Day 3 |
Dec 14, 2011

Barrientos Island, South Shetland Islands

By Shoshanah Jacobs, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 62o 43’ S, 058o 39’ W
Air Temperature: 1.5o C
Pressure: 999 HPa
Wind: 30 km / hour
Weather: Overcast and windy

This morning we awoke to strangely calm conditions. The forecast told a tale of gales and waves the size of mountains but, alas, we were deceived and, instead, we enjoyed a calm morning of gentle rocking. The meals were very well attended and this is by far the best gauge of health on board. We had a lot to get through this morning because we were planning a surprise landing for our guests later in the afternoon.

So we started early with a mandatory IAATO briefing outlining the rules and regulations for landing operations in Antarctica. Robin, the Expedition Leader, explained that Antarctica is a special place and it needs to be treated as such. With so few places upon which to tread, we need to make sure to leave as little evidence of our visit as possible. The cliché saying: “take only memories and leave on footprints” could really not be more appropriate.

The IAATO briefing was followed by the Zodiac briefing. Again, more rules and procedures but these would ensure the safety of all who board the boats for adventures on shore. A quick turnaround and we were ready to do the biosecurity checks of all the outerwear of our guests. Vacuuming Velcro is a serious task and takes long fingernails or tweezers to get all the fluff out!

Then a super quick lunch where our surprise landing was announced, quick change, jump in a boat, set up the shore, scout the beach, and then boat after boat of guests to be guided ashore. Barrientos Island is one of the Aitcho Islands in the South Shetland Islands. So green, it is a real gem among the archipelago and is home to Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins. As usual, the first landing is overwhelming for many and thousands of photos were taken as our guests became used to the 5m rule. A wonderful time was had by all as we explored the beach and watched the penguin antics.

Then back on board, 10 minutes to prepare a recap, changes clothes, and run up to The Theatre for the Recap & Briefing. A short presentation by Kara on seals to help us identify the ones that we saw already on an iceberg (Crabeater seals) and then a short one by me on the Problem of the Commons and how penguins share their resources so as not to compete among the species, and then a wonderful recap by Peter on this, the 100th anniversary of the conquering of the South Pole.

The Bransfield Strait was pleasantly calm as we sailed towards the Weddell Sea. I can’t wait to get there!