Expedition Air-Cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula on board the M/V Grigory Mikheev 1 – 6 December 2007

Day 1: Saturday, 1 December 2007

Location:
Flying to Antarctica Ardley Island


Fact:

Day program
08:15 Take-off of the Hercules C-130 of the Uruguayan Air Force from Punta Arenas airport
10:45 Landing at Frei station, King George islands, South Shetland islands
13:30 Embarking the M/V Grigory Mikheev
15:00 Welcome briefing
16:00 Visit of Ardley Island
19:30 Welcome cocktail at the Bar.
20:00 Dinner
Wildlife observed during our visit
on 1 December 2007
? Gentoo penguins (nesting, with eggs)
? Chinstrap penguins
? Adelie penguins
? Skuas


In the morning, we boarded a Hercules airplane, specially designed to take us safely over the Drake Passage and to the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Before we knew it, we were slowly descending and we quickly landed on the runway at Frei Station. The expedition staff of Antarctica XXI were there waiting for us to help us and our luggage to the M/V Grigory Mikheev. After a short walk to a station building, we had a quick coffee as we tried on our special rubber boots and then made our way to the zodiacs for transportation to the ship. Already we had scene Gentoo Penguins sleeping in a snow bank, Arctic and Antarctic Terns screeching above us, Brown Skuas looking for a quick meal, and the sleek Kelp Gull circling around the station. The wind had slightly picked up since we landed and we therefore had a most appropriate introduction to our Expedition Adventure. Once aboard, we checked into our cabins and began to familiarize ourselves with the ship. After a quick snack and hot drinks, we gathered for our official Welcome by the Expedition Leader, who introduced her expedition staff to us. Ardley Island is situated about 500 m east of the coast of Fildes Peninsula, Maxwell Bay, King George Island. It has been defined by the Antarctic Treaty System as an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) n. 150, because of its exceptional biological interest. It has a diverse avifauna with 12 breeding species, and is of particular importance for its breeding colonies of Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua); the largest concentration of Gentoos within the South Shetland Islands and probably in the Antarctic. There are also about 1,200 pairs of breeding Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) and a small number of Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica). The island possesses some of the best-developed and most extensive plant communities in the South Shetland Islands, dominated by macro lichens. Though it was a bit windy, our Expedition Staff decided that we would attempt a visit of Ardley Island. We split into two groups. We landed on a small beach and then took our first walk with Gentoo, Chinstrap, and one or two Adelie Penguins. Though the wind was flying by, these birds seemed totally unaffected and went about their business of building nests and chasing each other. After we all finished our walk, we returned to the ship and had our first dinner on board. With such a long day full of activity, the ships halls and bar were quiet during the late evening and all of us were dreaming in our cabins.

“A journey is a person itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policies and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us”. John Steinbeck

Day 2: Sunday, 2 December 2007

Location:
Aitcho Islands, Half Moon Island


Fact:

Day program

07:45 Wake up call.
08:00-09:00 Breakfast
09:30 MANDATORY: Boat drill
10:00 Zodiac cruising in Discovery Bay
12:30 Landing at Aitcho-Barrientos Island
14:00 Lunch
16:00 Lecture: “Life in the Southern Ocean” by Shoshanah - in English
16:00 Lecture: “The age of heroes” by Sebastian - in Spanish
17:30 Landing at Half Moon Island.
19:30 Cocktail at the bar
20:00 Dinner
22:00 Antarctic Night Cinema

Wildlife observed during landing
on 2 December 2006
? Gentoo penguins (nesting, with eggs)
? Chinstrap penguins (nesting, with eggs)
? Antarctic cormorants
? Dominican gulls (nesting)
? Southern giant petrels (nesting)
? Antarctic sheathbills
? Skuas
? Weddell seals resting on the snow
? Gentoo penguins
? Antarctic terns (nesting)
? Dominican gulls (nesting)
? Southern giant petrels
? Antarctic sheathbills
? Leopard seal (at sea)


During breakfast, it was announced that we would be adding another activity to the plan; a surprise zodiac cruise in Discovery Bay near the Chilean Pratt Station. After a quick breakfast, we boarded the zodiacs and toured along the coastline where we saw Blue-eyed Shags, Antarctic Terns, Cape Petrels, and Kelp Gulls circling around us. Then we approached a beautiful glacier with hues of bright blue. As we neared the base, our guides caught a glimpse of some rather strange looking rocks on the fast ice in the distance. To our amazement, and to theirs! we had found 14 Weddell Seals hauled out together.

This group of small islands lies between Robert and Greenwich islands. It was charted and named in 1936 by the Discovery Investigations (1925-39) for the British Admiralty Hydrographic Office (the “H.O.” which was pronounced “Aitcho”). Once the Grigory Mikheev dropped anchor in front of Aitcho Island, we eagerly got dressed and prepared for landing. From the zodiacs, we could see a colony of Gentoo Penguins breeding on the rugged slopes of the Island. The Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins were waiting for us as we made our way up the slope of the landing beach, each of them busy maintaining their nests and stealing pebbles from each other.. In the afternoon we landed on Half Moon Island, where the Argentine research station Camara is located. We landed among a colony of Chinstrap Penguins and were delighted with their antics as they called loudly to each other. We walked along the beaches and the ridges, watching Sheathbills scavenge, eating just about anything, and marvelled at the spectacular view before us; glaciers, mountains, and an endless ocean only a short distance away. On our way back to the ship, some of us spotted a leopard seal aggressively playing with a penguin before eating it. The island was aready known by sealers as early as 1821. On the cobble beach where landed are located the remains an old wooden dory, but at the time we visited the island, she was buried under 2 meters of snow

“Human effort is not futile, but Man fights against the giant forces of Nature in the spirit of humility”. Ernest Shackleton

Day 3: Monday, 3 December 2007

Location:
Port Lockroy, Goudier Island, Lemaire Channel, Petermann Island Vernadsky Station, Ukraine,


Fact:


Day program

07:45 Hora de levantarse
08:00-09:00 Breakfast
10:00 Approaching the entrance of the Neumayer Channel
11:30 TBC Landing at Port Lockroy
13:00 Lunch
15:30 Approaching the entrance of Lemaire Channel
17:15 Landing at Petermann Island
20:00 Dinner
21:30 Antarctic surprise!


