Friday, 16 January 2009

The Lemaire Channel 08/01/2009

Remember - if you want to see a larger version of any picture - just double click on it

Day 12 January 8th 2009

We were somewhat amused to find out today that it is colder in London than it is in the Antarctic. We are expecting temperatures as low as -1.5C and apparently it is -11C in London. This temperature however does not reflect the real Antarctic weather we are about to experience.

On the agenda for today is the Lemaire Passage and Port Charcot.

"The Lemaire Channel is a spectacular 11km long by 1.6km wide passage that runs from False Cape Renard in the north to Cape Cloos in the south separating Booth Island from the Antarctic continent. It was discovered by Dallmann's German expedition of 1873 but Gerlache was the first to navigate the channel in 1898 and named in honour of Charles Lemaire, a Belgian explorer of the Congo. At its narrowest, it is less than 800m wide with towering peaks in excess of 300m overhead. The channel can be full of icebergs and sea ice which can make the transit difficult or impossible. The area is a good location for spotting wildlife and is one of the most scenic channels in the Peninsula."

"Port Charcot lies on the north coast of Booth Island. It was discovered by Jean-Baptiste Charcot in 1904 and named for his father. Charcot's crew spent the winter of 1904 in this location. Their ship, Francais, was moored just off shore and the men slept on board but established a shore station for scientific observation and as a potential emergency shelter. There is an Adelie penguin colony occupying the lower slopes of this rugged bay."

Our Zodiac driver was "Tony the Bird Life" hence we were well briefed on everything flying around us as well as many other things. There was a Leopard seal on a floe who, although thin, had been

Leopard Seal and Poo

feeding on penguin (against Krill), this was determined by the colour of its poo (which was not pink).

To describe the area as beautiful is an absolute understatement

Entrance to Lemarie Channel

This is the entrance to the Channel

Rockface Reflection

The rock face is reflected everywhere in the crystal clear water. The scenery is too massive to be recorded in any set of photographs that can be put into a blog.

Massive Scenery

There were the usual penguins around, some

3 Penguins on flow

Penguins on Iceflow

on floes and some in the distance trudging up

Penguins walking up hill

a hill to their nesting site which was halfway

Penguins living up cliff

up the mountain. Unfortunately for them, this was the nearest piece of flat land available for a nest.

Whilst we were out on the Zodiacs, our ship relocated because of threatening ice floes and so after lunch, we are approaching the Adelie Penguin colony from another direction.

At 1415 we are told to collect our camping gear from the stores and so our already small cabin now also accommodates sleeping bags etc.

The trip ashore to the Penguin colony is scheduled for 1500 and the weather has turned quite antarctic with snow and wind but this does not stop the intrepid explorer. Getting ready for a trip ashore requires significant layering:

Layer 1&2: simply guess the two layers that are worn on top of the birthday suit - no pictures allowed.

Layer 3: thermal tops and bottoms, first pair of socks

Layer 2

Layer 4: winter walking trousers and pullover

Layer 3

Layer 5: waterproof trousers, fleece, second pair of socks

Layer 4

Layer 6: waterproof gortex thermal jacket, life jacket; face and neck muff; thermal hat

Layer 5

Layer 7: To finish: hood; thermal gloves; boots; sunglasses

Layer 6

The trip out to the colony takes 10 minutes in a zodiac and goes through the iceberg graveyard - because we are in a narrow bay, icebergs get blown in and cannot get out and therefore are there until the melt.

Two days ago when we were last on land, it was so hot we were stripping off layers and sitting in our shirtsleeves. Today there is a howling gale, snow and standing up is very difficult.

Nobody can find any Adelie penguins, there are only Gentoos behaving just as they do everywhere but they are having trouble standing up as well.

The bay is very atmospheric and with the

Port Charcot

weather blowing in from west of the Antarctic Peninsula, it feels like a taste of the real cold unforgiving Antarctic.

Because we are calling at a Ukrainian research station (Vernadsky Station) tomorrow, we are sending ourselves a souvenir postcard which will take some time to arrive.


No comments:

Post a Comment