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Day 8 - December 29, 2008 - Brown Bluff And Paulet Island

By Chris Srigley

Position (Brown Bluff): 63°32’S, 56°55’W
Position (Paulet Island): 63°35’S, 55°47’W

With the luck we’ve been having, it was of no surprise to wake up this morning with warm temperatures and blue sky. Having made our way up the Branfield Strait through the night, we entered Antarctic Sound shortly after 0600. Splitting Joinville Island and the Peninsula, this sound offers spectacular views and is usually full of large tabular icebergs. Although the views did not disappoint under the morning light conditions, it wasn’t until closer to our morning destination, Brown Bluff that the larger bergs started to appear. A glacial volcano, Brown Bluff is a towering, rust-coloured and ice-capped 745m ridge that dominates the landscape.

With such calm conditions, Captain Peter Stahlberg was able to anchor the Prince Albert II relatively close, making for a short ride in the Zodiacs. As the Zodiacs were lowered into the water the first group of guests began to gather in great numbers in the reception area. As the 0800-hour approached, we headed for shore where some 20,000+ breeding Adelie Penguins perched on their nests and along the shore waiting to greet us.

Once ashore, many sat in silence as they enjoyed the penguins going about their daily business. Adults feeding their chicks at the nest, heading to sea for a feed and spreading their wings in the slight breeze to cool down in the temperatures we were experiencing. With a quick switch at 0930 the second group of guests came ashore for their own moment of serenity at this magnificent sight.

As we returned to the Prince Albert II for lunch and our transit to this afternoon’s landing, it was decided the ship would head south through Fridtjof Sound, between the Tabarin Peninsula and Andersson Island before turning east-northeast in the direction of Paulet Island. As we cruised through the Sound, Crabeater seals by the dozens started to appear on the ice floes around us. With one having at least thirty packed in like sardines around its tiny, coned centre. As they passed us by we had the call, “THERE SHE BLOWS!!” Two Minke whales were at our 1200 position heading across the bow. It seems our decision to make this slight detour in our course was the right one.

With this delay in our afternoon plans, the Expedition Team decided to move today’s recap and briefing forward to 1345. We gathered in The Theatre and learned of tomorrow’s plans. It seems it will be an early start to our day! During the briefing, our Captain radioed to the team that there were two more whales in front of the ship, Minkes again! With all in The Theatre finished, all there was to do was get out on deck and enjoy the last few miles to Paulet Island as we cruised through the towering icebergs.

The Expedition Team had been mentioning to everyone how excited they were to have such a fantastic day to be scheduled at Paulet. This was the fourth attempt at landing there this season, and it would be their first time getting to shore! As we made our final approach, it was evident that the 20,000+ Adelies we had seen this morning was going to be surpassed by some 190,000! It is said that this circular volcanic cone, which reaches 353m (1,158ft), is home to some 100,000+ breeding pairs of Adelie penguins.

Discovered by James Clark Ross, Paulet Island is named for Lord George Paulet of the British Royal Navy. However, its history is forever attached to Otto Nordenskjold’s Swedish expedition from 1901 – 04 when Carl Larsen and his crew rowed ashore after their ship the Antarctic sank some 25 miles away. They built a small hut out of the island’s slate-shaped volcanic rocks and survived the winter. Sadly, one man, Ole Wennersgaard, did not make it through the winter. Today, his cross can be seen surrounded by the thousands of Adelie Penguins that now occupy the site.

As the 1445-hour approached, the first group of guests once again prepared for their disembarkation from the Prince Albert II before the second group joined them onshore at 1515. With the last Zodiac leaving shore at 1800, everyone had plenty of time to wander the shores, gaze over the caldera lake and investigate the remains of Carl Larsen and his crew’s hut. It seemed, however, that most guests found the most interesting thing was the ‘alive-ness’ of Paulet. As you approach, it seems that, yes, there is a mass of penguins, but it is all the activity taking place that overwhelms us.

Smiles all around as we boarded the ship and prepared for our departure. Next stop: Deception Island.

At 1900, our Venetian Society guests gathered in The Theatre in celebration of their friendship and loyalty to Silversea before joining the others in The Restaurant for another wonderful meal. With an early start tomorrow, we all headed to bed with the excitement of today to fuel tomorrow’s start.

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