Day 12 |
Nov 24, 2008

Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

By Rob Suisted

Position: Morning 63° 29.9’ S and 056° 38.3’ W, Brown’s Bluff.

Weather: Strong winds gusting to 60 knots

Alarm clocks around the ship were set for 3am. The promise of an Antarctic sunrise over the Peninsula lured many from their slumber early. Expected pack ice in the Antarctic Sound (named for Nordenskjold’s ship the Antarctic) never materialized and we had a straight run into our destination: Brown Bluff – a spectacular englacial volcanic cone that towers 745 metres over a rocky beach covered with nesting Adelie Penguins.

Initial high hopes of our first continental landing were dashed at 6am when the Expedition Team’s scout boat discovered dense heavy ice choking the landing beach. Big blocks of ice moving in the surf is dangerous stuff, so a Zodiac cruise around some of the bergs in the bay was selected as a second initial option, while Robin, the Expedition Leader, the Staff Captain and several crew members worked hard at prising and towing ice from the beach with the able Zodiac craft. Success in their endeavors had everyone landing in record time – that all-important footstep onto the snowy white southern continent. Time was spent next to our first Adelie penguin colony, a fantastic visit, with interesting geology all about.

The swell started to pick up and it was time to leave, but not before at least one expedition staff member took an unscheduled, involuntary polar plunge while helping turn Zodiacs in the surf.

A glass of champagne for all as we returned shipside, and by 9.30am, we were making way further down Antarctic Sound towards Paulet Island, an important historic site in the amazing and heroic Nordenskjold expedition story of 1903. Strong winds made our intended landing on this small island immediately impossible as very little shelter was provided by the topography and we were experiencing wind gusts of up to 60 knots – not too pleasant. A new plan was hatched to find a relatively sheltered landing in the lee of Joinville Island.

Position: Afternoon 63° 31.8’ S and 056° 15.7’ W, Joinville Island

We anchored and set up a shore landing in a beautifully protected bay, surrounded by crystal clear water that glistened in the sun. Little did we realize that this lay in store for us as we initially watched water being whipped past the ship by the wild wind outside. Tucked into this sheltered cove were small Adelie and Gentoo penguins colonies and we had an intimate time here with these busy little birds, coming and going from the sea, often with great leaps in front of us onto the snow and ice that surrounded us. As noted, many people chose to sit and watch the world go by, rather than spend their time looking through camera lenses – already Antarctic connoisseurs perhaps. A very enjoyable time in an idyllic little spot in an otherwise very windy day, so idyllic in fact that our resident geologist Juan decided he had to take a swim!

Soon it was time to go. All back onboard, a quick recap and briefing was had before a hearty meal and an early night for most, anticipating an early start in the morning at the well known Deception Island.