Monday, 23 November 2009

South to the Lemaire and beyond

We continued our journey south today, first with an early-morning transit of the Lemaire Channel, followed by landings at Petermann Island then Vernadsky Station.

In the middle of the Lemaire, we encountered a field of brash ice and bergy-bits but our captain and chief officer steered us safely through. We passed another ship in the channel, which is a very rare event anywhere in Antarctica, let alone in such narrow a place. Some minke whales and Snow Petrels were sighted on the way through.

The weather was not as sunny as yesterday but this didn't stop us from enjoying the magnificent panoramas of icebergs around the Petermann Island. And we continue to have calm conditions! Petermann Island is home to a mixed colony of Gentoo and Adélie Penguins, and Blue-eyed Cormorants, and we had great opportunities to view and study all three. In addition we noticed a stray Chinstrap Penguin in amongst the Gentoos and Adélies.

After a short cruise farther south we came to Vernadsky Station for our afternoon landing. This station is part of the Ukranian antarctic program and used to be owned and operated by the United Kingdom. In those days it was called "Faraday". At the station we caught a glimse of what it's like to live and work in Antarctica. The station has a gift shop (the most southerly in the world!) and a bar which serves Horilka (Ukranian vodka). Many passengers partook of a "wee dram" on this most southerly point in our cruise!

After Vernadsky we head back north again through Lemaire Channel, this time with good visibility to the tops of the mountains of Booth Island and the mainland.