Day 4 - December 11, 2010 - Brown Bluff and Kinnes Cove

By Marylou Blakeslee, Glaciologist

Co-ordinates: 63 30.7S 56 52.8W, 63 17.8S 56 30.W
Weather: overcast with short intervals of snowfall
Air Temperature: 33F
Sea Temperature: 34F

This morning’s destination was the cobble-strewn beach of Brown Bluff. Dark, towering cliffs over-shadowed a horde of nesting Adelie penguins. Much to my surprise, Gentoo penguins, that also form small nesting colonies at Brown Bluff, had tiny chicks under them. These little chicks were just a few days old. The Adelie penguins also had young ones. In some of the nests lay two newly hatched chicks, struggling to lift their tiny heads. These were the first chicks seen by anyone on the Prince Albert II this season.

The glacier was slick with melting snow, but all who ventured up there found breathtaking views of icebergs and scenery. The clicking of digital cameras could be heard especially when looking down at our ship, dwarfed by the immensity of the landscape. Small rocks on the side of the glacier had melted the ice beneath them creating a multitude of tiny holes, which revealed the porous nature of glacial ice. The massive size and power of glaciers make them appear more solid than they actually are.

Our afternoon Zodiac trip through Kinnes Cove was a marvel of ice. The icebergs were every color of blue. The tabular icebergs that had melted, partially, and rolled over formed marvelous shapes with holes and jagged teeth-like structures. Leopard seals, one of the top predators for penguins and seals lay sleeping on lower icebergs and one was seen patrolling the boundaries of the penguin colonies on the exposed rocks. Gentoo and Adelie penguins stood in restless groups by the water’s edge waiting for a safe time to enter the water. An elusive pod of killer whales surfaced a few times near our Zodiacs and I couldn’t help but scream in delight.

Our day was already full of extraordinary sights but we weren’t done yet. I kept my warmest clothes on and went out on deck in the front of the ship to watch as we sailed through giant icebergs. These are the tabular bergs broken from massive ice shelves in the Weddell Sea. Again, the shapes and colors were unbelievable and the penguins looked like tiny dots upon them. It was so beautiful that even the stinging cold on my face didn’t make me venture inside. I could happily live this day over and over again.