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Day 4 - February 24, 2011 - At anchor near Deception Island; Whalers Bay, Deception Island, Antarctic

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 62°38´57´´S, 60°33´46´´W
Weather: overcast and windy, in the afternoon raining

It was meant to be an early morning down here in the South Shetland Islands where the Prince Albert II arrived yesterday afternoon after crossing the Drake Passage. Unfortunately, the weather changed dramatically and the wind was blowing with approximately 45 knots causing swell and conditions, making landing on Bailey Head impossible. Robin West, the Expedition Leader, announced around 7 o’clock in the morning that the planned landing was cancelled, and due to weather conditions, we would stay at anchor in a sheltered place until the afternoon.

As an alternative to the landing, lectures were offered to the guests on board. At 9.30 our historian board, Ken Knowles was talking about Antarctic explorations. Starting with the discovery of the continent, first sightings and then also going through the scientific exploration of this huge landmass down in the south, he gave an interesting insight into the history of Antarctica.

At 11.30 hours the next lecture was given in The Theater. This time by marine biologist Robin Aiello. She talked about adaptations of animals to this harsh physical environment. These are not only adaptations to low temperatures but also to short breeding seasons and food availability. An interesting lecture showing our guests how well adapted these animals are to that ecosystem.

After lunch with our guests and enjoying the delicious paella in The Restaurant, the Prince Albert II sailed around into the caldera of Deception Island, passing by the narrows of Neptune’s Bellows. The sky was overcast but visibility was good and the whole island lay before the admiring eyes of our guests. A perfect Antarctic afternoon had just begun.

After a short scouting tour to the landing site where the conditions were perfect, the disembarkation of our guests started. Ken positioned himself near important historical sites to give our guests useful information about this once important whaling station.

After the historical introduction to this site, our guests had the opportunity to walk up to Ronalds Hill accompanied by Expedition Team members Juan Restrepo, Nicki D’Souza and myself. The weather and the site this afternoon gave our guests a real feeling of Antarctica. On the beach, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins popped out of the water and had a rest on the dark volcanic sand of Deception Island. Further on, some Fur Seals were lying right next to the shore enjoying a lazy day and the southern autumn.

A lot of our guests joined the walk up to the top of the hill, from where they had an absolutely stunning view over Whalers Bay. My duty today was accompanying our group of Chinese guests up to Ronald Hill, explaining to them a little bit about the few lichens that we found on the way up.

Another group headed towards Neptune’s Window together with Claudia Holgate and Will Wagstaff. First, the walk took them along the beach observing kelp, Skuas and Fur Seals and then, once up by the window, to enjoy the stunning view out into the Bransfield Strait.

At half past five, the Prince Albert II left Deception Island sailing out through the Neptune’s Bellows and heading to our next day’s stop at Cuverville Island.

Back on board again, this was still not the end of our expedition day. In a short briefing, Expedition Leader Robin West gave an overview on the destinations and excursions we will experience tomorrow and Juan, Ken, Luke and I gave a short recap on the geology of Deception Island, whaling history, fisheries and lichen respectively.

Sailing away from the Southern Shetland Islands and getting into the Bransfield Strait, the swell became noticeable once more, and some of our guests had to stay in their suites and missed the excellent dinner in The Restaurant.

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