Icebergs and Islands
Yesterday we set foot on Antarctic soil for the first time. (Zum deutschen Blog.) Not on the continent, the mainland, but on one of the South Shetland Islands. Overnight, of course, we cruised on with our vessel, the Sea Spirit. To King George Island in the morning and later to Penguin Island.
The Seventh Continent
In the evening´s recap of the day, in which we recapitulate which animals we have seen and where we have been, there is always a preview of the next day, too. Therefore we know that we will go on to King George Island in the morning, where there are many different scientific stations. Since the Antarctic belongs to no one, each country can build such a station. Naturally under strict environmental regulations.
There is a union of many nations and a kind of resolution that nobody is allowed to mine any of the many mineral resources that can to be found here, up to 2048. Personally, I can only hope that mankind has become wiser until then, leaving this unique, almost untouched continent in its originality. The seventh continent is still larger than Australia or China together with India.
If the whole ice and all the snow of this continent would melt, the water level would rise by almost 70 m. Hopefully, this never happens, huge cities like New York, St. Petersburg, Shanghai, London and also Hamburg would simply sink into the water ….
Great Wall Station
Today we are allowed to visit the Great Wall Station. It is the Chinese research station. They even have a small museum of the foundation of this station and a small shop with a cafeteria. We can also have a look at the labs, which look very tidy.
A young fellow traveler from Alaska has brought his skateboard (of course he had to disinfect it) and tries a few stunts on a few concrete slabs. I’m sure Larry is the first person to have skated on all continents!
Afterwards we drive around with the Zodiacs for about an hour. We find some seals which enjoy the Antarctic sun. We circle a small island with a large penguin rookery and some small huts built by the Argentineans, as we can easily recognize the painting.
Back on board, we enjoy the delicious lunch before heading to Penguin Island in the afternoon.
To the crater of Penguin Island
The special thing about Penguin Island is the extinct volcano crater in the middle of the island. As always, red flags are set at intervals for us, along which we can move along in order to put as little strain on the environment as possible.
Of course on the stony beach, there are breeding colonies penguins, but also a single sea elephant youngster is blinking at us sleepily.
With our red jackets, which everyone got right after the embarkation and may also keep, with the life vests, our thick pants and water-resistant raincoats and not to forget the thick rubber boots, we trudge more or less quickly up the quite steep path of the volcano.
It also consists of fine volcanic rock, into which I sometimes sink in and of course big black stones. Approx. 170 m high is the volcano and I’m really happy when I finally reach the top.
Not only the view over the island is fantastic, but also the view into the crater. Our board geologist Sanna from Finland explains to us that the last eruption was probably about 10,000 years ago. Very soothing it is.
At the beach of Penguin Island
On the descent, a brown Skua sits on a boulder, as if to say I can see you. You can take a picture of me, but do not get too close to my nest. They are camouflaged with their plumage so well on the ground that we can hardly recognize them when they are sitting still.
On the beach lay whale bones, which were left here by whale hunters, who slaughtered the whale, in the past century.
This is the end of the trip and we leave the small island to the little guys with their penguin suits and the lonely sea elephant-boy, who all get abandoned by their mothers after a short time of suckling to learn how to swim and chase by themselves.
Tomorrow, when the weather permits, we will set our foot on the Arctic continent, the mainland.