Monday, 7 January 2013

South Gerlache Strait

The dawn rose like thunder with a blast of brilliant sunshine – after the previous few days we were beginning to think that the sun did not shine in Antarctica.. During our sumptuous breakfast, those who had been outside were commenting on the eau de perfume of penguin. Many were keen to get a more intense sample of eau de penguin. Cuverville Island lay before us, replanted in a azure bay flecked with ice bergs and about 5,000 breeding pairs of penguins.
Once ashore we had penguins to the left of us, penguins to the right of us, and a hill to climb with penguins above us! With many choices we were on our way to explore the island and the rookeries. We were all surprised by the lack of chicks, it seems as to this rookery will be “Late” this year. We only found a few one to two days old chicks on the high nesting sites, and eggs being jealously guarded by parents from skuas in the rest. The remnants of many eaten eggs were found littered in the snow. Some were fortunate or unfortunate to see 2 skuas steal an egg from a heartbroken penguin.
After lunch the plan was to head to Paradise Bay – Base Brown, and after setting sail down the Errera Channel in a gentle 3 m/s wind, we were struck by winds over 30 m/s. They seem to come out of nowhere – the sky was blue, but the sea was rough.
It soon became evident o the Captain and Expedition Leader that any attempt at a landing at Base Brown in these conditions would be suicidal. Luckily we were able to reschedule and we made our way to the safe anchorage Port Lockroy and British Base B – Bransfield House.

The old base buildings have been lovingly restored into a museum documenting the history of the base and work carried out there, as well has a shop – where all the proceeds go to support the restoration of historic British sites in Antarctica. Retail Therapy was enjoyed by all the guests – who were then treated to the amazing site of seeing a few hours old Gentoo chicks, with some still hatching! It would be hard to see how such an day could be bettered, but the Weather Gods smiled upon us and gave us one of the most spectacular sunsets we have seen all season!