Ventifax
Ventifacts formation on weathered rocks at the base of Brown Bluff
Adelie penguins
Adelie penguins at Brown Bluff taking to the water en masse
Zodiac cruise
An afternoon Zodiac cruise through pack ice in the Weddell Sea
Snow petrels
Many snow petrels are following the ice edge in search of food

December 02, 2012 – Brown Bluff, Antarctic Sound, Antarctica

Posted on December 4th, 2012

Temperature: 23˚F (-5˚C)
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Cloud Cover: variable
Precipitation: none

We woke up and realized that no matter how excited we were yesterday morning, today might take the cake. This is the day we would make a continental landing at a place called Brown Bluff.

With air temperatures announced at 23˚F, we boarded our sturdy Zodiacs and made our way to shore. Before long we were able to see the buzz of activity as Adélie penguins by the hundreds squabbled and ran about until one made the decision to leap into the water. Like lemmings, the rest followed suit. Once ashore, we could finally lay claim to having stood on the Antarctic Continent; for some, it was the final seventh of the continents!

A beach littered with the remnants of a once-violent volcanic eruption was now inhabited by tens of thousands of gentoo and Adélie penguins, with kelp gulls and Cape and snow petrels circling the cliffs above. With strong winds whipping the snow into frenzy around us, we worked our way to the edge of the Adélie colony for a closer look.

Heading further into the Antarctic Sound, the ship began to encounter heavier and heavier ice; we had finally reached the ice edge. Once it became clear that our progress was stopped by the solid wall of ice in front of the vessel, the decision was quickly made to launch the Zodiacs for a tour of the ice edge in search of wildlife.

Not having had any luck with seals or emperor penguins we were beginning to lose hope when, at the last minute, two emperors reared their lovely heads. The excitement of the Zodiac drivers was evident as their jubilant voices called to the others not in the immediate area. Within minutes, the other boats were upon us and everyone had their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the largest penguin alive, the emperor.

Almost frozen to the bone, it seemed our tour ended just in time. Returning to ‘Le Boreal,’ we all vanished to our rooms for a hot shower in an attempt to bring our body temperatures back up before joining the Expedition Team in the Theatre for recap and briefing.

– Chris Srigley, Naturalist

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