Day 5 |
Sep 21, 2016

San Cristobal Island 

By Roman Bermudez, Galapagos National Park Naturalist Guide
Coordinates:
1°14'17.6"S, 90°27'27.7"W & 1°13'31.8"S, 90°25'41.8"W
|
Air Temperature:
24°C

Silver Galapagos anchored in Post Office Bay right on time to begin with our exploring activities. The night before some of our guests had signed up for a kayak tour along the coast in order to find some seabirds such as Lava Heron, pelicans, and American Oystercatchers, among others. It was partially overcast but even in these conditions this outstanding place looked very inviting.

We disembarked every thirty minutes in Post Office Bay, performing wet landings on its greenish sand full of olivine crystals. We made a short walks to the mail barrel to check and pick up postcards left by others, and to leave ours. In 1793 a barrel was erected by whalers and served as a primitive post office for whaling ships which often spent up to five years away from home. Nowadays this mail service tradition is kept by our visitors and it has become an historical curiosity.

We spent a pleasant time at Post Office Bay where our guests had the opportunity to swim, snorkel and relax.

In the afternoon, we began our activities with deepwater snorkeling at Champion Islet, a fascinating place where playful sea lions show their curiosity for snorkelers. Without a doubt it is one of the best sites in the Galapagos with its colorful fishes, sea turtles, sea stars and sharks.

After this activity we lifted anchor to navigate to Punta Cormorant. This is an excellent site for waders and ‘Arid Zone’ plants. The green sand of the landing beach was due to the presence of olivine. Behind the beach were mangroves and a large salt lagoon where flamingos were found. We saw at least eight flamingos close enough to count them without binoculars.

The trail led us to the other side of Punta Cormorant where we walked on a white sandy beach like sugar. Turtles nested there and stingrays could be seen in the shallows; that was why we were not allowed to swim.

This outstanding place is always full of wildlife; it was a great nature walk that everybody enjoyed.

Day 5 |
Dec 16, 2015

Mikkelsen Harbour (D’Hainaut Island) and Cierva Cove

By Anjali Pande, Marine Biologist
Coordinates:
63° 56.6’ S, 060° 48.3’ W
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Air Temperature:
1°C
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Pressure:
988 hPa

Our first landing today was on D’Hainaut Island, a tiny speck of an island in the middle of the large glacier fronted cove called Mikkelsen Harbour. The first thing we saw when we stepped ashore was three Weddell seals. They are some of my favorite seals with their gigantic round eyes and cute face. The two closest to the landing site were reasonably “active” too by seal standards. The lying around like a big fat sausage was interspersed with tail waving, head lifting to check us out, huffing and breathing out of one nostril and sometimes even a few whimpers and vocalisations with the chest heaving appropriately…

This little island is a bit of a gem as there are no restricted areas and people can roam freely visiting the hut on the other side of the island and the many scattered penguin rookeries. The high point is a great viewpoint to admire the 360o views of gigantic glacier faces. The remains of the whaling boat near the landing site were also just visible and some of the whale bones surrounding it were starting to poke through the snow. Despite being a grey day, the wind wasn’t too strong and hence made for a pleasant morning.

However, by the time we went out for our Zodiac cruise in the afternoon we had wind free conditions and it was beautiful cruising around this scenic place. Of particular note were some absolutely gigantic icebergs that positively dwarfed any nearby Zodiac, and a very special iceberg that was not just bright blue, but had three amazingly shaped arches. They actually reminded me of Taj Mahal windows. Almost everyone saw more Weddell seals this afternoon also as they lazed around on ice floes or bergy bits. Some of us were even lucky enough to see some Weddell pups -which is very special. Pushing through the brash ice in a Zodiac is a magic experience and makes you feel a bit like a true Antarctic explorer and made you appreciate what Shackleton and his men must have lived through!

The wind was just starting to pick up again by the time we came back after the second cruise, so we timed it just right. We had a very full Recap & Briefing and there was so much to talk about. Yesterday felt like such a long time ago, I could barely remember what we did this morning when I was trying to recount the day’s activities!

Looking forward to a true expedition day tomorrow – we will be attentive to anything that might come our way.

Day 5 |
Jan 11, 2010

Half Moon Island–Bransfield Strait

By Marylou Blakeslee, General Naturalist

Co-ordinates: 62 36’S – 59 55’W (Brown Bluff)

Weather: partly sunny

Quietly the day began. It was an unexpected quiet after days of wind and waves. This morning the sea was calm and barely a breeze could be felt. We landed at Half Moon Island on a cobble beach that rose to eroded rock pillars surrounded by Chinstrap penguins. That is where the quiet ended. Chinstraps squeak as they land on shore, they make noise at the rookery and the head-shaking squealing of their mating calls gets the entire rookery going. The 6,000 or so pairs sounded more like 60,000. Their little black strap makes them appear to be wearing a uniform. Because of this uniform, we bestow on them a certain purpose to their activity that we don’t assign to the other penguin species. They seem busier. They seem deliberate, and they are definitely more feisty.

One noticeable difference from yesterday’s rookery was the lack of guano. The trails were only occasionally pinkish-red from the remains of digested krill. I was left to ponder the abundance of that keystone species, krill, and its effect on the colony this summer. The rookery seemed busy enough with the coming and going of the penguins up the slippery slope to their pebble nests, and we did see some chicks.

The sun came and went, by the end of lunch it was out to stay. We hauled anchor and headed toward our next day’s landing sight while looking for whales. Rich Kirchner, our Expedition Leader, quickly found some humpbacks. Out on deck, I stood in the sun with everyone else as the whales surfaced and dove in the clear water with the glacier-clad mountains behind them. Cameras clicked, videos were taken and as we were about to leave, the humpback whale’s calf dove right off of our bow. I could see the green-blue color in the water from its white pectoral flippers as it dove. No one could resist the opportunity to watch the calf roll and wave its flippers, so our whale watching was extended a little bit longer.

Then we went into The Theatre for a lecture on whales in Antarctica by Fritz. The rest of the afternoon the whales came and went as we moved along toward our next destination. My lecture on ice was well received and shortly afterward it was time for tomorrow’s briefing. The days go by so quickly, it is hard to believe all that we have been so fortunate to see.

There wasn’t much time left in the late afternoon and early evening before I ‘freshened up’ to attend Captain Stahlberg’s Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party. With a British Antarctic Survey pin adorning my dress jacket I had a chance to again chat with both our new guests as well as members of Silversea’s Venetian Society of returning Silversea guests as we watched the Southern Ocean wash by, now that over half of our passage to the Antarctic Peninsula is complete.