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Antarctica: The Expedition, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage, Halfmoon Island, Rocas Hydrurga with Cuverville Island, Palmer Station with Lemaire Channel & Petermann Island, Brown Station with Neko Harbor, Brown Bluff with Esperanza Station, Whalers Bay with Yankee Harbor, Drake Passage
Antarctica Expedition - Day 5:
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Wednesday, January 13th
Lat. 64 º 46' S, Long. 64 º 03' W
Lemaire Channel - Pleneau Island
Lat. 65º 06' S, Long. 64º 04' W
Lat. 65 º 10' S, Long. 64 º 10' W
Morning Temp.: 0ºC
Winds: 2 knots NW
Evening Temp.: 1ºC
Winds: 0 knots
We had plans for 2 landings today. However, the weather being favourable, we got a bonus. A third landing.
The first one would be at Palmer Station - United States Antarctic Program. Palmer Station's manager and other research staff came aboard to brief us about the program and the research they carry out. Palmer station was named because of the young New England skipper of Hero, who was one of the earliest explorers to reach this part of Antarctica and it is situated on southwest Anvers Island on the shores of Arthur Harbor. Palmer began in 1964 as a single hut, and was extended the following year. The current station, which has linking walkways above the snow level, was built in 1968 and has recently been expanded and renovated. It is quite small, with just two main buildings and a population that ranges from 10 in winter to a maximum of 45 in summer. We were shown a well run operation doing useful research and fascinating aquarium of Antarctic marine life. Palmer also has a nice souvenir shop in Antarctica. Indeed you can shop in Antarctica too! Hot coffee and brownies were a welcome after the brief visit to the Palmer Station. Back to the ship.
In the early afternoon, we sailed through Lemaire Channel on our way to Pleneau and Petermann islands which would be our southernmost locality visited. I don't think there could be a more pristine experience other than crossing this beautiful and narrow channel cushioned between fabulous mountains, glaciers and icebergs. Thousands of pictures must have been shot here. No wonder the channel is also nicknamed the Kodak Gap. Hats off to the Captain who maneuvered through with precision.
After lunch, we decided to go for a Zodiac cruise in "Iceberg Alley", Pleneau Island. Here icebergs of unusual shapes gather with the currents and are stranded for the summer months. We spent a marvelous time staring at the different colors and textures of these natural sculptures - a myriad of shapes, sizes and colors. I was lucky to get a picture of a Leopard seal swimming past our Zodiac just 15 feet away. We also saw some Crabeater seals resting on these white and blue floating monuments. However, the icing on the cake, and, I would say, the highlight of the trip was spending almost an hour around 3 Humpback whales who were busy with their maneuvers of casting 'bubble nets' to trap krill - their staple diet. Being just 30 feet away from 30 tonners is an unforgettable experience. It was good to see Antarctic Terns hovering above the whales and diving down to catch the leftovers from the whales.
After the day's recap and a delicious dinner we did a third landing on that day in Petermann Island, named after a German geographer but is perhaps better known as the site of the 2nd French Expedition led by Charcot who wintered here during 1907-08. Their ship Pourquoi Pas? (meaning why not?) was moored alongside the rocks in Port Circumcision so named because they arrived on Circumcision Day, January 1st.
Welcoming us on the island were Gentoo penguins, and our first Adelie penguins. We visited the area of the Argentinean emergency hut "Groussac" and the British scientists' commemorative cross. By walking almost alongshore we reached to the nesting area of the Adelie penguins, shared with Antarctic Cormorant and Gentoo Penguin as well. Most of them had their chicks with them. We also had the opportunity to admire a panoramic view of the Antarctic Peninsula and the Penola strait.
The Lemaire channel is a narrow gap 7-mile (11 kilometres) long, one-mile (1.6 kilometers) wide passage running in a northeast-to-southwest-and-west direction from Splitwind Island and False Cape Renard (called "Una's tits") to Roullin Point and Cape Cloos. It separates Booth Island from the Antarctic Peninsula.
Palmer Station Image Gallery Photo viewer
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