Saturday, 2 January 2010

Elephant Island and Gibbs Island

A fantastic way to begin the first day of the New Year. Very early in the morning we arrived at Point Wild on Elephant Island, an historic site where Sir Ernest Shackleton’s crew was forced to overwinter, living in miserable conditions underneath two overturned lifeboats. The ‘Boss’ meanwhile, sailed 800 miles in a 22 foot lifeboat seeking rescue from the Norwegian whalers on South Georgia Island – a true epic of exploration. The spit of land that comprised Point Wild was extremely small and open to the elements– it is amazing to consider the fact that no lives were lost on Shackleton’s expedition.

The weather gods continued to favor us. The Fram sailed to smaller Gibbs island located adjacent to Elephant Island. Our Polar Cirkle boats cruised amid towering icebergs and along the jagged shoreline. Icicles clung to rocks high on the cliffs. Chinstrap penguins crowded the beach, coming and going into the water. One lone macaroni penguin, with its distinctive yellow feathering, was mixed in with the chinstraps.

Leopard seals with massive jaws full of teeth patrolled offshore seeking unlucky penguins for food. Southern giant petrels, scavengers of the skies, flew overhead. In the evening, we observed many whales blowing columns of steam into the air. It was a glorious ending to a perfect day in Antarctic waters.