the weather to prevent it from broaching, but the waves push it back towards the indifferent mass of the growler. The sunken iceberg, having already made it this far from its glacial home, is in no hurry. It will take many months to leach its ancient freshwater into the surrounding salty soup.
Cactus appears at the wheelhouse door with a sleep crease down his left cheek and a thin smear of blood on his mouth.
âBit of a gale, Davo?â Cactus shouts over the back of his hand, as he applies pressure to his mouth. âFuckinâ knocked me out of me bunk.â
âThought youâd got into your make-up again,â Dave jokes without taking his eyes off the sea. âDressing up for the growler.â
Harry is at the door for the second time in half an hour. âWhatâve we got?â The first mate is focusing hard on the radar but in these conditions thereâs no way to separate ice from the green field of wave scatter.
âGrowler,â Dave says through clenched teeth. âWeâre practically on top of it.â
The boat lifts on the starboard side with the force of a wave and is tipped towards the sunken berg.
âBloody hell, Dave, move âer forward!â Cactus bellows.
A blow to the hull towards the stern throws Dave against the wheel. A coffee, which heâd placed hurriedly on the instrument table twenty minutes ago, spills across the back of his hand. It scalds, thanks to the wonders of insulated mugs. The boat swivels slightly, before slipping off the submerged iceberg.
âJesus Christ!â Cactus yells. âYou tryinâ to get us killed down âere. Go, go, go!â
In a break between waves, Dave pushes the boat into full throttle, before another gust hits. The Australis grinds forward and theyâre clear.
Dave grimaces at Cactus. âGo and check if we did any damage. As soon as this storm eases up, weâll head north and track the buggers from up there.â
âAnd what dâyou want me to do if we have sprung a leak? Stick me finger in the frigginâ hole?â Cactus, not waiting for ananswer, leaves the wheelhouse with a grunt, and Dave looks back at the radar. Almost unbelievably, the foreign boat, which they had been gaining on, is moving further towards the pack ice and then disappears out of range, apparently on a death wish.
âStupid bloody fools,â Dave spits, cursing their brazenness. He knows that, legally, the chase has now been broken and the Pescador cannot be prosecuted. Surely he can make a case for not following them blindly into the ice. He didnât sign up for suicide. But heâs not giving up without a fight, either. âWhere do they think theyâre headed?â
âGod knows, but youâre right not to follow them south,â Harry says calmly, squinting through the wheelhouse windows in the direction of the foreign boat. âThose bloody bureaucrats in Canberra wouldnât have a clue what weâre dealing with here. Check out the size of this mongrel!â
Dave cranes his neck to see the headless wave towering above them, much of it out of view. He grips the wheel as the boat climbs, pivots and then drops through mid-air before pounding into the seas below. Over his shoulder, through the windows along the back wall, he watches the mountain of water recede. Metal heaves and groans, and somehow holds together.
There are another half-dozen such waves before Cactus is back in the wheelhouse. âChrist all fuckinâ mighty! Enoughâs a bloody ânough!â
âAny damage?â Dave asks.
âNo, but buggered if I know how we avoided it!â Cactusâs ruddy face, which Dave has long suspected is a product of his love affair with bourbon, bleaches with panic. âJust get us the hell out of here!â
Dave grunts as the Australis hits another trough. The coffee mug rolls against his feet,