Friday, 18 November 2011

Mainland Antarctica

Through the night we sailed across the Bransfield Strait towards the Antarctic Peninsula. It was a quiet night on the ship which told us there was little wind outside- a rare thing for Antarctica! In the morning we found ourselves in the Gerlache Straight with the Antarctic mainland to our port side. The scenery and light were spectacular with mountains on all sides of us seemingly covered in white meringue!

Around 0700 we encountered some sea ice in the Gerlache. Even though our ship- the Fram- has an ice strengthened hull, our Captain does not want to hit any ice if he can avoid it. The result is we go dead slow through ice and navigate around it if at all possible.

Our planned landing at Neko Harbour was not possible due to heavy pack-ice in area. “Plan B” was to launch our Polarcirkel boats and cruise around the ice and icebergs near the ship. This was fantastic fun! Being in one of the small boats, near the water’s surface really gives a sense being in a world of ice- the icy tingle on your face, the fresh, cool smell, the south of ice cracking and bits hitting each other and popping like corn. On one small iceberg, a Crabeater Seal had hauled out and seemed to be enjoying the day as much as we were!

We returned to the ship after our boat cruises for lunch, as the Fram sailed to our next destination of Paradise Bay. Our landing there was to be at Almirante Brown, on the mainland of Antarctica, but the pack-ice was pushed against the landing site and stopped us in our tracks. Again, our expedition leader Karin had an ace up her sleeve and we headed for the nearby Chilean station of Gonzalez Videla. We were in luck and the landing site was clear of ice so we went ashore! 

The station was not yet manned for the season, but the penguins and fantastic scenery entertained and enchanted us.

Taken together, we all would agree that this day was fantastic, not what we had originally planned, but fantastic nevertheless!