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Day 5 - January 9, 2011 -  Cuverville and Port Lockroy 

By by Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

 

Co-ordinates: S 64º41’02”, W 062º37’41”
Weather: Partly cloudy with splashes of sun and overall great conditions.
Air Temperature: 3ºC

After the day we spent yesterday on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, I was wondering how we were going to be able to top it, and that is the challenge we face as expedition staff when a trip starts on such a high note. But then, we managed! Of course, we could not have done it without the collaboration of the weather gods and that pristine and exuberant beauty that Antarctica provides in abundance.

I woke up this morning, as the Prince Albert II was sailing into the Errera Channel, a stunning passage between Rongé Island and the Arctowski Peninsula. The steep alpine scenery provided a stark contrast with the open spaces and tabular icebergs of the previous day. Sun-bathed glaciers poured down from the mountains into the sea, and icebergs dotted the channel as we approached Cuverville Island, our morning’s destination.

Cuverville is a rocky island off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. It was discovered by Gerlache’s Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897-99) and named by Charcot after a vice-admiral in the French navy. Nearly vertical cliffs surround the island except for the NE shore where we landed our guests at 8:30. Once ashore they had a chance to roam around (always respecting the guidelines established by IAATO for this site), to the two ends of the beach where Gentoo penguins are nesting and our staff was ready to interpret. A leopard seal put up a show worthy of an Oscar by shredding three penguins, two right in front of us, during the course of the morning.

The more energetic of our guests went on a hike that took them to the top of the island at 275 metres above sea level. Their efforts were rewarded with truly spectacular and unobstructed views of the Errera Channel and surrounding area. Breathtaking indeed!

During lunch we sailed out of the Errera through its southern end and into the Gerlache Strait, towards the Neumayer Channel – another of those unforgettable sceneries that had everybody in awe.

At 2 pm the Expedition Team held a Recap & Briefing, and at 3:30, we were starting disembarkation to Port Lockroy and Jougla Point. Port Lockroy is a natural harbour in Goudier Island, discovered by the French Antarctic expedition in 1903-05. It was used for whaling and British military operations (Operation Tabarin) during World War II and then continued to operate as a British research station until 1962. In 1996 Port Lockroy was renovated and now hosts a museum, gift shop and post office operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Parallel to this landing we were taking our guests to nearby Jougla Point in Wiencke Island, where they visited a Blue-eyed Shag and Gentoo penguin colony. There are also some cool rocks and a whale skeleton assembled from bits and pieces, near the landing zone.

By 6:30 pm all our guests had seen and enjoyed both sites and we came back on board to get ready for the Venetian Society cocktail and dinner. Tomorrow we have another great day in store, stay tuned...

 

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