Day 5 |
Feb 13, 2010

Cuverville And Brown Base (Paradise Bay), Antarctica

By Claudia Holgate, Climatologist

Co-ordinates: 64o 56’ 40”S 63o 39’ 55”W

Weather: Calm partly overcast conditions

Air Temperature: -1.5C

Wind: 24km/h Northerly Wind

Pressure: 1004 HPa

Today was a very busy day for us with two landings and a Zodiac cruise and after yesterday’s spectacular weather, we were hoping for a similar day today. The weather was good in that there was very little wind (any day in Antarctica without wind is a good day), and the skies started out with a bit of blue sticking out, but soon it was overcast and we did even experience a light dusting of snow.

Our morning landing was at Cuverville Island, which is a Gentoo penguin colony and where one could get a good look at all the chicks that had grown now and were in the crèche stage, where they get left to their own devices while the adults go out and feed. Being like your average teenager all they do is sleep and when the adults arrive back, demand to be fed. The feeding chases, with the juveniles chasing the adults for food, are very comical to watch and where I was stationed there were some lovely smooth rocks for guests to perch on and watch the penguin soap opera unfold in front of us. I managed to find some Antarctic Hair grass, one of only two vascular plant species in the Antarctic, so it was great to be able to show our guests something really quite unusual.

We all went back to the ship for a superb lunch before our afternoon’s activity for the day, which was a landing at Brown Base in Paradise Bay. This is considered a continental landing, the first of our trip as we missed out on Brown Bluff earlier in the trip. There is not much to see on the landing site although a walk was offered halfway up the hill, as it was too icy to go to the top. There was still a great view to be seen, though.

I was driving Zodiacs and took two tours of just over an hour each around Paradise Bay and Skonscorp Cove. The Zodiac cruise around Paradise Bay is one of my favourites, as there is so much to see. On arrival there was a pair of humpback whales in the bay and we went across to watch them. They were only logging at the surface and not moving a lot so we went over to an ice floe where there was a resting crab eater seal that everyone could get a good look at. We then went back past the station with its Gentoo penguins and just around the corner we come across a colony of nesting shags with their chicks, which are getting quite big now and many are already flying and feeding themselves. The ubiquitous Snowy Sheathbill was there too, cleaning up the bird droppings and harassing the birds as they always do. After watching them for a while we spotted a Snowy Sheathbill chick pop its head out from under some rocks, which was a real treat.

A little further on we got to see the nesting Cape Petrels, which are so well hidden that it was really tough pointing them out to our guests, although eventually everyone did get a good view of them. The malachite streaks down the cliff face are also one of my favourite stops and well worth a stop.

Later in the Zodiac cruise we went past the glacier face with its magnificent blue crags and gave the guests the chance to experience the silence of Antarctica with the crackling ice melting all around us.

We made it back to the ship and had just over an hour before our Recap & Briefing. Tonight we went through the LeMaire channel at sunset, so we all headed out with our parkas and scarves to see our transit through what is colloquially known as Kodak Channel as it is probably one of the most photographed channels in the world. As we entered the channel, I saw something pop out of the water about 100m from the ship. “Whale!” No – it was a Killer Whale, but more than that – it was 9 Killer Whales! As we approached them, they came right up to the ship and gave everybody fantastic views of the Antarctic’s apex predator. We watched them for a while until we saw them move into the distance and we could complete our transit of this beautiful channel.