Day 4 |
Jan 18, 2011

 Brown Bluff, Antarctic Peninsula; Antarctic Sound 

By by Christian Walter, Historian


Co-ordinates: 63° 38’ S, 56° 52’ W for Brown Bluff
Weather: windy and overcast, occasional snowfall
Air Temperature: -2° C
Pressure: 997hPa
Wind: 30 kph

An early-morning call was advised today, as we were supposed to go ashore at Brown Bluff at 6:00 a.m. Groups Two and Three were the fortunate ones whose turns it was to go ashore first, Groups Four and One were fortunate to be able to sleep in a little; it would be their turn to venture onto the Antarctic Mainland at around 8:oo a.m.

The morning looked not as promising as predicted the day before – the storm in the Drake Passage was still affecting the Antarctic Sound. Low clouds, strong winds, cold temperature and snow brought forth a different picture of Brown Bluff: today it seemed to be “Grey” Bluff. Ice clogged the anchorage and Captain Golubev had to maneuver the Prince Albert II during much of the morning to keep her in a sheltered position not too far from our landing site.

The scout-boat went ashore with Aiello, Luke, and me, setting up the perimeter, getting ready for the first two groups. The penguins were mostly covered by a thin layer of snow, but did not seem to be too uncomfortable. Juan prepared the trail for his walk up the “no name on the map” glacier next to Brown Bluff, getting ready for the hikers at 8:00 a.m. because of the weather conditions, the visit was a little late and everything took a little longer. By the time the glacier had been visited and the penguins had been seen (mostly armies of Adelie shuffling along the shore and looking for a safe place to enter the water, and two small Gentoo rookeries closer to our landing site), the tide had dropped so much that the Mark VIs, our bigger Zodiacs, could not be used any longer, and Expedition Leader Robin West asked for Mark Vs to be lowered.

By 11:00 o’clock, when everyone was back on board, and the Zodiacs stowed on Deck 7, it was still below zero (Celsius), and the wind was blowing with 16-18 knots while we were heading in a north-easterly direction for Kinnes Cove on the western side of Joinville Island. Eventually Robin announced that the wind had picked up too much, and that a Zodiac cruise at Kinnes Cove would not be considered any longer, as 45 knots of wind was in excess of what a safe operation would permit.

Captain Golubev took the Prince Albert II into the Antarctic Sound, looking for tabular icebergs instead. Spectacular sights could be had from the safety and comfort of the Observation Lounge, Panorama Lounge or the suites. To stand outside on the Observation Deck was just too dangerous, as the wind was strong enough to blow a person overboard!

Finally it was announced that we were heading south towards the Bransfield Strait, and that another series of lectures would be presented beginning in the afternoon.

At 3 o’clock Alex Filippenko, a guest lecturer, gave the first of his talks, entitled “Beautiful Atmospheric Phenomena”. In it he explained Auroras, total lunar eclipses, the green flash, mirages, the solar and lunar halos, as well as other interesting sights found in the sky under specific conditions. It was my turn at 5 o’clock to talk about “The Discovery of South America and its Geopolitical Implication for Antarctica” and hopefully the reasons behind Chile’s and Argentina’s claim to part of Antarctica were now better understood.

While the talks went on, the Prince Albert II had made good speed, and although we had left the “Iceberg Alley” (Antarctic Sound) behind us, we still could see quite a few good examples of tabular icebergs in the Bransfield Strait. Captain Golubev made every effort to show us as many outstanding examples as possible. And by this I mean outstanding in two ways: on one side beautiful, on the other side stranded in the water, thereby showing more height than normal.

Even during Recap & Briefing, icebergs could still be admired, therefore the blinds were lowered, and Aiello, Marylou, and Rich (“Mad dog”) talked about penguins, Juan about the geology of Brown Bluff, and I talked about the name and background of the British Expedition “Operation Tabarin” of 1943-45. Robin then gave a briefing on tomorrow’s activities. The first landing was not going to be before 8:30 a.m. and this gave a good reason to enjoy dinner in a leisurely manner, and to have a drink in the Panorama Lounge, perhaps hoping to see yet more stranded icebergs on our way.