Thursday 11 February 2010

Leaping Minke Whales

Petermann Island is a brilliant landing site. On a day like today when you have blue sky and seemingly unlimited visibility it is hard to beat. The scenery is inspiring. Impressive mountains loom over the landing site. Glaciers flow down to the sea. The white snow was covered in huge swaths of bright green and pink. The greens and pinks are from an algae that grows on snow. There is a diminishing Adelie colony and a growing Gentoo colony. There is a colony of Blue-eyed Shags. A short walk brings you to a stunning view over Panola Strait and Iceberg Alley.
It was downright balmy throughout much of the day. We started at +7ÂșC and it got warmer from there.
In the afternoon we paid a visit to the fine fellows at the Ukranian base Vernadsky. Sasha (one of the scientists at the base) told us that there were high winds all day yesterday and today until about an hour before our arrival. Wind? What wind? Luck has obviously been on our side.
Before entering the base we removed our boots. The tour of the base was quite interesting. A steady flow of people visited the gift shop and an equally steady flow of people sampled the vodka at the bar.
At 18:00 we entered the Lemaire Channel where we encountered a crazy number of Minke whales. We saw at least 20 of them! It was unbelievable as a entire pod of Minkes raced alongside the ship. They often porpoising out of the water. One of the more acrobatic whales leapt out of the water while turning simultaneously upside down. To see so many minke whales in one place and then have a group of approximately eight whales race and seem to play with the ship is a very rare occurrence.
Another incredible indelible memory.