Day 8 |
Dec 07, 2008

Port Lockroy, Wiencke Island Paradise Bay

By Victoria Salem

Position at Port Lockroy, Wiencke Island: 64 49’S, 63 31’W

Position at Paradise Bay: 6451’S, 6254’W

Weather & Sea Conditions: Fine, sunny and calm

Amazingly, the great weather continued – another day with blue skies, no wind and sunshine. Most of us had red, sunburned faces by bedtime! At 8am, Rick and his team came on board from our morning landing site of Port Lockroy/Jougla Point. He gave us a short talk, covering the history of the British Antarctic Survey base here, abandoned until the Antarctic Heritage Trust (UK) restored it in 1996, establishing it as a museum, shop and post office operating from British Antarctic territory. Half of the guests were landed first at “Base A” – Bransfield House - in order to explore the living quarters of the old British base (the kitchen, bathroom and bar were especially fascinating!), send some postcards and do some Christmas shopping. The other half of the guests disembarked at Jougla Point (Goudier Island, 6450’S, 6330’W) on an adjacent island, where we saw nesting gentoo penguins, blue-eyed shags (cormorants) and the reconstructed skeleton of a baleen whale.

The two groups changed over after one and a half hours so that both groups could experience both landing sites. At Port Lockroy, there were penguins nesting right next to the ramp into the former base, so we got some excellent shots for our photo collection of gentoo penguins sitting on nests, snowy sheathbills pecking at the museum roof and skuas on the lookout for penguin eggs. The surrounding, snow-capped mountain peaks were clearly visible from both landing sites and views of the area were spectacular.

Back on the ship and before our next landing, we just had time to fit in a recap and briefing on the following day’s activities. I provided some historical background on Peterman Island (Charcot expedition), where we were hoping to land, and Robin (Expedition Leader) explained the logistics of the next day’s arrangements, which involved starting with a sunrise Zodiac cruise at 2.30am – this was truly an expedition!

After a delicious lunch, the ship sailed on to our afternoon’s destination of Paradise Bay and our second continental landing of the trip. Many of us were out on deck all the way, to appreciate the fine weather and icy views. The afternoon’s activities were again split between the two groups, one group landing at Almirante Brown, an old Argentine research station, while the other group took a one and a half hour Zodiac cruise to admire the Petzval glacier tongue.

The continental landing provided some pleasant surprises. Disembarkation took place between the base’s deserted buildings and a couple of rookeries of gentoo penguins that entertained us, as always, with their pebble-stealing antics. The hardier amongst us chose to make a short, sharp climb up a hill to a fantastic lookout point over Paradise Bay, which we decided was aptly named. The Peninsula coastline was spread before us like a topographical map, mountains and glaciers disappearing into the distance. We could even spot penguins swimming off the shore. Many of us had to strip off outer layers on arrival at the top of the hill, the temperature was so balmy and our physical exertion had been so great! The most fun part of the day was the very quick and enjoyable descent – we sat down and slid, which was both exhilarating and efficient. Some of us enjoyed it so much that we climbed up and repeated the experience more than once … and by that evening, we had exercised enough to have earned our dinner!

Meanwhile, the other half of the guests were enjoying a Zodiac cruise past a colony of nesting blue-eyed shags on a cliff-face; we glimpsed an interesting green streak of copper (malachite) in the rock en route to the glacier front and also encountered a huge iceberg, which our Zodiac drivers circled at a safe distance. We were fortunate enough to see a number of Weddell seals basking on shore – looking like outsize slugs, digesting squid and fish. These seals are extremely well adapted and streamlined in water, but amazingly lumpy and inert when asleep on land. The culmination of our cruise was to drift along the face of the Petzval glacier tongue, where ice floats on the water and regularly calves, crashing into the ocean as icebergs, bergy bits and brash ice. We could hear the ice cracking at intervals and occasional chunks falling off and were grateful that we were at a safe distance.

On our return from the Zodiac cruise, we saw a leopard seal basking on an ice floe, as well as a number of snow petrels and Antarctic terns flying around our zodiacs, so our love of ice and wildlife was well satisfied. The groups changed over, so that once again, all guests got the chance to experience both continental landing and Zodiac cruise.

After dinner, some guests chose to retire early, in preparation for a long and exciting final day in Antarctica, whilst others were seen up late in the Observation Lounge, enjoying the sunset over a nightcap and fortifying themselves to watch the sunrise that followed shortly thereafter!