16th. & 17th. February, Antarctica, Paulet Island – Adélie Penguins
We were into our third and hopefully last day of the passage between South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. The South Orkneys had been left behind the previous day without stopping. The only signs of them were some, possibly Finn, whales just visible in the spray. There was no sign of the wind abating, but it was supposed to in the evening according to the forecast. I was taking pills and eating normally, except for having desserts instead of wine.
Finally the wind died down and the ship stopped lurching all over the place. We were allowed on deck again and could observe our first icebergs. There were some sightings of Finn and Humpback whales and I managed a photo of a bit of a Humpback, but of course it was very far away. Hopefully we would get much closer when we arrived. I did get some better pictures of birds, notably Cape Petrels and Southern Fulmars. During dinner we saw a huge iceberg floating by, with lots of Adélie penguins arranged in neat rows on it, just like in a film. It was already too dark for a photo but I was hoping to see that again as well. Only about 10 hours sailing remained and we were expected to arrive at Paulet Island (off Joinville and Dundee Islands) at the Northern edge of the Weddell sea early the next morning. We were already well South of Elephant Island, whence Shackleton departed for South Georgia – at least he was travelling with the wind – we had been struggling against it the whole time.
A little later there was a loud crunching as we had ploughed through some ice. I went up to the bridge to see, but the main part of the ice was already well astern. It was dark but the captain was using a huge searchlight to help steer the ship by. The icebergs could also be seen with radar and sonar which could be followed together with a map on the bridge.
I was up at 4.00am the first day (17th.) just as we were arriving at the islands off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. It was already light enough to see the sea of icebergs and the first streak of reddish light was appearing on the horizon. Unfortunately the sky remained mostly overcast and there were even a few specks of snow when we arrived at Paulet Island after an early breakfast. It was disappointing to discover that the great majority of the 100,000 Adélie penguins had already left their nesting sites leaving behind only stinking mud to record their recent presence. The guides thought it could be due to the storms of the last few days and that the penguins had then found it more comfortable in the water. One slope was covered with breeding cormorants which had not departed and there were also the usual fur seals.