Day 6 |
Feb 24, 2012

Port/landing Petermann Island/Pléneau Island

By Chris Srigley, General Naturalist

Coordinates: 65˚06’ S, 64˚04’ W
Weather: Bluebird!

Awaking to the sounds of the Silver Explorer’s anchor being lifted at 0530, I knew our day was about to begin. Having anchored at Port Lockroy during the night, Captain Adam now turned us south and towards the renowned ‘Lemaire Channel’.

Joining Hans-Peter and Will on the fore deck, we greeted guests as they began to trickle through the door and into the brilliant sunrise. Like the weather we had experienced yesterday, we couldn’t have dreamt for anything better today. Even with the below zero centigrade temperatures, the sun kept us warm.

Having been on the Bride just before heading out on the fore deck, I quickly scanned the Lemaire Channel to see how the ice conditions appeared. From my experience I felt the Silver Explorer would have no problems… but what a difference one deck can make!

Arriving on the fore deck, I lifted my binoculars to my eyes and instantly it seemed as though there would be no hope. Knowing, of course, we would be fine, I was able to assure the guests around me that our day would go on as planned.

The ice forced Captain Adam to reduce speed, thus our arrival to Petermann Island was delayed. By 0930 Zodiacs were being dropped and we (the Expedition Team) were heading ashore. With its mix of ornithology, geology, history and botany – Petermann Island is a wonderful stop. Gathering my group together, we headed off for a view over the French Passage and what is known as the ‘Iceberg graveyard’ where shallow waters trap ice until it is broken down into smaller bits and becomes more buoyant. In the distance (some 4.5 miles) we could see the Ukrainian station “Vernadsky”.

Meeting with our Historian Peter Damisch by an Argentinean refuge hut, guests were given a wild and entertaining ride through the history of our location and some of the sad facts associated with it. Of the most notable was the over wintering of Jean-baptiste Charcot in his vessel Pourquoi-pas? during the winter of 1909.

With one last stop we headed up a nearby slope in search of Adélie penguins. Having lost out on our Brown Bluff landing earlier in the voyage, we hadn’t been able to see them. At the top sat seven plump and molting Adélies. The quintessential penguin, black and white all over, all guests were happy to add this species to their list of penguins seen during the voyage.

Back onboard the Silver Explorer we repositioned over lunch to our afternoon’s activity, a Zodiac tour among the icebergs near Pléneau Island. After lowering the Zodiacs, we all headed out. We knew there were seals in the area as they had been spotted from the Bridge, however we could not have been prepared for what we were to find. Crabeater seals by the hundreds and some of the most inquisitive Leopard seals any of us on the Expedition Team had ever encountered! Soon it was time to depart, and it was hard to turn my Zodiac and leave the excitement and wonderful weather behind.

With all Zodiacs back onboard it was time to make a quick change from expedition gear into a suit and tie. Tonight was our Venetian Society cocktail party and dinner. As almost forty percent of our guests on this voyage are Venetian Society members, The Theatre was full! Following a wonderful toast from Jarda Versloot, our Assistant Expedition Leader, all headed to The Restaurant for a wonderful dinner.

It had been another special day down here on the peninsula, a day that all onboard were not soon to forget. What will tomorrow bring?