Day 15

Yesterday we attempted to motor south to Vernadsky station (formerly Faraday station) but had to return to Port Lockroy yesterday after we found the Lemaire Channel blocked with brash ice, growlers and bergy bits. We awoke to beautiful sunshine, seeing Port Lockroy in its full glory for the first time. The wind has changed over night so our second attempt today would be more successful.

We weighed anchor immediately after breakfast and entered the Lemaire Channel just after lunch. While there was some ice in the water and we had to take a slalom course around bergy bits, the passage was clear. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking: steep, snow-capped mountains on either side of the narrow channel with glaciers riding on their shoulders. Little ice bergs drifted past with seals lazily sunning themselves on them. We also spotted a few Humpback whales and a group of seven Minke whales going past us. We were thrilled to be on watch for such a beautiful afternoon and are happy to have done well in such narrow confines.

After clearing the Lemaire channel, we stood off Petermann Island for the afternoon and most of the crew went ashore. Liz generously volunteered to stay behind and man the bridge with captain Chris. There was an Argentinian refuge which was interesting to see. It was well maintained and equipped to give shelter to about half a dozen people.

We also found a few lone Adelie penguins scattered about hordes of Gentoo.

As we walked about, we found that the snow, though looking the same, could give completely different support from one step to another. Occasionally our foot would go further through the snow than expected and we would be in it to our knee or thigh. However we could always get out easy and were in no danger. Angela hurt her ankle in one of those mis-steps but, thanks to Peter’s tender care, she is all better now.

Our landing side had a small rise, from which it was possible to obs rve the penguins under water for a bit. There is such a difference between their almost comical movements on land and the grace, speed and agility which the exhibit when they are under water. It really is amazing.

Once we returned from our shore expedition, we continued on towards Vernadsky, where we had one last bit of excitement for the day: both entrances to the anchorage we had planned on using were blocked by ice bergs that had drifted in and grounded. The back-up anchorage was clear so all is well.

In the evening we belatedly celebrated captain Chris’ birthday with a song and a very impressive cake involving ice-bergs, penguins and an image of the captain himself.

Chris then briefed us on what had been happening today and Skip gave us a talk on Vernadsky station.

We are going to bed looking forward to our visit of Vernadsky station tomorrow morning.

Aft Starboard: Alan, Angela, JC, Liz, Kate, Nick, Peter, Sue and Vinn ey.