Voyage Journal 7105 Day 8


Day 8 - February 28, 2011 - Brown BLuff

By Ken Knowles, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 63◦18’ S, W 56º32’ W
Weather: Sun & Cloud
Air Temperature: 0.6◦C
Pressure: 990 hPA
Wind: 23.2 km

Foggy conditions in the night brought a Cape Petrel (discovered at dawn) to the deck of the Prince Albert II. These birds, disoriented in the fog and attracted to light, occasionally end up on board ships and have difficulty taking off without assistance. Our Ornithologist, Will, gave this one a hand and the “Pintado” as it is nicknamed, flew happily off in the direction of our landing site.

The cliffs of Brown Bluff, our landing for the morning, were formed by an ancient volcanic eruption and provide the backdrop to a variety of nesting Antarctic birds. The main attraction is the Adelie penguins that nest here in spring in the tens of thousands, but Brown Bluff is also home to nesting Cape Petrels, Snow Petrels, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and Kelp Gulls.

Fog and a strong swell made landing the Zodiacs a challenge. Our drivers were able to use the stern landing technique and guests were transported safely to shore with only some minor spray issues. Once ashore, we were able to locate the few remaining Adelies among the numerous Gentoos. Most of the Adelies have left the colonies by now and made their way to their true home, the sea, for the remainder of the year. Before getting our views of Adelies however, we had to negotiate the gauntlet of fur seals – nearly a hundred of them spread out along the beach area, a few of them with some serious “tude” (attitude). One Gentoo penguin, apparently injured by a Leopard Seal, was being attacked by the skuas that constantly patrol these colonies and continually test for sick or injured birds.

After lunch the weather lifted in time for cruising by ship around some spectacular tabular icebergs. These massive bergs are pieces of the ice shelves that have broken away, and can be tens of kilometres long. The Captain showed a deft hand on the Bridge, nosing the bow within metres of the towering bergs, one of which sheltered two lonely Chinstrap Penguins.

In the afternoon, Juan showed the movie “Extreme Ice” to provide some context for sightings over the last few days.

All too soon we headed north and into the Drake Passage towards our final destination, Ushuaia.

At the final Recap, Claudia’s timely Beaufort Scale explanation led us directly into the information everyone wanted – the weather forecast for the Drake Passage. Looks like we may luck out.