Day 9 |
Feb 17, 2010

Hannah Point, Livingston Island; Whaler's Bay, Deception Island

By Gennadi Milinevsky, Environment, Atmosphere Physicist

Co-ordinates: 62°39’S, 60°37’W

Weather: overcast in the morning, than sunny, partly clouds and windy, gusts 25 – 45 knots, temperature -1°C

The day started as cloudy and windy when we arrived to Livingston Island for our landing at Hannah Point. This site has more biodiversity than other places we have already visited so far this voyage.

Striving through the surge, our scout boat reached Fossil Beach where we dropped off Stefan to see if fossil samples could be found. When he returned shortly we recognised that it not so easy to leave this beach - strong waves hit and flood the Zodiac, trying to leave us ashore. With tremendous efforts we got over the tidal wave and left the beach, however not everybody: Stefan and Kara were left on beach to go for a walk to Penguin Beach along shore. We sailed to there as well, with our zodiac one tenth filled by water. We were wet with seawater but excited. Fighting with waves, we lost one radio. Penguin Beach was much more sheltered and we started disembarkation, however I had to go back to ship later for waders.

Hannah Point is a biologically rich site. Our guests can see chinstrap and gentoo penguin rookeries distributed in the rocky landscape. An Antarctic fur seal was seen at the shoreline. Fat and smelly elephant seals lay in muddy wallows, moulting and losing their top layer of skin. They should huddle together because seals lose a lot of heat when moulting. In the rocky cliff we saw southern giant petrels. They can catch strong winds in their wings for flying. A big group of walkers joined Stefan for a walk to Fossil Beach to see many samples of wood and leaf fossils in the sedimentary rocks. Unfortunately, we did not see any macaroni penguins this time. However, there were lots of vascular plants - hair grass was seen in many places near Penguin Beach. It was a pleasant landing with many new animals and things to see.

During lunch we sailed from Hannah Point to Deception Island. The ship sailed through the narrow strait of Neptune’s Bellows, leading from the sea into the caldera of Deception Island to Whalers Bay. Deception Island met us with strong 35-knot winds and a sunny sky.

Our ship set anchor and in spite of the strong gusts, the landings began with only minor delays. There was a low tide and the geothermal sources onshore were active. Lucci measured the temperature under the surface of the beach: +53°C! However, strong, cold wind did not make for pleasant conditions for a “polar plunge”. Groups of guests were guided to Neptune's Window along the shore between the tide lines, however hiking to the Window was impossible due to wind. On the way to Neptune's Window, guests saw a chain of salps (filter feeders) close to waterline and a lonely chinstrap penguin. Guests were interested by the water boats and whale carcasses partly buried in dark cinder. In spite of the strong wind, several guests decided to take a polar plunge. It was exiting entertainment how people jumped into the cold water and in moments ran back. The shore party always have a "polar plunge" by the heavy waves that constantly come onshore. All guests were excited by that real Antarctic experience. We safely came through the narrow Neptune’s Bellows in strong wind and start sailing for the Drake Passage.