Day 7 |
Dec 28, 2008

Cierva Cove And Mikkelsen Harbour, Gerlache Strait, Antarctica

By Rob Suisted

Morning position: 64° 08’ S and 060° 57’ W

Perfect day – no wind, sunny

Another perfect day in paradise. At 9am, the Prince Albert II nosed into Cierva Cove, a little-visited corner of the Gerlache Strait, and was greeted by a spectacular scene. Rocky coastline often covered in mosses and some grasses ran down to the sea … and beyond lay a huge glacier that had given birth to the great amount of ice and bergs that filled the surrounding area. .

Only a few of the Expedition Team members had visited here before, so we had little idea of what to expect. The first Zodiac boats set off for a Zodiac cruise in true expedition style – go forth and discover. Onshore lay Base Primovero, an Argentina base, which, once again, was unused but displaying its national colours proudly. Around us lay an iceberg graveyard that seemed to hold an unusually high number of beautiful bergs in a great variety of shapes. The iceberg connoisseur within us all was impressed. While exploring the bays and coves, we saw a collection of wildlife – a Weddell seal haul out, kelp gull chicks and plenty of terns – but the jewel in the crown of this visit was the massive Sikorsky Glacier at the head of Cierva Cove. .

All Zodiac boats ended the tour near the terminal face of this ice behemoth. The glacier was easily several miles wide, and on such a warm day, we hoped to see some dramatic calving. We were not disappointed here as regular reports and cracks heralded the collapse of new brash ice into the cove. While waiting, one Zodiac found a rather large and very beautiful purple and gold coloured jellyfish roughly 40cm across and up to 2 metres long swimming under a waterfall cascading into the cove. .

Then it was time to go. The Maitre D’ Uta Rickert added the icing to the cake for many by opening the pool deck grill so that many could savour lunch outside in the warm sun while the ship sailed for our afternoon destination. .

Afternoon position: 63° 54.3’ S and 060° 46.5’ W, Mikkelsen Harbour, Trinity Island.

Around the corner into Orleans Strait, the ship closed into Mikkelsen Harbour nestled in the South Eastern side of Trinity Island ready for a shore landing. Ashore everyone walked around to see a number of Weddell Seals, Gentoo Penguins and an historic site including the remains of early whaling days, and old water boat and remains of a whale skeleton. In one cove, a juvenile Elephant Seal lay. This little cutie had already swum all the way from South Georgia Island, 1000 kilometres away, since its birth only two months earlier. Amazing. .

In the evening, we finished off with a series of recaps on things we had seen, and things we’d be seeing in the next few days. Victoria gave us a presentation on the ill-fated Nordenskjold expedition, as we would be visiting key sites the following day. Last on the recap card was a lone krill for folks to see, kept alive with cold water and oxygen before being released back into the briny. It was nice to intimately view first hand this beautiful creature that so much of the ecosystem down here relies on, including penguins, seals and whales. .

The day ended with the ship travelling through a great iceberg field in the Gerlache Strait en route to our next destination tomorrow in the Antarctic Sound – named for Nordenskjold’s lost ship called the Antarctic.