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Day 5 - December 15, 2008 - Almirante Brown And Cape Renard

By Chris Harbard

Noon position: 64° 53’ 53” S 62° 52’ 41” W
0°C (32°F) Cloudy with snow. Wind 4 kph

The day began with the ship sailing into ice-filled Neko Harbour, our original morning destination. The noise as she scraped past small icebergs and through the brash ice was exciting but it soon became clear that any Zodiac operations would be impossible.

So on to Plan B. The afternoon’s visit to Almirante Brown and Paradise Bay was brought forward to the morning and so, only an hour later than planned. We went ashore with half of the guests for their first landing on the Antarctic continent, while the others enjoyed a Zodiac cruise in Paradise Bay.

The Zodiac cruisers had a wonderful array of marine mammals on show and many saw Crabeater, Weddell and Leopard Seals! On the bird front, there were terrific views of Antarctic (Blue-eyed) Cormorants on their nests with quite large young, while Cape Petrels patrolled the cliffs.

With the water so still and smooth, some were treated to a look at why petrels are so named. Across the surface of the water, tiny Wilson’s Storm-petrels, only 7 inches (17 cm) long, were pattering with their butterfly-like flight. They fly with their feet dangling and actually appear to walk on water. Because of this, they were named petrels after St. Peter who also walked on water!

At Almirante Brown station – a deserted Argentinean base, guests were able to climb to the top of a steep snow-covered hill from where they could slide down on their bottoms – a wonderful treat and many could be heard screaming with delight.

One guest decided to go one step further by taking a ‘polar plunge’. He totally stripped off and jumped into the water from the small landing jetty, only to emerge seconds later to applause and some bemused looks. Rapidly drying himself off he was shuttled back to the ship to warm up properly.

After lunch, we sailed for Cape Renard and a Zodiac cruise. As the first group set out, it was blowing a blizzard with large snow flakes clinging to everything. This soon cleared and we were treated to some incredible scenery, with towering snow-clad mountains beside us. Jagged blue glacial faces threatened to calve close by (although none did). A Leopard Seal gave many great views and the day ended wonderfully with such breathtaking surroundings.

After dinner, guests were entertained by members of the Expedition Team who played roles in a game of “Liar’s Club” where true and false definitions of words have to be guessed. Chris (Srigley), Robin (Aiello), Rob and myself were the bare-faced liars and a tie-breaker was eventually needed to decide the winners.

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