14th November 2018 – Meeting the Gentoo Penguins on Cuverville Island

The crew pulled up anchor in Cierva Cove and we set out to sail for three to four hours to Cuverville Island further south on the western side of the Antarctic peninsula. On route, looking down from my balcony I could see ice everywhere.20181114_101010.jpg

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20181114_101039.jpgSailing out from the Cove I listened to the sounds the glaciers, floating icebergs and the wind. As we re-entered the sea, we had a view of a littered landscape with icebergs of many sizes; watch this video.

The crew has just completed a safety drill – without us.  This made me think about the consequences of hitting a large iceberg.  It would be appalling if we had to get into the lifeboats and watch our ship founder; despite not much wind, the temperature outside is below freezing, and even wearing everything I own, I know that the cold would seep quickly into my bones.  We are two days sail from Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina. Possibly some researchers on stations nearby could reach us somehow, but such help might take 24 or more hours.  Perhaps another tourist ship is nearby; maybe not. Regardless, the remoteness of our location and our isolation is comprehensive.

In addition to the litter of icebergs forever in view as we travel, occasionally I discern small islands with rock surfaces peeking from the snow – sometimes being able to identify other masses as a humungus iceberg or an island is impossible.

See below, on the shots I have taken from my cabin television, where we have travelled and where we are right now – over 2650 nautical miles covered to date.IMG_4252.JPG

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IMG_4255.JPGAfternoon ashore

Cuverville Island or Île de Cavalier de Cuverville is a rocky island lying in the Errera Channel between the Arctowski Peninsula and the northern part of Ronge Island, off the west coast of Graham Land, in Antarctica. Over the lunch period we reached Cuverville Island by passing through a sea of icebergs.  Here is a photo of an iceberg that isn’t large enough to be tracked by satellite, but it seemed large to me.20181114_102258.jpgI was off the ship at 3pm-ish and given 1.5 hours onshore with a very large colony of Gentoo Penguins.  My cabin television provided the following close up photo making it easy to identify this particular type of penguin.20181113_150705.jpgThe colony was huge and spread itself into pockets on the flatter areas as well as high up on the mountains.  The Gentoos’ abilities to clamber up steep snow was most impressive, and some amused me as they skied down slippery slopes without rolling at the bottom.IMG_4264.JPGSnow stairs were carved by staff to get us from the rocky beach to the upside of the deep snow.  We were warned not to walk on the penguin highways. With flags placed by the naturalists to guide our path, we stamped new highways which undoubtedly the penguins will find very satisfactory.

Mostly I stood and stood and stood in one place and tried to watch the courtship and mating habits of pairs of penguins.IMG_4257.JPG

IMG_4259.JPGThis meant I did not have time to climb the hill to get a grander view, or to go to other parts of the colony.  But no matter.  Quality before quantity.

If you listen to this video, you will hear the communications of the few nearby penguins going about their business.

I was surprised with the steepness of some sections where penguin highways had been forged towards rocky outcrops for their nests.IMG_4263.JPGTo return to the beach we had the choice of being helped down the slippery snow steps or to slide down.  I sat down on the snow and whizzed downhill to the stony beach and was as delighted as a young girl on their first slippery slide.  I could have done that over and over – but I thought that acting like a child might have made others feel awkward.IMG_4269.JPGWe attended a Recap by the Expedition team of today’s excursions and a briefing about tomorrow’s adventures before dinner.  However, our official ‘discovery’ day wasn’t over.  We were urged to take a quick dinner and then be prepared for another gorgeous panorama.  What would that be?  Where?

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