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Day 7 - December 5, 2009 - Cuverville Island; Foyn Harbour

By Michaela Mayer, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 64°41’S, 62°38’W
Weather: sunshine and calm

Today I had a real sleep-in until 7 a.m. Because the scenery has been so spectacular, I was on the outer decks at about 6am in the last days - already warmly dressed and treated with sunblock. The landscape today is outstanding too, but we do not pass it, as the Prince Albert II is at anchor.

Our morning landing is on Cuverville Island. This 2km by 2.5km island is a steep-sided dome, two-thirds of which is covered by a permanent ice-cap. The northern shore is a beach of cobbles and boulders, and this is where we land with our Zodiacs.

Cuverville Island is home for about 4,500 breeding pairs of Gentoo penguins and I spent the morning watching them with our guests while pointing out some of their terrific behaviour. At this time of the year, one penguin of a couple sits on two eggs – female or male both take part. The partner goes feeding and after some days, they switch tasks.

Every time a partner returns he or she brings a present, little stones, which are very useful to build the nests. Due to the lack of these stones in the environment, the penguins steal the stones from their neighbours’ nest, which results in migrating stones through the whole colony. My thought for the morning: Penguins like stone presents from their partners - like us, but we call them jewellery.

Everybody was so grateful about the weather, the scenery, the penguins, and the ability to have this experience. I got so many “wonderful morning!” comments at my position at the rookery. Maybe the guests thought I arranged everything?

After the landing, we passed my favourite channel – the Errera channel. It was discovered by the Gerlache expedition more than 100 years ago. In the middle of the passage is an island called Danco Island, which makes the narrow channel even narrower. I wonder how these early explorers found their ways. This channel is still a challenge to sail through, and our Captain Peter did so perfectly.

In the afternoon, I had the luck to drive two Zodiac tours in the Foyn Harbour, a bay part of the Wilhelmina Bay. There were plenty of icebergs and some Weddell seals. The seals were really hard to detect because they do not move a lot and they are coloured like rocks. But having 10 pair of eyes in a Zodiac, we were successful in finding the animals.

It began snowing during the Zodiac tour and reminded us that Christmas is coming soon. One of us even started singing “jingle bells”.

This is my first log written for the Prince Albert II. Now it is time to sleep because tomorrow is another early morning in paradise …

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