Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Best Laid Plans

One makes plans in Antarctica in order to have something from which to deviate. This morning our plan was to land on the actual continent of Antarctica at Brown Bluff at 07:30.    But by approximately 07:00 it became very apparent that a landing at Brown Bluff would not be possible.  There was just too much ice!   Alright.  Okay. Deviate to PLAN B.  We would head for Paulet Island and see if the weather, sea and ice conditions would allow us to go cruising in our sturdy Polar Cirkle boats.

Upon arrival at Paulet it seemed like a very good plan indeed.  There was barely a breath of wind. It was cloudy with sunny breaks.  Flat calm conditions with plenty of ice and penguins everywhere!  Perfect. We dropped the Polar Cirkle boats again and off, into the ice, went the first 40 people. But Antarctica had other plans. Within 45 minutes the wind was howling.  The situation quickly became untenable.  Everyone in the Polar Cirkle boats got completely soaked.  They all looked like they had had a shower with all of their expedition clothing on!  It was also very challenging for our AB's (Able Bodied Seamen) to maneuver the boats at the tender pit.  The decision was made to cancel the cruising and switch to  PLAN C...  

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Plan C was to head to Active Sound; a beautiful narrow channel that usually has lots of ice.  We had also heard reports of Emperor Penguins and Killer whales in the area.  At approximately 14:00 we arrived in Active Sound and at approximately 14:00:30 it was determined that the shelter from the wind that we had been hoping for, just wasn't happening.  The winds were gusting in excess of 35 knots.  Yeesh.  Back to PLAN A.

Or is it? We had barely begun changing course back to Brown Bluff (aka PLAN A), when we spotted a big colony of penguins cascading down the slope in front of us! The place looked wonderful, sheltered and within easy reach of our Polar Cirkle boats – which, as you might have guessed, immediately placed this unnamed rookery in the category of PLAN D. And what a fantastic plan it turned out to be: we all enjoyed looking at the breeding birds (Gentoo and Adélie); we were reminded of the red nature of tooth and claw when a pair of hungry skuas killed, skinned and ate a penguin chick in front of our eyes; and several of our passengers hiked up a small hill, enjoyed the panoramic view from atop it and then slid down the snow. After such an adventurous day, we all very much enjoyed the creature comforts awaiting us onboard Fram…