||E 2-3 bft
Today it was well worth getting up early. Around breakfast the captain steered the ship through the famous and very spectacular Lemaire Channel. This channel is only 600m wide at its narrowest point and has steep, glacier-covered mountains on both sides. The weather didn’t allow us to see the peaks of these mountains, but it was still very spectacular. We were not the only ones going through this passage, a few Antarctic Minke Whales were seen as well.
When we had passed through, it was time to get ready. Despite an approaching snow storm, we boarded the zodiacs for a zodiac cruise in Port Charcot. This bay just south of the Lemaire Channel, is often filled with icebergs. This was the case as well today. The visibility was poor sometimes due to heavy snow, but several icebergs were found with beautiful shapes and colours. A favourite thing to do in the zodiacs was to find names for the different icebergs, depending on their shapes. “Lion” and “Camel” were some of the names that were given to the icebergs.
On the fast ice near Pleneau Island several Crabeater Seals were seen hauled out on the ice, not bothered at all by our presence. On Pleneau itself a large colony of Gentoo Penguins could be seen and it was very funny to watch the different groups of penguins trying to get into the water, or not, or maybe there. “Oops, sorry, I think I pushed you in”… They didn’t seem to be too eager to get into the cold water.
During lunch the captain brought the ship slightly further south, so we could go ashore at Petermann Island in the afternoon. Just before we could go ashore, a Leopard Seal was found on an ice floe next to the ship. On shore more Gentoo Penguins were waiting for us, together with a small number of Adelie Penguins. This penguin colony is one of the longest studied in the world. When Charcot came here in the early 1900’s, a count was already made. At this time roughly 80% of the colony consisted of Adelie Penguins with the remaining 20% was Gentoo. Nowadays this number is completely turned around with the fast majority of the birds being Gentoos and only few remaining Adelies. It was good fun to watch especially the Gentoos and their behaviour of stealing pebbles from each other. The Adelies seemed a bit better behaved, but maybe that was just because they were a bit further in their breeding cycle. Bill took those who wanted for a bit a longer walk on snowshoes over the island, finding yet another species of penguin: the Chinstrap.
When everybody was back on board it was almost time for dinner and after that a visit to the bar or cabin. Due to heavy snow the camping night was cancelled unfortunately, but this gave us the opportunity to en-joy another passage through the Lemaire, even though visibility was still poor.
Forth Camping night, Hovgaard – Cancelled
The day was not very promising about weather, but the camping team still had the hope to have a night out. As closer the departure time got, Nacho and Ben could see that there were not many chances to do it. Anyway, still with a few wind gusts they jumped in a zodiac and they went scouting to find a good place. Immediately they found it but when they went ashore and turned around in direction to Ortelius, they could see low and dark clouds moving very fast to their position, at the same time rain said present and they realized that the could hear the engine of Ortelius but not see it, also this condition was not very nice to the captain because he wanted to keep the campers always in sight in case of a quick evacuation. Unfor-tunately there was not much to think to cancel the activity, so guides went back to the vessel to talk to the passengers and explain the situation.
Hovgaard Island Grade F
While the rest of the ship explored Pleneau Island a team of 17 landed on Hovgaard Island. We split into 3 teams (with some passengers leading their own rope) and fought through increasingly bad weather and visibility to the summit at 370m. It was a long and at time never ending push but a great achievement for all!
Petermann Island Grade F
At short notice (Tim had been injured on board) Jonny steeped into the breach and led 12 mountaineers through the penguin colonies before tackling the steep glacial slopes above. Time (and tide?) was against the team however and a high point was reached before a descent back down their line of ascent.
1st December AM – Pleneau (14 Persons)
1st December PM – Port Charcot (14 Persons)