Day 7 |
Feb 04, 2010

Detaille Island

By Kara Weller, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 66 52’S – 66 48’W

Weather: sunny and windy

Brilliant sunshine combined with fierce winds greeted us this morning. Illuminated by the dazzling sunlight, the mountain peaks and icebergs around us shocked our senses, and for those who ventured outside onto the decks, the intense winds blasted us awake. The scenery around us was stunning and we could see for many miles in all directions to admire the mountains dripping with glaciers, the rocky peaks, cloudless sky above a blue sea filled with icebergs of various sizes, some the size of the ship and bigger, others just boulder sized that drifted past us in the wind.

Our destination this morning was Detaille Island, home to a former British Antarctic Survey station known as Base W during its time of operation in the late 50s. A small hut stood on a small lonely island, although a French-owned yacht was anchored in the small bay just next to our landing site.

Luckily, although winds were strong still outside, the island gave a bit of shelter to make a landing possible. We took to the Zodiacs and went to shore to clamber over steep rocks and onto a snowy slope at the base of the hut. The small hut that comprised this station was not big enough for more than a few people to fit inside at one time, so groups took turns wandering around the island and admiring the scenery and the sunshine, the seals in the distance and skuas and gulls shrieking overhead, and going inside to have a look at the remains of the brief human presence here.

Having been occupied for a mere 3 years and abandoned in a hurry, many tools and instruments of daily use were left in a state of disarray in all the rooms. After a short historical introduction from Peter inside the kitchen, we were able to explore the various rooms and inspect the remaining items. We found tins of food, many broken open and rotting – cans of stewed steak, Worcestershire sauce, oatmeal and boxes of Grapenut cereal. Books were waiting on the shelves, boots and skis in the corridors, instruments and recording logs for the atmospheric research they did here lay scattered on tabletops. Blankets and warm clothes hung on hooks or lay on beds waiting for their occupants to return - which they never did.  It was a fascinating place.

Once back onboard, the ship turned north again and we had an afternoon at sea with a lecture from Gennady about the ozone hole, a Recap & Briefing from all the staff and a lecture from Luciano about glaciers. Whales were spotted from time to time in the distance as we made our way through the ice-filled waters towards tomorrow’s destination.