Voyage Journal 7024 Day 5


Day 5 - December 12, 2010 -  Almirante Brown, Paradise Bay

By Franz Gingele, Geologist

Co-ordinates: S 64º 51.52’, W 62º 52.28’
Weather: Sunny and partly cloudy
Air Temperature: -1ºC
Pressure: 971 hPa
Wind: calm

After leaving Antarctic Sound the previous evening, we were enjoying a rather calm and peaceful night on our way down the Bransfield and Gerlache Straits. Briefings and lectures were scheduled for the morning, but again nature set the program for today with two humpback whales showing up just before the first lecture was about to begin. Everybody was out on deck to watch the whales swimming and diving. The conditions were perfect: mirror-still waters, blue skies and the fantastic backdrop of the ice-covered Antarctic Peninsula.

Some minutes later Captain Peter very gently brought the ship close to a sleeping humpback whale and we could watch the giant creature breath and dream. He (or she?) didn’t seem to be disturbed at all by the approaching ship. Lectures were postponed until 10:30 am and even then our guests only trickled back very slowly into the lecture venues. As per usual, the English lecture was given in the Theatre, the Mandarin lecture in the Panorama Lounge, and I gave a lecture in German to our German-speaking guests in the Observation Lounge.

My lecture was on Antarctic Scientific Stations, and only a few minutes after I finished we passed the Chilean Base of Gonzalez Videla on our port side. Shortly after the lecture I briefed our German-speaking guests on our afternoon destination: Almirante Brown Base and Skontorp Cove. Here we were planning a landing and a Zodiac cruise.

Lunch was brief with a wonderful view of Paradise Bay from The Restaurant windows. As everybody was anxious to get out into the beautiful surroundings, we started to launch our Zodiacs half an hour earlier as planned at 1:30 pm. Running a dual operation – landing and Zodiac cruise – at the same time requires good coordination, communication and a split-up of the Expedition Team. So Mike, Uli and I landed at the small boathouse of the Argentinean Base Almirante Brown and set up our landing site. For this time of the year there was still a lot of snow and we carefully flagged a path up the hill behind the base. Once we had two groups ashore, the rest of our guests went on a Zodiac cruise to Skontorp Cove to look at breeding blue-eyed shags, calving glaciers and possibly see seals on ice floes.

From the landing site I could see a line of guests slowly climbing up the hill to enjoy the views and then slide down on the soft snow. Mike, our experienced mountain goat, stayed at the top of the hill and made sure nobody ventured over to the other side where sheer cliffs drop straight into the ocean. Sliding down looked scary first, but after the first brave souls arrived unharmed at the bottom, almost everybody tried. It was much faster than walking down and much more fun!

After 90 minutes the first Zodiacs came back from the cruise and we exchanged the groups. Now it was late in the afternoon and the soft snow started to freeze again. That made walking easier, but also the sliding much faster! Maybe that was the reason our guests came back early to the landing site or maybe it had to do with the incoming snow shower. At 5 pm the last Zodiac left the shore and everybody was back on board looking forward to a hot shower and a delicious dinner.