be southbound in the Murray before he figures out he’s lost us – I hope.”
“If you’re right, he won’t be coming into Chilean waters after us,” Shane said, more in hope than belief.
“He might, but not without having a good idea where we are. I’ll fire up the radar for a minute after we’re well into the Murray; the mountains should block the signal in most directions, but it’d let us see if he was coming down after us. I don’t know for sure that they don’t have shore-based radar near Ushuaia that can see us. I think we’re okay, especially due to the background clutter of mountains, but… what I do know is it can’t see far down the Murray. So if he’s coming after us, I’ll take the Zodiac and radar reflector and lead him off while you take Atlantis into hiding in one of the side fjords. I doubt he’d be willing to stay in Chilean waters for long,” Trevor said, itching to turn on the radar for a look, though knowing that he dare not – yet.
Time passed at a crawl as Atlantis raced through the light snow, the tension only interrupted by a brief e-mail from Fowler, containing the new phone number for the satellite phone – Fowler had called the provider and had them change it. The e-mail told Trevor and Shane to keep going if they could, but it also pointed out a massive flaw in Trevor’s plan, along with a suggestion that Fowler thought had a chance of helping.
“Fuck,” Trevor muttered, shaking his head. “I never thought of radar planes. If Uncle Greg is right and they do send one, we could be in very deep shit. The only good news is it’s stormy as hell out there.” Fowler had pointed out that the Argentines had, and would quite likely send, Orion maritime patrol aircraft – the same type as had detected Kookaburra when he had faked her destruction and was running without her radar reflector. Fowler was correct in his prediction; the Argentines would soon have an Orion joining the hunt.
“One of the nicknames for this area is ‘The End of the World’. I’m starting to see why,” Shane mumbled, consciously thinking of some of the perils it posed, though he was not aware of all of them.
The tension was palpable as they charged through the dark night, waiting for Atlantis to reach the mouth of the Murray Channel. At last, she did, and Trevor turned her south.
The Murray Channel’s first seven miles are narrow – often less than half a mile wide – and contain a few zigzags. Hemmed in by the high mountains of Navarino Island to the east and Hoste Island to the west, the waterway is completely within Chilean territory – one of the reasons Trevor had chosen it.
Atlantis’s navigation system was the only thing that made the night passage possible without the aid of radar – the channel was strewn with many rocks, shoals, and small islands. Trevor kept to the center of the channel, which kept them fairly safe from rocks, though not safe from another present and increasing hazard.
The darkness was not absolute; the light of a rising moon filtered intermittently through the variable clouds, causing a faint glow in the sky. Into that darkness, Shane peered through the low-light goggles, barely perceiving a shape ahead. “I think I see an iceberg, about three hundred meters ahead,” he shouted.
Trevor saw it as well and turned Atlantis moderately to port, steering to keep well clear of the berg, which had come from a nearby glacier. “Thanks. Given what’s above water, it’s probably the size of a house under water – the underwater part is about ten times bigger than the above water part. Hitting that at speed would not be good at all. If we’re clear after the radar check, we’d better slow down – we’d never see a small one in time,” Trevor said.
Ten miles into the Murray, at a junction with several fjords, Trevor held his breath and clicked on the radar. After several seconds, he shut it off with a sigh of relief, “Nothing behind us, not for a bunch of miles anyway.” He considered slowing their pace, but a thinning of the cloud cover and an easing of the snow gave them enough light, barely, to allow the spotting of a small berg in time to avoid it – he hoped. His decision was a matter of balancing risks; speed made icebergs a greater risk, though that had to be weighed against the risk of lingering in Chilean waters. Trevor was correct in his belief that the oft-testy relationship made it highly unlikely that Chile would give the Argentine patrol boat permission to enter their waters, but he had no idea what the Chileans would do if it was they who found Atlantis – he’d entered their waters without permission, and they might well prefer to hand Atlantis over to Argentina rather than create an incident.
Trevor began shedding his coat and pants, and then struggled out of the first of the two wetsuits he was wearing. “I think we’re safe from me having to take off in the Zodiac at short notice to play bait. Put the wetsuit on; we’re heading for rough seas.”
After twenty miles in the Murray Channel, Atlantis entered Nassau Bay, a huge bay featuring broad straits leading east and southwest. Thirty miles to the south of Atlantis lay the Hermite Archipelago; a cluster of large islands which included as its southernmost Hornos Island, which had, as its southernmost promontory, Cape Horn.
Trevor hadn’t had a chance to discuss with Shane the details of their route once past Nassau Bay, so Shane looked on in puzzlement as Trevor turned Atlantis south-southwest. “Uh, I thought we were going to turn east?” Shane asked.
“We are, eventually. But what’s the last thing they’d expect?”
“Heading for Antarctica in the middle of winter?” Shane quipped. Trevor’s grin, looking downright demonic in the faint light given off by the navigation screen, provided the answer. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding!” Shane exclaimed.
Trevor chuckled. “Not all the way there, not even close. Drake Passage – the strait between Cape Horn and Antarctica – is about five hundred miles wide. We’ll only go south about thirty miles into it past the cape, then turn due east. That’ll keep us a long way from Argentinean territory. And, uh, you’ll like this bit: we’re going to enter Drake Passage just west of Cape Horn, so we’ll be rounding it for real, and the weather plot says it’s blowing at gale force out there, with very heavy seas.”
“You’re just overflowing with good news, aren’t you?” Shane grumbled, while giving Trevor a nudge to let him know he wasn’t serious. “How long until we’re safe… or at least safer, from pursuit anyway?” he asked.
Trevor checked the navigation screen, bringing up their planned course. “We should be past Cape Horn by dawn. From there, it’s about three hundred and fifty nautical miles to safety – safe from Argentina, anyway. If we figure twelve knots running before the storm, that’s thirty hours past Cape Horn, give or take, then about seventeen more into Port Stanley in the Falklands.”
Trevor’s course through the Hermite Archipelago was a challenging one. Eschewing the broad straits, he took the less-likely route through the small straits between the islands, culminating in the strait between Jerdan and Herschel Islands. This placed Atlantis southbound along the exposed western shore of Hornos Island in rising seas and winds.
Battling southward in the heavy westerly swell and wind, Atlantis was lit by the first light of a gray and stormy dawn. The snow had ceased during the night, though the skies were still cloudy. Trevor pointed to the east, at a high promontory two miles to port. “That’s it, Cape Horn, he said, shivering from more than the cold. The air temperature was just below freezing. “It kinda looks a bit like the Rock of Gibraltar at this end.” Trevor used the binoculars for a closer look at the tip of the promontory, sighting the stylized albatross sculpture, placed there as a memorial to the thousands who had perished at sea over the centuries, lost trying to round the cape.
Shane took a look through binoculars at the forlorn promontory. “Cape Horn. That’s something I never thought I’d see – and never wanted to,” he quipped, struggling to keep his footing on the rolling deck.
What Shane didn’t know was that someone with military-issue binoculars was looking right back at him.
A Discussion thread for this chapter is in my forum, please have a look and join in. direct link here. The forum enables conversations so in many cases it's a far easier to use it than the "leave a comment" section on this page, so I suggest having a look, but use whichever (or both) you are more comfortable with .