Day 11 |
Dec 29, 2010

Elephant Island and at Sea 

By Mike Sylvia: Zodiac Driver and General Naturalist specializing in Ornithology

Co-ordinates: 61˚06’ S, 54˚52’ W

Weather: Windy and Stormy
Air Temperature: 2.5 C, 36.7 F
Sea Temperature: 1.0 C, 33.8 F
Pressure: 996 hPa
Wind: variable 8-35 km/h

My day started at sea steaming southwest to Elephant Island. The weather and rough seas have calmed down a little after a rough night. I notice that the ship’s speed is back up to 12.4 Kn. Expedition Leader Conrad Combrink informs me that Captain Peter Stahlberg has been on the Bridge all night doing everything he can to get us back on schedule.

Out on deck the sea was foggy but dry and I observed small groups of Blue Petrels wheeling over the waves. I also encountered a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross flying directly above me while I was out on the stern deck. The bird made three passes directly over me. It was nice to share the sight with a couple of guests who had also ventured out.

Bio-security checks were conducted prior to arrival in Antarctica. Special care is given to make sure no seeds, dirt, or other possible non-native organisms are introduced during our visit. I noticed that the guests had the routine down after our first bio-check prior to South Georgia.

Late in the afternoon we made it to Elephant Island with time to complete a Zodiac cruise around Point Wild. I was anxious to get in my Zodiac and ply the waters after our extended time at sea. The swell was up and it only added to the excitement. Chinstrap Penguins breed on the various points and islands in the thousands. I could hear their raucous calls before the disembarkation even started.

Two cruises were completed and I took my guests around all of the points and coves to get good looks at these beautiful creatures. Off course a major part of coming to Point Wild is to see the site where Ernest Shackleton’s men stayed and were rescued during the famous 1914-1916 adventure. I also showed those on my tour the monument commemorating the Chilean skipper Luis Pardon who carried out the rescue of Shackleton’s men.

The cruise ended with a wild ride of our own as we embarked the guests safely from the Zodiacs to the Prince Albert II. Hats off to the crewmen who worked very hard to ensure everyone’s safe return.