Day 7 |
Nov 06, 2015

Santa Cruz Island 

By Claudia Holgate, Guest Lecturer
Air Temperature:

Last night we anchored in Academy Bay, close to the island of Santa Cruz, where we were to spend our last day of activities in the Galapagos. Our landing in the morning was a dry one, onto a dock, where we were picked up by buses for a 45 minute ride to El Manzanillo Ecological Reserve. This is where we were hoping to see the Galápagos giant tortoises, which are free to roam and are not in captivity.

On our journey to the reserve we had a stop to see the “Los Gemelos” or the twins, which are two volcanic depressions formed when surface material collapsed into surface chambers. The vegetation in the craters and on the walls of the craters was extremely dense and green, very different to the habitats we have seen so far. After seeing these interesting geological features, we continued our journey to the tortoise reserve. This island had lush vegetation in comparison to the bleak landscapes we have visited, which is why I love this reserve so much.

On arrival we headed out to find tortoises and we did not have to go far to see the tortoises feeding on the lush grass that surrounds them. It was not just tortoises that were of interest to a birder like me. I saw White-cheeked Pintails, Common Moorhens, Whimbrels, Galapagos Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler and a couple of Darwin’s finches. The vegetation was lush, cloud forest type vegetation, with lots of “Old Man’s Beard” or hanging lichen on the trees.

We headed back to the ship for lunch and a bit of a break before we could choose to go to El Trapiche, an age-old sugarcane mill, where we could see how they prepared sugarcane spirits and coffee, or to head into town and do some last minute shopping and visit the fish market.

A small number of our guests went to El Trapiche. Here on arrival the owner demonstrated how they squeeze out the sugarcane the traditional way, with a donkey around a pivot, which crushes the cane. Then they showed us how they prepare the sugar, and the different forms of sugar. Next came the preparation of the coffee beans and how they roast them the traditional way.

We then made our way down to the distillery, which was a very primitive system of tanks, where the sugarcane ferments and forms a rather strong liquor, their traditional “Moonshine”. Of course we had a chance to taste it, and it was pretty potent.

After an enjoyable afternoon, where we could test out their produce, we headed back to the ship, where we had a chance to freshen up before our Captain’s Farewell Toast and the showing of the second part of our voyage DVD.

Jorge Prigann, our photographer, did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of the voyage and the wonderful experiences we had.

Day 7 |
Jan 13, 2010

Lemaire Channel, Pleneau Bay, Vernadsky Base

By Gennadi Milinevsky – Environment, Atmosphere Physicist

Co-ordinates: 65˚15’S, 64˚15’W

Weather: overcast and mild

The day starts as fog comes from mountains outside of ship anchorage. The plan to make landing on Petermann Island has been changed due to great whale feeding activity south to Booth Island in Pleneau Bay. Our Expedition Leader decided to organize Zodiac tours for whale watching. All then recognized that he was totally right because the whales were feeding in many places and our guests were so excited watching and photographing humpback whales that appeared on the surface, making huge gulps eating krill. Some of the whales appeared about 10-15 meters from the Zodiac and all onboard were delighted with looking at these huge animals so close.

I have taken several nice pictures of humpbacks that show his fluke diving deep to the water. Our Zodiac driver Daniil made it possible for us to have incredible pictures and also provided some lessons. At the end of the Zodiac tour we were rewarded with the sighting of a new species of seals - moulting elephant seals seated at the beach of Hovgaard Island. Elephant seals were the fourth species of seals that have been seen in this trip.

Sailing between icebergs that grounded in the bay was also interesting entertainment for us due to unexpected forms of ice – arches, caves, "mushrooms". Another excellent surprise was to have a glass of Champagne from the "supply" Zodiac in the water to celebrate our successful whale watching.

Soon after lunch, the visit to Vernadsky research station was started. For me, returning to the station was very exciting. I had been the first base commander fourteen years ago and spent one and a half years on the base wintering the first winter after transferring the station from the UK to the Ukraine. Our guests were guided around station by one of the wintering researchers who explained what science is provided at Vernadsky. At the second floor in the dining room we had a chance to send "Antarctic" mail, buy some souvenirs and enjoy a small drink in Faraday bar.

The day continued as we sailed back through the Lemaire Channel and attended a briefing on the next day’s activities. Suddenly, the briefing was interrupted because all were invited on the deck to see a whale breaching. Breaching means the whale is jumping out of the water, showing half its body or sometimes all. This behaviour has been explained by our biologist Fritz, who tells three ideas why it occurs. First - just for fun like a child might do, second - to remove parasites from skin, and third - to attract females by showing how powerful the male is. With that story, we were heading in towards Port Lockroy looking forward to seeing this interesting historical place.