Day 4 |
Feb 01, 2009

Paulet Island And Brown Bluff

By Claudia Roedel

Co-ordinates: Paulet Island (63º 34 S 55º 46 W) and Brown Bluff (63º 31 S 56º 53 W)

The weather today was absolutely fabulous, with blue sky and no wind as we approached Paulet Island. There were beautiful blue icebergs adorned with penguins, and Blue Eyed Shags swam around the ship as we started to load the Zodiacs. Even before we landed, we noticed the peculiar odor of the penguin colony. In warm days like today, the smell of guano is almost overpowering.

Paulet Island is a volcanic island, and we can see the typical shape of the cinder cone that tops the island. It is also the home of one of the largest colonies of Adelie Penguins. We can see the rocks stained guano pink all the way around the lake and to the top of the hills.

There was not much space to move, as the tide was high, and the beach was full of penguins, shoulder to shoulder (or should I say, flipper to flipper?) There were adults gathering to go out fishing, fluffy chicks waiting for their parents to return with a crop full of krill, recently molted juveniles gathering their courage for their first swim. There were groups of Antarctic Fur Seals, some sleeping ashore, others swimming lazily along the beach. Every now and then one would haul up on the beach, and the penguins would run away, creating a circle of emptiness with the seal in the middle.

Half way up the hill is the hut build by the shipwrecked crew of the expedition ship Antarctica. This ship sank in the ice while trying to rescue the Nordenskjold expedition that had over wintered in Snow Hill on the Weddell Sea. Our historian Peter explained to us all the happy coincidences that allowed all three shipwrecked parties to be reunited and eventually rescued!

During lunch time, we sailed among the large tabular icebergs. These massive icebergs are typical of this part of Antarctica, and were generated in the ice shelves of the Weddell Sea.

After lunch, we landed at Brown Bluff, our first continental landing. It's easy to get interested in geology while in the Antarctic, because it's so "out there"! There is no vegetation covering the rocks, so it's so easy to see the rock formations. David Elliot, our geologist, explained to us how these rocks were formed by the eruption of an underwater volcano.

There were more Adelie penguins in Brown Bluff, and here we saw our first Gentoo Penguins. There were also two Weddell Seals sleeping ashore, plus Fur Seals and Leopard Seals patrolling the shores. One particular blue iceberg full of penguins attracted the attention of the photographers.

The weather had changed, so instead of sun, we had some fluffy snow that piled up on our hoods and gear, but it was not unpleasant, and actually created a very nice atmosphere.