Sunday, 31 January 2010

This is Antarctica After All

The weather continues to co-operate. This morning a gentle breeze and mild temperatures in the neighbourhood of 5ºC were the order for the day. We seemed to have lost our blue skies for the moment but there isn’t a single person on board that would complain. In fact it was a pleasant change to see a few snowflakes falling throughout the afternoon. This is Antarctica after all!
This morning we visited the Ukrainian Base, Vernadsky. There are twelve men who over-winter at Vernadsky every year. As usual, the base was immaculate. We were instructed to leave our boots and outdoor clothing in the cloak room. In short order we were introduced to Sasha and Eugene, the two gentlemen that would escort us on a tour of the base.

We learned about the ongoing meteorological work and that the discovery of the ozone hole was made at that very location. On completion of the tour we had the opportunity to sample the base’s home brew vodka and to visit their modest gift shop. Perhaps the best souvenir of our visit was simply the Vernadsky Base stamp we all received in our passports.
In the afternoon we dropped anchor in front of Petermann Island. We began landing operations at 15:00. Petermann has a lot to often with interesting history, Adelie and Gentoo Penguins, a small colony of Antarctic Shags and an incredible scenic view of Iceberg Alley where we could see not only a lot of icebergs but also a Crabeater seal and a Leopard seal.
In many places bright pink and green snow algae added intense swaths of colour to a largely monochromatic landscape. But, being mid-summer the snow has melted on much of Petermann revealing to the careful observer tiny clumps of grass. Not enough to golf on of course, this is Antarctica after all!