Day 12 |
Dec 30, 2010

Brown Bluff and Kinnes Cove 

By Uli Kunz - Oceanographer

Coordinates: 56˚50’ W, 63˚30’ S

Weather: In the morning blue sky, in the afternoon light fog and overcast
Air Temperature: 1 °C, 33.8 °F
Sea Temperature: 2 °C, 35.6 °F
Pressure: 1010 hPa
Wind: 30.5 km/h

I woke up at 6 o'clock in the morning and looked outside the window only to find the Prince Albert II surrounded by heavy fog... But the situation changed dramatically within a few minutes and when we arrived at Brown Bluff, our first destination at the Antarctic Peninsula, the sky was a bright blue, the sun was shining and beautiful ice formations floated around us in the Arctic Sound. This waterway is the only exit towards the Bransfield Strait for gigantic tabular icebergs coming from the Weddell Sea.

The wind was quite strong when I entered the scout boat and drove to our landing site together with the Expedition Staff. The tide was very low that morning and we had to maneuver the Zodiac carefully between the rocks off the coast.

Brown Bluff is a spectacular landing site with towering cliffs soaring to 740 meters and a big rookery of Adélie penguins. The brown cliffs are the remnants of an old volcano that erupted about 2 million years ago. Today, the parallel layers in the sediments are still visible and show the amount of ash that was ejected during successive eruptions.

I guided two walks along the shore to the big penguin rookery and explained to our guests the best location for building a nest inside a rookery: nesting in the middle of a colony, the penguin is under constant attack from its neighbours on its way to the sea for getting food; living on the edge of the colony, a penguin and its chicks would suffer from constant attacks from Skuas. So the best place to build a nest is actually in row 3 or 4!

Many guests joined the hikers for a walk onto the glacier, where they enjoyed a wonderful view in bright sunlight of the Arctic Sound with its magnificent icebergs!

During lunch, Captain Peter Stahlberg maneuvered the Prince Albert II towards the east side of the Arctic Sound, but within a few minutes, the visibility deteriorated and the ship was once again surrounded by fog. The radar showed very large ice fields in the sound and after a few dramatic moments, Captain Peter decided to turn the ship and to cancel our landing at Paulet Island. But instead, he offered a Zodiac cruise in Kinnes Cove, where we hoped to find less ice and better visibility.

The Zodiac boats were lowered and I headed out with 6 guests to explore the nearby icebergs, ice floes and the shoreline. It was still hazy and the sun was only visible as a blurry bright spot behind the low clouds, but Antarctica presented its icy realm in a magic light. At first glance, it looked like a desert devoid of life... but this world is packed with wildlife! In the first minutes, we encountered a Crabeater Seal and a Weddell Seal lying lazy on the ice and only vaguely paying attention to our boats. A few meters away, on another ice floe, a Leopard Seal joined in, probably dreaming of a juicy penguin for dinner... it was a small specimen, but showed its large teeth a few times, as if to let us know who is one of the top predators in Antarctica...

After two very eventful and enjoyable cruises, all Zodiacs were lifted up by our hardworking friends from the Zodiac deck and Captain Peter headed towards the gigantic tabular icebergs.

Tonight’s dinner was, in a word, incredible. Several enormous, jagged tabular icebergs, coloured in all tones of blue, passed by the windows so close that it looked like we could easily touch them... a few minutes later, three humpback whales passed the ship and dived several times right in front of The Restaurant windows, where all guests stood and uttered loud “Aaahs” and “Oooohs”! It was a perfect end to a perfect day.