Day 4 |
Jan 21, 2010

Devil Island, Brown Bluff

By Fritz Jantschke, Zoologist

Co-ordinates: 63o 47’S 57o  18‘W

Weather: Rain and snow, little wind in the morning, gusty in the afternoon

Air Temperature: - 3º C

Pressure: 988 hPA

On the previous days we could get up late – today I am up and ready well before 5 o’clock, as we are scheduled to pass through the narrow and beautiful Fritjof Sound at that time. There are plenty of icebergs around and snow petrels and other birds in the air, but unfortunately the weather has not kept up with the forecast: it is cloudy and even raining and snowing a bit. Not surprisingly, only few guests venture out on deck. The hardiest and keenest ones join us to enjoy the scenery. Of course they are not getting the sunrise we were all hoping for.

At 7:30 we arrive at Devil Island, our first landing site for the day. The weather has not improved, and during our whole stay at this beautiful and historic island it never stops snowing. The Expedition Team determines quickly that only one ascent over the rookery of Adelie penguins is easily and safely accessible. It is a bit steep and slippery at first, and therefore some of the guests give up after a few minutes and return to the beach. They are offered a Zodiac ride before being returned to the ship. The majority are rewarded with a great walk above the penguin colony. They can observe much interesting behavior like feeding of the chicks and food chases, and also several attempts by skuas to catch a penguin chick. More than 30, a good third of the guests, are even following Peter up to one of the horns that gave the island its name. Although the weather is not good for a marvelous view, it is certainly worthwhile to be able to take in the whole scenery with the penguin rookery below and the bay filled with plenty of icebergs of all dimensions. The last guests returning to the Zodiacs just before 11:00 can observe several attempts of skuas to catch a penguin chick, but can also witness how important the formation of crèches (kindergarten groups) is for the survival of penguin chicks – all the attacks of skuas fail. At 11 o’clock all guests are safely back on board and are rewarded with a hot drink. And we are soon heading back north to reach our destination for the afternoon.

Although the weather never improves during our short cruise back to Brown Bluff that we passed early in the morning, the Captain makes it very interesting by doing some exciting detours close to great tabular icebergs along the way. We reach our destination only very briefly after schedule, at around 14.15, and are ready to bring the first Zodiac with guests to shore fifteen minutes later. They are all greeted by geologist David with an interesting talk about the origin of this sub-glacial mountain. The gentoo penguins along the path are apparently doing well with their chicks. However, the Adelie colony at the end of our walk is very thinly populated and contains only a small number of offspring. It is also surprising that the nesting area is not red with krill guano. Apparently only very little of that main food item of the Adelies is available this year, at least in this area. The activities are therefore not quite as manifold and entertaining as “normal” here. The snow blown in by gusting winds in ever-changing directions is becoming increasingly unpleasant. Because of the unfavorable conditions we also cannot offer the glacier walk. Therefore many of the guests are heading back to the ship earlier than anticipated, and the last Zodiac leaves at 16:40, twenty minutes before schedule. Nevertheless we certainly had a marvelous day with great Antarctic experiences. Soon we are heading back through the Antarctic Sound, ready for our next adventures. And on the way – and all through our dinner – we are rewarded with great sightings of icebergs along the way.