Co-ordinates: 63°23’S, 56°55’W
Weather: mainly sunny
Air Temperature: 1°C
Finally!!! Land!!! But let’s start from the beginning, from the morning. Another day at sea was scheduled for today. As we were meant to pass Elephant Island in the early morning hours, I decided to get up early. Sunrise was “announced” for 06:02, so I was out on the deck at 06:00. And quite some guests were there. Elephant Island could be seen in the distance, but also a lot of big icebergs were around us. So many photos were already taken before breakfast. We didn’t go closer to Elephant Island as we wanted to be down in Antarctica as fast as possible and the weather today was really good and the sea calm, we made very good process in speed!
At breakfast I had a nice chat with some guests about all the icebergs, about where they are coming from, where they are going and so on. It is always fascinating to see those huge colossuses of ice floating around, and to remind myself that there is only about 1/7th of them above the water!
After breakfast I spent some more time out on the decks before we had our next “Vacuum Cleaning Party”. As we left South Georgia and are now going to land in Antarctica we had to do another bio-security check on all the outdoor gear to make sure to bring no seeds or other biological material from South Georgia to Antarctica. That check took pretty much the rest of our morning time.
After lunch our tireless Expedition Leader Robin West called all guests into The Theatre for a briefing about our newest plans for today and tomorrow. As we had made very good progress on our trip south, we had time to do a landing later this afternoon. Brown Bluff would be our aim, getting ashore at about 17:30, till about 20:00, when the last daylight disappears. The way to get there is going through the Antarctic Sound, which is a spectacular cruise among a lot of tabular icebergs.
So I spent 2 hours on the foredeck, which the captain opened for this passage. Beside the giant tabular icebergs, there were many seals on the sea ice. Some Adelie Penguins were also around. But as we got closer to Brown Bluff, there was more and denser sea ice. The first feeling I had was not wrong: too much ice in the area to make it in time – as daylight was limited till 20:00. But our thoughtful Robin had already a new plan: Base Esperanza! That is an Argentinean Base close by and it is also on the mainland of Antarctica. After reaching them on the radio, they were more than happy to invite us! So finally, after 4 days at sea, we managed to get ashore!
We got divided in groups of about 30 guests and I was going with Christian, one of the base personal, on a tour. This base is also a historically important place, as here, 3 men from the Nordenskjold expedition had to over-winter, unplanned! That happened at the beginning of the last century, and that is where the place received its name from. “Esperanza” is Spanish and means “hope” which symbolizes the key feature of those 3 men for one long year …
On the guided walk we saw some Gentoo and Adelie Penguins at a close by colony, and visited the small, but nice museum with a display of the area wildlife and some equipment that was used in the Antarctic exploration in the last decades. We also were allowed to see the school from inside. In the base there are 56 people, 14 of them are children! And they stay for a bit over one year. At the end of the tour we were invited in the community hall where we were served coffee, tea and cookies. Bizarre, how we reach the most extreme of the continents, with cookies and coffee … and souvenirs, of course.
So finally, a long day with a lot of changes in the plans came to a good end! And we managed not only to go on land, no, we even managed to get on the mainland of Antarctica, for a lot of our guests the last missing continent!