Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The other side

We normally visit places on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula because the ice conditions are usually favourable. However, if you are very lucky, like we are, you may get to visit the eastern side, AKA the Weddell Sea side. Early this morning we approached Paulet Island in idyllic conditions of sun and calm winds. Paulet is famous for its huge Adélie Penguin colony and it did not disappoint! Almost everywhere we looked we could see Adélies laying down incubating their eggs, standing and singing to each other, carrying stones and generally doing what Adélie Penguins do (note the flying penguin below!). On one corner of the colony and in several other places, Blue-eyed Shags were breeding. We had a chance to hike up a hill on the island for a great view of the penguins and the beautiful, though stark, landscapes below. Although the wind picked up a little through the morning, it remained pleasant, and the sun was strong. Towards the end of the landing the wind picked up.

After returning to the ship we sailed towards Brown Bluff, our next landing site. The winds which started at Paulet, increased and we were soon in raging 60 knot catabatic winds from the nearby mainland icecap. We instantly understood how fickle the Antarctic weather can be- from a lamb to a lion. We anchored at Brown Bluff and the Expedition team suited up for the landing but it was clear from the conditions at the tender-pit that we could not continue (the tender-pit is where we get in and out of our Polarcirkel boats). We closed the doors and sailed on through the Antarctic sound, admiring the incredible tabular icebergs that seemed to be all around us.