Day 7 |
Feb 15, 2010

Port Lockroy, Jougla Point, Afternoon At Sea, En Route To Antarctica Sound, Brown Bluff

By Luciano “Luqui” Bernacchi – Birder, Glacier Guide & Naturalist

Co-ordinates:64º49.9S, 63º29.72W

Weather: Excellent weather, partially cloudy, some sunshine, afternoon overcast, no wind.

Another fantastic day with incredible weather conditions and unique wildlife sightings…

I woke up to find the Prince Albert II, anchored a short distance from Goudier Island, where Prot Lockroy is located. For this morning we had planned a double landing in this popular spot of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The women who work at the British station on shore had come to visit and have breakfast on board. A team of usually 4 women run this place every summer, doing some research on Gentoo Penguin, taking care of this historical site turned shop/post office/museum and running the southernmost Post Office in the world, together with the busiest shop in Antarctica.

We quickly sent staff together with the station women, and I was soon on neighboring Jougla point waiting with some colleagues for the first half of our guests. I led two groups around the site, stopping to see detailed views of nesting Antarctic Cormorants, Gentoo Penguins, and the usual birdlife found here; including Southern Giant Petrels, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, Kelp Gulls, and a few others.

The weather was spectacular, and the towering mountains started to become visible in the gaps amongst the clouds. I pointed out the amount of ice and snow that covers most mountains, the rime formations, the summit arêtes, mushrooms, and how most of the landscape is plastered in glacial ice.

Just before midday the last guests returned to our ship, and we made a quick visit to the base, to say goodbye to the ladies, and have a short visit at the shop; it is my last visit this season so I wanted to have a look.

As usual, lunch followed and I spoke with some of our guest about the morning’s landings, the history of the bases, old whaling days, and other interesting subjects.

This afternoon two lectures were scheduled. Stefan talked at two o’ clock about Plate tectonics, in his “nearly all explaining theory”. His talk was very informative, and explained how the idea of continental drifting came to be.

We continued sailing northbound for our next day’s landing at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Recap & Briefing took place at half past three, and was a good opportunity for guests to ask questions, and have all of the Expedition Team talk briefly about various aspects of our voyage and Antarctica.

I had a lecture to give at 5 PM entitled “ Introduction to Glaciology”. I talked for about an hour, showed some good slides and a PowerPoint Presentation. My main intention was to explain how glaciers behave, where you can see them, and why they occur. Judging by the questions I believe there was great interest in the talk, particularly the possible changes Antarctica might suffer, the network of Drainage Rivers and lakes recently discovered under the Ice-Sheets, and many other fascinating facts about the “Continent of Ice”.

I had a short break and soon it was time to get ready for the Venetian Cocktail Party and Dinner. Just as we had begun the party, a pod of killer whales showed up abeam of the Prince Albert II! An announcement was made, and soon most guests were on deck to watch at close distance these magnificent animals – top predators, of the world’s oceans – and very fortunately our second sighting during this voyage. Impressive black dorsal fins, the distinctive black-and-white pattern, and the unmistakable feeling of looking at of one of the oceans’ most amazing animals, the biggest dolphins in the world. Killer Whale sightings and not common at all, so it is always a great bonus.

After a few minutes they were gone and our attentions shifted to some nearby Humpback Whales. At first we thought it would be another one of the many, always interesting viewings. But soon I realized we were in for a bit of a show and a lot more than just a simple whale-watching moment. 

I spent more than 40 minutes, together with all the Expedition Team and most of our guests watching all kinds of fascinating behavior put up by the cetaceans.
They were bubble feeding, spy hoping, flipper slapping, lobtailing, breaching, and displaying other acrobatic behavior while they played and fed very close to the bow of the Prince Albert II. Captain Alexander swiftly maneuvered the ship near the animals and they just stayed near, totally undisturbed.

After such an unforgettable show it was time to change course, give them some privacy and peace, and head down to The Restaurant for the Venetian Dinner.

I went to dinner feeling once again that Antarctica always has surprises to offer, world-class wildlife encounters, and it is never hard to explain why I love to return and work here.