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Day 11 - February 19, 2009 - Elephant Island

By Berenice Charpin

Noon weather and position:
Temperature: 2ºC
Pressure 989hPa
30km/h E wind
Co-ordinates 610 03' 58'' S, 540 38' 49'' W

During the night we experienced very rough seas, but as we woke up in the morning, we realised conditions had improved. Nevertheless, we were still 3 hours away from Elephant Island, so after a quiet breakfast, Chris Edwards, our geologist, gave a lecture on the Glaciology of Antarctica. He started by explaining how Antarctica had reached such an isolated position and thus had turned out to be an extremely cold continent. Then, we learnt about the formation and characteristics of sea ice and finally about glacier ice, ice shelves and icebergs.

Later on, Andrew Marshall, our marine biologist, gave his lecture “Fins, Furs and Flippers”. It was very interesting to hear about the life history and behaviours of seals, especially since we had seen so many fur seals and elephant seals in South Georgia, and also because we still expect to see some more seals in the Antarctica Peninsula.

Before noon, we could already see Elephant Island in the distance. Elephant Island is indelibly linked with Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance famous expedition of 1914-1917.

We approached Point Wild right after lunch. This was the jumping-off spot for Shackleton and five of his men (Frank Worsley, Tom Crean, Harry McNeish, John Vincent, Tim McCarthy) in the lifeboat James Caird, which we had seen a replica of in Grytviken two days ago. They successfully negotiated the 800-mile passage to South Georgia, and Shackleton ultimately returned to rescue the 22 men stranded at this rugged location. The site is named after Frank Wild, who was leader of the stranded party that camped here for four months until they were rescued in August 1916. The Chileans have erected a monument on site with a bust of Capt. Pardo, the master of the vessel Yelcho who rescued these men.

We also spotted breeding chinstrap penguins on Point Wild. We took lots of photos and slowly the Prince Albert II headed southward for the Antarctic Sound.

In the afternoon, we watched an IMAX documentary on Shackleton's expedition. It is very difficult to imagine the ordeal and struggles they went through, but still, the most amazing thing is that all of them survived.

Most of us enjoyed teatime in the Panorama Lounge with the sounds of Adam and later on we all gathered at The Theatre for our daily recap and briefing about tomorrow's activities. We will visit the area of the Antarctic Sound where the massive tabular icebergs might be seen.

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