Day 6 - February 8, 2011 - Detaille Island

By by Claudia Holgate, Climatologist

Co-ordinates: 66º52’S, 66º48’W
Weather: overcast, with light wind and lots of snow
Air Temperature: 1C

We woke up this morning to our Expedition Leader, Robin, asking if we had felt a bump in the early hours of the morning as we went over the Antarctic Circle. It is quite a feat in Antarctic expedition cruising to make the Antarctic circle and it is usually only possible at the end of the season when there is less ice and the ships can get through.

Our stop for the day was Detaille Island, which is an abandoned British Base “Base W” that was abandoned in 1959 after only three years of operating. It was designed as a sledging base where teams would be doing topographical mapping of the area and meteorological studies. The third year of operation was a successful one due to the hard ice, unfortunately that resulted in the supply vessel being unable to reach the station and the men on the base were told to evacuate and had to sledge 32 miles to where the supply hip had managed to anchor. This is what makes this one of my favourite destinations as it is like walking into a time capsule. Inside this tiny hut, everything is left as it was 50 years ago: the tins of oatmeal, the charts and books and magazines (one had a headline “Joan Collins voted the most beautiful woman”). The thermal underwear is still hanging over the stove to dry, the sled workshop full of tools and sledding materials. It is a truly exceptional place made even better by the snow painting the landscape white.

As only two Zodiac groups could go out at a time, one of our Ornithologists on board, Will, gave a lecture on Antarctic Penguins describing the fascinating behavour and antics of these much loved birds. He later repeated his lecture for the groups who had been on shore.

After spending the morning on shore, we had to start making our way back up the Peninsula to where we are to have tomorrow’s Zodiac cruise in Pleneau, as it is the whole afternoon and evening’s sailing to get there.

The afternoon was thus spent onboard where we had an entertaining afternoon with a lecture on Frank Hurley by Rapa Nui, our historian, providing us with a fascinating overview of the work of Frank Hurley, the photographer on Shackleton’s famous Endurance expedition, who also did excellent work during the first World War as well as in the South Pacific.

At 5pm, just after tea, one of our guests, Carissa Chappellet, who owns a vineyard in Napa Valley, held a wine tasting of some of the wines from their farm, to the packed audience in The Theatre.

As guests on the Prince Albert II are never at a loss of things to do, we had a recap at 6:30pm where most of the staff were available to talk about everything from Orcas and Humpbacks, to the Antarctic Circle, Skuas and Petrels as well as the plants of the Antarctic, not to mention the historical sites of the Antarctic. This was all followed by a briefing by Robin on our very busy day tomorrow.

If the day wasn’t full enough, we all had a fantastic dinner in The Restaurant, followed by movie night in The Theatre after dinner, where Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure, an IMAX film, was shown to those who didn’t want an early night to get ready for tomorrow’s full day.