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.