Saturday 5 January 2013

Antarctic Sound

During the evening hours, MV Fram steamed across the Bransfield Strait and in the early morning we entered Antarctic Sound. Ice, Ice, lots of ice! Steaming slowly between the ice floes, the ship made its way towards our morning destination – the Argentinean Base Esperanza. Shortly before 10 am our first guests landed a shore. It was not only our first landing in the Antarctica but also our first landing on the Antarctic Continent itself! Friendly Station staff gave us a tour of the Station, filling us with tales of the history of the Base. The tour ended in the station main building, and like all good tours, with a visit to the souvenir shop and post office. For many a welcome break was the hot coffee and Argentine Treats served with lashings of Dulce de Leche.

The restaurant was abuzz with conversations about our first footsteps on the continent, and our first encounters with Adelie and Gentoo Penguins – little did we know we would be overwhelmed at our afternoon landing – and our second continental landing at Brown Bluff.
The majestic cliffs of Brown Bluff are the remains of a sub glacial volcanic eruption, and on its slopes 30,000 odd Adelie penguins and a handful of Gentoo penguins have made their nests. The landing had an added bonus of free Ice Cruising from the ship to shore – with the skilled AB’s driving the polar circle boats through the brash ice, bergy bits and ice bergs.
The Adelie penguins kept us amused with their behaviors in the rookery – and we saw the entire circle of life here – from pair bonding, to mating to chicks demanding to be fed. The Adelie’s had large well fed chicks, but the Gentoo chicks were only a few days old, and for a lucky few we saw Gentoo chicks hatching. Kelp gulls were also guarding their young, from the predatory attacks of the Skua’s.
As we set sail from Brown Bluff and headed out back in to the Antarctic Sound and Bransfield Strait, we were escorted by a Humpback whale who kept us mesmerized with many blows and shows of tail.
As we sipped evening cocktails in the Panorama lounge we reflected on the amazing experiences of the day and what fresh experiences the morning would bring.