First steps on the Arctic Continent
Today is the third day I travel with the Sea Spirit in Antarctica. (To the German blog.)Today, for the first time we will finally set foot on the Antarctic continent and it will be at Brown Bluff. So far we have only “visited” and seen the antecedent islands of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Who was up very early could enjoy the slow passage through huge tabular icebergs. At the end, a massive, huge brown mountain lies in front of us. It descends steeply, running down into a relatively narrow, very stony beach. So this is it, my fist step on the seventh continent, Brown Bluff.
Here you can find huge rookeries of Adele penguins. Some waddle to the beach and quickly disappear into their favorite element, the sea. Others seem to hesitate and move in large groups along the sea shore, seemingly searching for a particularly easy entry into the sea.
None of the little fellows feels disturbed by us, we do not seem to exist for them. On land they have very few enemies, if one ignores the predatory skuas and some other birds, who like to steal penguin eggs and chicks.
On the glacier
As almost all people walk to the penguin rookery, I follow the red flags to the opposite side. Up a hill with magnificent views over the bay, the glacier, where I will be in a few moments, and the many swimming icebergs.
Heidi, the French glaciologist, is already standing on the lower end of the glacier, and has got a huge smile on her face. I walk through a shallow but fast flowing brook fed by the thawing glacier.
Since no one but me is here, I get an exclusive lecture on the nature of this glacier. Very good can the edge be seen, which has been formed with immense force. Because of the warming of the climate, it has now retreated quite a bit and so the end moraine has become very visible. Further back it calves directly into the sea. Here it ends on a stony beach.
I enjoy a little rest, then the others are coming. In their red parkas, they look at the distance almost like a new penguin species, as they stagger one by one over the narrow path across the mountain.
At the penguins rookery
Along the beach I walk over to the other side. Again and again penguins cross my path. Then I stop in front of the crossed flags, which means up to here and not further! Up here, a huge colony of Adele penguins has built their nests. Most breed on their eggs, some cheeky companions steal stones from their neighbor’s nests, and get a loud warning.
Then I see a tiny beakling peeping out from the belly fold of one penguin ! So a couple started to bread early. Now the more careful the parents have to be to avoid losing their brood to the predatory seagulls or skuas.
Again, it is time to say goodbye to this point. Brown Bluff, the Antarctic mainland.
On Gourdin Island
Very slowly and carefully the captain maneuvers us through the tabular icebergs, while we sit in the warming sun on deck 5 at the stern; but still cuddled up in blankets, to enjoy our lunch. Rarely have I seen such a bright blue sky! The glittering white of the icebergs, partly with a splendid blue tone in between.
In the late afternoon we land on Gourdin Island. Directly at our landing place we are greeted by a Crabeater seal, if one could count the sleepy blinking as a welcome.
Cautiously we step over the penguin highways, which are everywhere along the beach. Then we walk uphill. Over gravel we climb cautiously higher and higher. The little Adele penguins are a lot more skillful than we are.
Their distinguishing feature is the black head with the white ring around the eyes. They usually breed farther south, so their breeding colonies are rather small here.
On the top a heavy wind is blowing, but we are rewarded with a fantastic view over the tabular icebergs.
One of the Zodiac shuttles brings my husband and me back on board. Although we had a sumptuous lunch buffet, I am already hungry again and curious what the chef conjures up this evening.
But before we get a short summary of the day in the Ocean Lounge on deck 3 and a look at the following day.
As always, we get a piece of advice: remain flexible, because the weather can change quickly, so that planned landings may not take place or can be terminated at short notice. The expeditions team around the director Michaela, a German biologist, has always got a plan B, C, D or E, if it comes quite badly also F, that will be announced on short term over the loudspeakers.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow …