Day 8 |
Jan 14, 2010

Gonzalez Videla Station, Paradise Bay, Antarctic Peninsula

By Claudia Holgate, Climatologist

Co-ordinates: 64 o 49’ 38”S 62o 51’ 87”W

Weather: Overcast conditions, with snow later

Air Temperature: -2.5C

Pressure: 983HPa

Wind: 65 km/h North westerly wind

We have had such a spectacular trip so far that I keep thinking to myself, “How are we going to top this?” and then the next day something really amazing happens. Our good luck with the weather God, however, was coming to an end and when we woke up this morning as Port Lockroy, which is an Historical British Base, most of the guests figured out something was up when the ship was listing to one side due to the strong winds.

Our Captain skillfully maneuvered the ship as close as possible to the station, close to the glacier, hoping for some protection, but the strong katabatic winds were not going to let up. The women running the base were happy for us to wait and see if the wind would drop, so Rich, our Expedition Leader, put on two lectures in the morning, while we waited to see what the winds would do. The first was Gennadi’s lecture on Antarctic science and his time at the Vernadsky base and the science that was done there. What a great lecture. Gennadi is a very unassuming man, with a lovely sense of humour, which comes out in his talk and it was fascinating hearing about the changes they have picked up in the Antarctic in terms of climate change and the Ozone thinning.

After Gennadi’s lecture, Rich and the Captain decided that the wind was not going to die down and that we needed to look for another plan for the day’s activities. Well, a most inspired choice by the bosses was to go to Gonzalez Videla station, which is a Chilean station in Paradise Bay, which we had gone past, but not stopped at a few days ago.

So while on our way to the Videla Station, Peter, our historian, gave Part One of his lecture on Sir Ernest Shackleton, which was sprinkled with his unique sense of humour, and left everyone waiting for the next installment, which we will probably only get to hear during the Drake Passage.

We arrived at the Videla Station at 1:30pm, and after having to scout a bit for a good landing spot as the jetty was too high due to the low tide, we managed to bring out guests ashore for a short landing at the base, where there is a small museum, souvenir shop and the highlight of the day – the resident leucistic Gentoo penguin. Leucism is a genetic abnormality where melanin is produced in the body but not deposited on to the feathers, resulting in the black part of the penguin looking as if they are completely washed and only a light brown in colour. It is different to albinism, which results in a red eye and pale pink beak and feet, these birds have normally coloured bare parts and eye and occur very rarely, about one in 40,000 penguins are leucistic. This of course was the highlight for me.

By the end of the landing, the wind had come up again and it was starting to snow, so we were glad to be able to get back on the ship. During our time at the base, 3 other ships came past, obviously also trying to get some shelter, so we felt lucky to have made it there first.

Back on board and half an hour later we were to have a Recap & Briefing from the Expedition Team, which was useful, as we have only had briefings for the past few days as we haven’t had time for recaps, however, today we could catch up. I did a short briefing on pigmentation aberrations in birds, Peter talked about the Charcot expedition as we were at Petermann Island yesterday and Frits chatted about the seals that we have seen. Time ran out and we all headed off to get spruced up for the Venetian Society cocktail party and formal dinner, which was, as usual, a most elegant affair.