This was nearly my big mistake day...
After the morning base visit, and a big lunch, I was dozing in the cabin when this departure was announced. Seriously considered staying onboard for the afternoon as a bit weary and it was cold out for once (1°C). Then I wandered up to the upper deck lounge, looked out and saw this...
After dashing back to the cabin and getting ready, although now familiar still a bit of an ordeal of layering, I just made it on one of the last Zodiacs of the initial disembarkation. As with other bases, some did the visit while others did Zodiac cruises with swap-overs so all experienced everything.
Cool, and chilly, Zodiac cruising
Pierre took our Zodiac tour around the bay, inspecting icebergs, and sight-seeing along the cliffs towards Skontorp Cove.
It was amazing drifting, engine off in silence, past the ice formations. Photos don't do justice to the intensity of light, shade and translucent glow of water and ice.
Awe & majesty became hilarity when one ice formation was likened to a rumoured aspect of the current US President's anatomy. Once seen, could not be unseen...
The peak behind Pierre (below) was the destination for the mountaineers and, via an easier direct route, a great outlook for anyone up to the hike to 84m elevation.
We saw lots of birds; Snow Petrels, penguins (of course), and Shags nesting on the cliffs.
When I first saw this teal streak thought it was some sort of lichen, or something similar, but it was actually a seam of turquoise. Antarctica is rich in mineral resources but an 'Environmental Projection Protocol', part of The Antarctic Treaty System, currently prohibits commercial exploitation. It is due for renewal in 2048, I hope this status is at least maintained.
It was great to spend time just drifting around looking at wildlife but because we were sitting, for a couple of hours, it got chilly. Was glad I had my 'full on' snow gloves to put on between photos!
The impressive glacier ice around the corner in Skontorp Cove. Without human scale it's hard to appreciate the immensity of this.
Base Brown Landing
Base Brown (Almirante* Brown) is currently only occupied during the summer and was deserted as they were due to arrive a couple of weeks after our visit. The Argentinian Govt. built it in 1949-50 but most of the buildings we saw were newer than that. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1984: arson by a station resident** after he was ordered to stay for another winter! A reminder of the remote harsh landscape we were travelling in and stress living here puts on people:
'“The people at the Antarctic base may be the only group who actively think of themselves as being like astronauts; they often make the comparison”
Dr James Cartreine, a researcher at Harvard Medical School | Space: The Lonely Frontier | Independent'
We landed at these steps, beyond the hut guides had snowshoes ready for the climb to the peak.
By the time I got there, being in the second landing wave, it was already a well trodden path but still quite a hike. Although used to snowshoes by now they are not the most efficient or elegant footwear! From needing all the layers on the Zodiac to shedding them, getting hot, as I climbed!
The views were well worth the effort. A lifting cloud base revealed amazing panoramas of the Base and Paradise Bay beyond.
Telephoto lens fore-shortening makes Ortelius appear much closer to shore than she was, but this shot shows the steepness of the slope.
Overlooking the base, the X marks a 'Don't go past here, you might fall off' drop!
The ultimate destination was quite a narrow ridge, glad there was good visibility and it was not windy, or we wouldn't have been allowed up there.
The mountaineers appear over the ridge having climbed up 'the long way'.
Massive glacier ice flows in Skontorp Cove framed by the ridge and clouds.
I liked the colours of this base; Brown by name and nature (although all brown is actually dark orange!) with Argentinian Flag roofs.
I was amongst those a bit early for the Zodiac back to the ship, but Pippa kept us entertained with history, stories and info while we waited.
I also took a few snaps: some interesting colours and textures in the base & surrounds. Haven't figured out this sign, there is a San Carlos, Salta Province, in Argentina which is a historic village but that is only about 4,350km away according to Google Earth.
Then it was back to Ortelius, time for a coffee (or two, or three) to warm up before we set sail on an overnight repositioning cruise.
A surprisingly common occurrence: announcement of 'Whale sighting' on the ship P.A. and stampede (orderly and carefully of course) to any applicable observation point. For this one because they were ahead of the ship, and maybe because the late evening (20:00'ish) cold plus wind chill factor, the bridge was the place to be. Capt. Yury and Clouds working to pick a course to optimise viewing without risk to the ship or the whales!
Low'ish light levels and long zoom weren't the best for photos. I never did get that iconic, full frame, tail fluke shot; a reason (like I need one) to return?
A whale tail but no whale tales. Some had closer encounters, kayak or Zodiac sightings, but I managed to miss those.
We passed this berg while chasing whales. I wondered if these guys were settling in for the night or just staying out of the water, wary of the killer whales we'd seen around....
Last sight of these whales, the tail patterns are unique and can be used to identify and track individuals.
In the evening we were entertained by more lectures. Expedition Leader Clouds gave one on birds, her passion rather than profession, and another from Dr Karl. The only note I made for his was 'star eye 6 ray effect' and can't recall (because he gave so many talks) what that was about. I suspect it included his work building instruments for the legendary eye surgeon Fred Hollows, featured in one of the talks, and vision. Fred had a Antarctic link in that he knew Sir Edmund Hillary, from NZ climbing, and they worked together on eye and vision charity work in Nepal.
Tomorrow our last two onshore expeditions, before the journey north across Drake Passage.
Day 8 – 1st December 2019 | Waterboat Point & Brown Station
GPS position at 0800: 64°47.6 S 62°49.1 W | Air Temp: 1°C | Wind: SW4 | Sea state: rippled
** I changed the quote to resident as some articles say 'Doctor', others 'Base Commander' or don't specify.