Friday 25 January 2013

Lemaire Channel, Petermann Island and Vernadsky Station

There was hardly any time for breakfast this morning. Waking up in the scenic Neumeyer Channel we continued through the even narrower Lemaire Channel. A lot of ice floes lined our way, and the blue sky, steep mountains and glaciers were mirrored in the cold steel blue water.

We were headed for our morning landing at Petermann Island. The Gentoo penguin chicks there are already almost as big as their parents, and their fat bellies clearly demonstrated that they have been doing very well this year. The cliff at the northern edge of the colony is the place where the blue-eyed shags breed and their chicks are also notoriously hungry. Their parents were industrious going back and forth to the sea and on every return, greedy quarreling broke out between the three to four siblings in each nest.

A view point at the far end of Petermann Island further offered a splendid view of the surroundings, with the FRAM in front of snow-covered mountains on one side and a bay filled with icebergs of all shapes and shades of blue on the other side.

Humpback whales accompanied us on our way to our afternoon landing site, the Ukrainian research base Vernadsky. Still miraculously under blue skies we cruised through the narrow channels in between the Argentine Islands up to the base, where we were shown around the building by the resident researchers. The landing was rounded off by a visit to historic Wordie House, the old and abandoned British station building on the neighboring Winter Island. The hill behind Wordie House offered a fantastic 360° panoramic view of the ice-filled Argentine Islands archipelago, and even some breaching humpback whales!