Day 15 |
Nov 24, 2010

Whalers Bay, Deception Island, Aitcho, Barrientos Island, Antarctic

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 62°58´S, 60° 39’ W
Weather: sunny, snow and cloudy

Another early morning on this Antarctic voyage. Around 5 o’clock in the morning, the Prince Albert II sailed into the caldera passing by Neptune’s Bellows. The sky was blue and sunny and the whole island was covered with snow. A perfect Antarctic day has just begun.

After a short scouting tour to the landing site where the conditions were perfect, the disembarkation of our guests started. My colleagues Victoria Salem and Peter Damisch positioned themselves near important historical sites to give to our guests useful information about this once important whaling station.

After the historical introduction, to this site our guests had the opportunity to walk up to Ronalds Hill accompanied by my colleagues Shoshanah Jacobs and Franz Gingele. As mentioned, the weather and the site this morning were just beautiful. Snow reached the beach where Gentoo Penguins popped out of the water and had a rest on the fresh white cover. Further on, a Weddell Seal was lying right next to the shore enjoying the sun rays and the fabulous spring day on Deception Island.

A lot of our guests joined the walk up to the top of the hill, from where they had an absolutely stunning view over the Whalers Bay. My duty today was doing ‘shoreparty’, and actually under these conditions it was a very easy job to grab the Zodiacs coming in and help our guests in and out of the boat. In between, I had some time to look around and enjoy this wonderful day in the Antarctic.

At half past nine, the Prince Albert II was leaving the Deception Island sailing out through the Neptune’s Bellows and heading to our next stop at Aitcho on Barrientos Island. On the way to that island, we observed some Humpback Whales around 100 m off the starboard side off the ship.

After some 4 hours, we reached the Barrientos Island and a scout boat was sent ashore to check the landing conditions. While sailing, the weather had changed significantly. In the morning we had a sunny and clear sky, but now we had cloudy sky, wind and snow. Landing was easy at the island and we marked a path with flags so that our guests could walk along without disturbing the rookeries of the Gentoo Penguins and the Chinstrap Penguins. At the end of this path, my colleague Chris Hubbard was receiving the guests, explaining to them biology and behavior of these species.

Additionally, each group was accompanied by a member of the Expedition Team to ensure that enough distance was maintained relative to the breeding penguins. It was very interesting to observe the courtship and mating behavior of these penguins – some bringing stone pebbles to their nesting partner, some showing off for their mating partner, and some were already sitting on their egg.

Unfortunately the weather changed very rapidly and what was one hour ago a cloudy day with a little bit of snow, now became a very windy day with snow blasting over the island. The landing for the second group had to be shortened by about 15 minutes; still this was enough time for our guests to enjoy Aitcho on Barrientos Island.

With the now stronger wind, Captain Peter Stahlberg decided to reposition the ship in a more sheltered place, which made the Zodiac ride back to the ship longer and a little bit wetter. Although it was a bumpy and wet tour, our guests enjoyed this experience on our last day down here in the Antarctic.

Back on board again, this was still not the end of our expedition day. In a short briefing the Expedition Leader Conrad Combrink gave an overview on the destinations and excursions the guests experienced on this cruise and my colleagues Victoria and Chris gave a short recap on the Antarctic Treaty and the “matrimonial life” of penguins respectively.

Sailing away from the Southern Shetland Islands, Captain Peter Stahlberg traditionally blew the horn of the ship to say “Good Bye” to the Antarctic. An excellent dinner in our Restaurant closed a really exciting expedition cruise that had started 15 days before in Ushuaia and brought us to the amazing nature of the seventh continent.