Voyage Journal 7929 Day 4

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Day 4 - December 13, 2009 - Brown Bluff

By Claudia Holgate, Climatologist

Co-ordinates: 63 o 36’ 43”S 56o52’ 24”W
Weather: Gale force winds and overcast, becoming calm and clear

What an interesting day!!!! We were up really early, ready for our landing at Brown Bluff. When I woke up I turned on the TV to check the weather conditions that are relayed down from the Bridge. OH NO!! The wind was howling off the scale at about 54 knots and upon looking out the window, I saw there was no possibility we would be able to land in these conditions. The white caps on the sea were pretty to look at, but we cannot operate the Zodiacs in these conditions.

Nevertheless, I still dressed in all my layers and went up to the Panorama Lounge where the Early Risers’ Buffet was set out and many of the guests were there already watching the beautiful icebergs of the Antarctic Sound silently float past. The guests knew something was up as we had to cancel our landing at Penguin Island yesterday due to bad wind and ice conditions, and many were asking me about the landing today. I was not able to give them any cheerful news, even though I remained optimistic that when we arrived at Brown Bluff we would get shelter from somewhere and have our first landing on the continent.

Well, upon arrival, the winds were the same, so the landing was postponed and Conrad and our Captain came up with another plan to go Ice Cruising with the ship and visit some of the amazing tabular icebergs in the Sound.

Most of the guests ventured out into the upper decks to watch the spectacle in front of us, and these icebergs were indeed spectacular. To take up some time, two lectures were put on during the morning while we waited for the winds to die down and conditions to clear. We did have an inkling that this was going to happen as the barometer was starting to pick up almost as quickly as it had dropped.

I went to the first lecture on “Penguins of the Antarctic” by Luciano Bernacchi, who gave a most interesting talk on all the penguin species, but focused on the three brush-tailed species that we are going to see, namely the Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins. It was a really good talk and everyone came away with new information.

I had to attend the second lecture as I was giving it! The topic was Climate Change: The Global Carbon Experiment. In this lecture I cover the major indicators of climate change as well as some of the impacts that one can see in the Polar Regions. It was very well received and I had numerous guests approach me afterwards to discuss some of the issues raised.

An early lunch was to follow, with spectacular landscapes passing The Restaurant windows as the Captain skillfully maneuvered the ship through the Fridjhof Sound, where there are more phenomenal icebergs.

After lunch, we arrived back at Brown Bluff and the skies had cleared and the wind had dropped and it had turned into an idyllic day; I am really glad we managed to hang around to get to this landing, as is one of my favourites. The landing site didn’t have as much snow as we had on a previous trip, so the landing was easy and we all headed off towards the Adelie penguin colony. On the way, though, there are small pockets of Gentoo penguins and of course this was our guests’ first landing in Antarctica, so their first real experience of penguins and icebergs … and they were wowed. I so enjoy watching the expressions on their faces when they see their first penguins. Everyone wants to stop to photograph the first penguins they see, not realizing that a couple of hundred meters further there are hundreds of penguins going about their daily business of fighting, bonding, stealing pebbles, swimming and waddling around with penguin purpose.

Each group had plenty of time to enjoy watching the penguins, before being given the opportunity to go for a walk along the glacier to the side of the landing site. The majority of the guests took this great option and thoroughly enjoyed the walk. As the landing and the conditions were so fantastic, Conrad and our Captain allowed us to stay a little extra time, meaning that we only got back to the ship at 6:30pm, not leaving us a lot of time to get ready for the Recap & Briefing at 7pm. We all managed somehow. During the briefing, Conrad promised to do the polar plunge with Daniil and Christian of the Expedition Team tomorrow at Deception Island – watch this Voyage Journal for details of them swimming in freezing water!

After the briefing and short recap, we headed off to The Restaurant again for another fantastic meal created for us by our executive chef, Douglas Hope.

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