December 15, 2013 – Antarctic Sound and Brown Bluff
Posted on December 15th, 2013
The weather seemed to turn a corner today and we welcomed patches of blue sky and intervals of sunshine. Small icebergs were scattered over the sea and Cape petrels glided up and down the sides of ‘Le Boreal,’ riding the waves of a chilly breeze. The air temperature was about 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soon after breakfast, we approached Goudin Island off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The anchor dropped and, bundled up warmly in as many clothes as could we could manage, we set out on a Zodiac cruise. Over the course of the hour-long excursion, we had the opportunity to look at the sights from sea level and at close quarters. There were ice floes and small icebergs showing endless shapes and subtle coloration. We also saw all three local penguins (Adélie, chinstrap and gentoo) and all three local seals: Weddell, crabeater and leopard. It was a bit chilly but a marvelous experience.
After our return to ‘Le Boreal’ and some time to warm up, we joined Bob Burton in the theater where he presented his “Favorite Heroes: Stories of Antarctic Exploration. This revealed the time of great Antarctic legends like Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton, all considered heroic for their expeditions to the most inhospitable part of the world and all with indomitable strength of character, despite inadequate equipment and provisions. He shared Scott’s last expedition in which three men trudged through the Antarctic night to collect emperor penguin eggs, as well as Douglas Mawson’s incredible solo trek following the deaths of his two companions.
In the afternoon, ‘Le Boreal’ cruised through the Antarctic Sound and Captain Garcia detoured to make a circumnavigation of a huge tabular iceberg. Eventually we reached the afternoon’s destination at Brown Bluff. For some in our group, this landing was very special and marked the first time they would set foot on the Antarctic continent.
As the name suggests, Brown Bluff features a beach backed by tall cliffs of brown rock. On a sunny day like today, the variegated shades of brown created a dramatic scene. These rocks were laid down by volcanic activity many years ago and now provide nesting paces for Cape petrels and snow petrels. But the main interest for us was a colony of Adélie penguins. We agreed they were the cutest of the species we had encountered on this cruise so far! And this was likely to be the only place where we would visit one of their nesting colonies. For an added bonus, we discovered that some of the nests were home to young chicks. Time passed quickly and before we knew it, it was time for the Zodiacs to return us to the ship.