Day 7 |
Jan 24, 2009

Portal Point; Neumayer Channel

By Chris Collins, Ornithologist

Paradise Harbor: Almirante Brown Station (Argentina)

Waterboat Point: González Videla (Chile)

Noon Position: 54°48.6’S 68°18.0’W

Weather: Superb with partly cloudy skies, air temperature + 2o C (36o F), and wind 14 km/hour

After two successive mornings of blue skies and calm conditions, we awoke close to Portal Point to cloud and a wind whipping across the sea. Conditions were, however, good enough for the scheduled activities, so after the Expedition Team had landed and prepared a trail, we began to head ashore.

Our Expedition Leader, Ignacio, had explained the previous evening that today was likely to be a “PFD”, a ‘penguin-free day’ and his prediction was pretty much spot-on with only one lonesome Gentoo Penguin on the beach. A number of Wilson’s Storm-petrels (a tiny oceanic seabird with a wingspan of only about 40cms) could be seen close inshore and it seemed highly likely that these were breeding birds returning to their nests in crevices close to our landing site.

Wilson’s Storm-petrel is generally considered to be the commonest seabird in the world and whilst it only breeds around the Antarctic coastline and on some Sub-Antarctic islands, many birds migrate into the Northern Hemisphere and at certain times of year, the species can regularly be found in the Northern parts of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

As well as the birds, we were also able to enjoy great looks at three Weddell Seals that were hauled out on the ice. Those who were first ashore also had a close encounter with a somewhat frisky Antarctic Fur Seal that had been somewhat surprised when 50+ humans had suddenly appeared. After seemingly concluding that this was not now an ideal location for a quiet snooze, the Fur Seal joined a second individual further down the beach and everyone was able to get a more distant view of this less frequent visitor to the Antarctic Peninsula.

As the morning progressed, the weather conditions steadily worsened with the wind increasing to over 20 knots and whilst the Zodiac trips back to Prince Albert II were perfectly safe, everyone certainly appreciated their waterproof clothing as protection against the spray and wind on the ride back to the ship.

At 10:30 a.m., with everybody safely back onboard, we set sail for our next destination, Enterprise Island. An hour later we were close by, however, with the wind gusting at up to 40 knots, the conditions were clearly unsuitable for a Zodiac cruise, and the Captain announced that the Prince Albert II would instead continue towards Neumayer Channel.

With the wind continuing to whip up the sea, it was concluded that it would be unwise for both guests and staff to leave the ship, so a programme of afternoon lectures was announced with the first of these being given by the Claudia Holgate (Climatologist) on global warming. During her presentation, Claudia described the considerable evidence that now exists to support the theory that the world is indeed warming up and that the best-case projections were that global temperatures were likely to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius. Claudia then described some of the changes that it is anticipated will happen including an increase in extreme weather events, i.e. more droughts, hurricanes, heat waves etc.

Later in the afternoon, Peter Damisch (Historian) began a two-part presentation on Ernest Shackleton and his voyage to Antarctica on the Endurance. This included showing a re-mastered film from the actual expedition, as well as details of how Shackleton had selected the men and their first six months of being trapped in the ice.

At 7 p.m., the nightly Recap & Briefing was held in The Theatre. There were short presentations by David Elliot (Geologist) on the dry valleys of Eastern Antarctica, by Peter Damisch on what some of the early Antarctic explorers had thought about the taste of penguins, and by Ignacio on the plans for the following day. These were then followed by the Station Manager from Port Lockroy, our intended destination for the morning who had come on board the Prince Albert II for dinner with his three colleagues.