Day 6 |
Jan 23, 2010

Port Lockroy; Jougla Point And Iceberg Graveyard (Pleneau Bay)

By Will Wagstaff, Ornithologist

Weather: Sunny for most of the day; very calm and almost warm

Waking to find it was slightly overcast gave no hint of the superb day to come as we glided through the spectacular scenery of the Neumayer Channel to our first destination Port Lockroy, the British Base on Goudier Island. Our Captain manoeuvred us close to the island and dropped anchor only a short distance from the base and our other landing at nearby Jougla Point. The guests were split into two groups with some heading first for the base whilst the second joined us on Jougla Point and its massed Gentoo Penguins before swapping over in mid-morning.

The hummocks of granite were by far the busiest areas with most of the Gentoo Penguins having two young. I was able to show a wide range of behavioural activity from mutual preening to chick feeding to territorial display. On the far side of the point, a scattering of Antarctic Shags were mixed in with the penguins, making the most of any mutual protection from predators. We also examined the whale skeleton that had been reassembled using bones from Blue and Fin Whales at the top of the beach. Part way thought the morning the sun burnt through the thin veil of cloud and lit up the snow covered mountain range that encircles this area. Not only did it improve the already impressive scenery, it gave the white fronts of the shags and penguins that extra shine to make the photographs that little bit more special. The shop at Port Lockroy had been very popular during the morning and there was some hurried postcard writing to make sure that they would have the base stamp when they were posted here in Antarctica.

The first part of the afternoon was a ship’s cruise through the Peltier Channel where we were given a send-off by a small pod of Minke Whales, a Weddell Seal and a Crabeater Seal. It was then time for lunch before reappearing on deck as we entered the Lemaire Channel, one of the most spectacular sights in the Antarctic. Another cruise ship, the Bremen, was just ahead and provided something to give scale to the grandeur of this photogenic site.

Having reached the end of the channel, we got ready to Zodiac cruise through the Iceberg Graveyard in Pleneau Bay. It was very quickly obvious that it was well named, with bergs of all shapes and sizes grounded in this area. Each one was worth many photos as they varied so much in shape and colour. The more compressed blue ice really caught the eye in the bright sunshine. Dannil was driving the Zodiac I was on for the two cruises during the afternoon and each had its own surprise, the best of which was the hotel staff appearing around the edge of an iceberg, as if broken down, only to flourish champagne and sweets for all. A good view of Leopard Seal had been high on the wish list of many before the cruise and that wish was granted for both first and second groups today, as these rather serpentine beasts slumbered on their ice floe beds. Occasionally they would look up and open their mouth to show their fearsome teeth but they rather ignored our presence as did the Crabeater Seals we found on other floes nearby. We were the lucky ones as we could go around twice as we made sure all the guests were able to explore this incredibly scenic area.

Once back aboard it was time to get ready for dinner. Christian and I were hosting a table for one of our birthday guests, Donna, who was presented with a special birthday cake at the end of the meal but this was rather surpassed by the two Humpbacked Whales that showed so well from the dining room windows. The Captain manoeuvred the ship so that we were able to follow them as they watched us watching them, a fitting climax to an amazing day in Antarctica.