“Glittering white, shining blue, raven black, in the light of the sun the land looks like a fairy-tale. Pinnacle after pinnacle, peak after peak, crevassed, wild as any land on our glove, it lies, unseen and untrodden.”
~ Roald Amundsen
It’s amazing to pop out on the deck in the morning and be greeted by more soft fluffy snow and an amazing and ever-changing landscape. This morning was no different as we head towards the Yalour Islands to do some zodiac touring.
The Yalour Islands are located east of the Argentine Islands in the Penola Strait. They were discovered and named by Charcot’s French Antarctic Expedition of 1903-05. The low lying islands are scattered over a distance of 2.4kms and are home to over 8,000 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins, spread among thirteen colonies. Due to the shallow waters in the area, grounded icebergs are common in this region which provides plenty of opportunities to see marine animals.
We disembarked for some zodiac cruising this morning and saw some of the amazing icebergs – they were huge, and beautiful and blue and striated and just gorgeous. In among these, we saw humpback whales, jumping and swimming Gentoo penguins, cormorants, seals and apparently the gold star of Antarctic bird watching – a very rare Snowy Tern.
Photo by Pato: A seal floating on a small iceberg in the brash icefield.Brash ice beside the zodiac.
Jean, our Adelie expert guiding out zodiac today. Photo by Pato: Photo by Linda: Photo by Barry:Photo by Arthur:Photo by Ling:Photo by Scotty:
This afternoon we did some more zodiac cruising at Port Charcot which lies on the north coast of Booth Island (once called Wandel Island). It was discovered by Jean-Baptiste Charcot in 1904 and named for his father. Charcot’s crew spend the winter of 1904 in this location when their ship, the Francais was moored and the men slept onboard. They established a shore station for scientific observations as a potential emergency shelter. Charcot was considered ‘The Gentleman of the Antarctic”, he was beloved by his crew and did small things to make life easier for them – like bringing a year’s worth of newspapers with him to bring out and read each day (admittedly they were a year old, but it kept them occupied through the long winter). He also kept a pet pig, called Toby. Here we can find a huge iceberg graveyard – well some call it a graveyard, but I preferred Acacia’s description of it as ‘sculpture gallery’ – there are large tabular icebergs and older, rolled icebergs that have run aground making a hugely dramatic landscape.
The ‘sculpture gallery’ comprised of these large grounded icebergs is fairly safe to navigate in the zodiacs. They’ve become stuck on the bottom in the shallow waters and have all accumulated in an alley of sorts. They are incredibly beautiful and each one looks completely unique. It is also incredible how you can view an iceberg from one side and then go to another side of it and it looks so completely different. Front of an iceberg that looks like a castle… Side view of the same iceberg that looks nothing like a castle anymore!
Snowy Tern – Photo by Acacia:After our cruise through the ‘sculpture gallery’, we went to Port Charcot to visit with a very cute little Gentoo penguin colony. They were mostly chicks from this year’s breeding season, that were very inquisitive and around their visitors. Penguins have right of way in the Antarctic and we have to work hard to stay out of their way. Best way to see them is to just sit down and wait for them to come and check you out. It was wonderful to take some beautiful photos of these cute little guys with the icebergs and the snow-capped mountains in the background.
Photo by Scotty: Photo by Linda: Photo by Acacia:
After our visit with the Gentoo – it was back on the ship and we set sail north through the famous Lemaire Channel. And if we thought the scenery on our two outings today was spectacular, I can only say I am blown away by the incredible natural beauty and grandeur of this famous channel. The tidewater glaciers are up to 300m tall and go on for kilometres. It’s impossible to capture the sheer size and scale of these formations.
We have had an amazing day marvelling at the ice, the fresh snow sitting on everything, and gargantuan-sized icebergs right outside our windows. It is quite simply beyond description. I am rarely at a loss for words, but have been feeling very much as if my vocabularly has been failing me since we got here. The Expedition Team all warned us that we woudl have trouble describing the places we had been and what we had seen to people back home… and they were 100% right.