Monday 27 January 2014

Stunning Stonington and Happy Horseshoe

After an evening spent going around Adelaide Island we crossed Marguerite Bay in the early hours of the morning, arriving at Stonington Island at 08:00. The bright polar sun shone down on the calm sea. The surrounding scenery of glaciers pouring down to the sea between magnificent mountains left everyone speechless before we even got off the ship.

Stonington Island is home to abandoned British Base E and American East Base. Both bases now historic Sites and Monuments protected under the Antarctic Treaty. We enjoyed walking around the buildings and hearing stories of past endeavors of the former inhabitants. The majority of work relied upon easy access to the mainland, and when the ice ramp deteriorated, the British base was closed in 1976. (The American base was only opened for a very brief time in 1946-7).
We saw at firsthand the magnificent power of nature as a large chunk of ice fell in front of our eyes into the sea making the gap between Stonington Island and the mainland even bigger.
The island is now home to breeding Antarctic Terns, Skuas and some stranded Penguins. Some of the more crazy of us tested the water temperatures for a very quick swim.
 We reached our afternoon destination, Horseshoe Island (which actually is H-shaped and not as its name states) is located East of Pourquoi Pas Island and is home to British Base Y. This station was built in 1955 to replace Base E  Stonington Island after the access by ship to Stonington was found difficult. It was mainly used during the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year and abandoned afterwards. It remains a time capsule of life on a base in the 1950s with a real sense of feeling of its occupants not long moved out.
Many Weddell Seals were resting on the island and on the remaining sea ice in Sally Cove and we got the chance to see them from very close. This location was also perfect for many activities, so we took advantage of it and some of us went kayaking, others had a closer look at the icebergs while cruising on the Polar Cirkle Boats, and a fortunate bunch even spent a glorious night camping on the island. The weather was just perfect! We all left Horseshoe Island with a happy smile.