Wildlife observed during landing
on 3Diciembre 2007 :
? Gentoo penguins (nesting, with eggs)
? Antarctic sheathbill
? Blue-eyed cormorant
? Dominican gull


What a surprise when we discovered that the Neumayer Channel was free of ice! The ship managed to find her way between the steep walls of this narrow channel which leads to one of the most fascinating sites of all Antarctica, Port Lockroy.

Situated on the West side of Wiencke Island, this harbor was discovered by Charcot’s French Antarctic expedition (1903-05) and named for Édouard Lockroy, the French politician who assisted Charcot in obtaining government backing for his journey. In the morning we landed at Port Lockroy where we were greeted by the station manager, Rick Atkinson, a milestone of the legandary era of dog sledging in Antarctica. He gave us a brief history of the station and a warm welcome. We made our way up the path, among the resident Gentoo Penguins, and to the former British research station, now the world’s most southerly museum with a very famous giftshop and post office! Built on 16 February 1944 as part of Operation Tabarin, a 2nd World War naval operation to establish a firm British presence in Antarctica, Port Lockroy was occupied continually until 16 January 1962. Subsequently the old base became derelict with time, but had to be cleaned up in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty. In 1996 Port Lockroy was renovated and is now a museum operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. It is designated as a Historic Site no. 61 under the Antarctic Treaty. At Jougla Point we made a zodiac cruise around the Gentoo Penguin colony and Antarctic Shag colony. We passed by a composite whale skeleton Next we cruised along the glacier behind Goudier Island, taking many photos as the sun’s rays illuminated the blue striations within the ice.

Weather slowly improved. We were so lucky that when we approached Lemaire Channel’s entry at about 15:30 hr, the tops of the beautiful mountains which overlook the area –among which is Mt. Scott– emerged in the blue sky. The ship succeeded to make her way among icebergs through this narrow and spectacular 7 mile long channel

We approached the little island which lies south of Lemaire Channel around 17:00 hr after a slow zigzagging among icebergs and ice floes. Shortly after, we landed on Petermann Island and were surprised to meet a different species of penguin, the Adelie Penguins, which is a species with a more southern range. Here at Petermann, there is a research station whose researchers regularly monitor the breeding behaviors of the Adelies. These penguins are smaller and just as entertaining to watch in among the breeding Gentoo Penguins. We hiked up to the uppermost part of the colony, then we made our way down to the Blue-eyed Cormorant colony where they nest among both the Adelie and Gentoo Penguins.

Surprise night landing:
Vernadsky Station lies on a little island forming part of the Argentine Islands archipelago. Formerly known as Faraday Station, it was handed over to Ukraine by UK in 1996. The station is open all year round and hosts a party of about 30 men who live here permanently for about 14 months. Research carried out at the station mainly concerns atmospheric, geomagnetic and seismic studies, besides marine biology and meteorology. In the 70’s it was from this station that the ozone hole was first detected in cooperation with the scientists from UK Halley Station. Besides for the science carried out here, Vernadsky Station is very well known for the friendliness of its inhabitants who, in spite of speaking very little English, warmly welcomed us and invited us to visit the inside of the station and the famous “pub” on the first floor. At Vernadsky’s pub visitors can enjoy playing pool while others can taste the famous locally-made vodka. But there is a very peculiar tradition: drinks are free for women if they pay with their bra, but they have to strip it off on the spot! So…courage, ladies!!!

Day 4: Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Location:
Gonzalez Videla Station (Chile) , Paradise Bay, Cuverville Island


Fact:

Day program

07:15 Wake up call
07:30-09:00 Breakfast
08:15 Landing at Gonzalez Videla Station (Chile)
11:00 Landing at Almirante Brown Station (Argentina) and zodiac cruising in Paradise Bay.
The Antarctic Continent!
13:00 Lunch
16:00 Landing and zodiac cruising at Cuverville Island
19:30 Cocktail at the bar
20:00 Dinner
22:15 Antarctic Night Cinema



Wildlife observed during landing at Cuverville Island

? 1 Crabeater seal on ice floe
? Gentoo penguins (nesting, with eggs)
? Skuas
? Southern giant petrels
? Antarctic terns



In order to have the chance to see an albino penguin at Gonzalez Videla Station in Paradise Bay, some of us had an early breakfast and made our way to the gangway in record time. Sure enough, as we walked among the rather well-used Gentoo Penguin colony, we found one of the colony’s several albino penguins sitting on its nest. We learned that the mutation which causes its pale feathers is not a true albino mutation, though it has a rather similar effect. The penguin was a pale brown where the usual black feathers should have been. Gentoos were nesting everywhere and the snow was mixed with guano all around. It was a hard task to wash our boots when we got back on board!

We landed at 10:00 hr at the Alte. Brown Station, an Argentine base now closed for restoration. A few Gentoos welcomed us, but for once we ignored them! We toasted our first Continental landing with a glass of Champaign, and gathered together for a group photo. Then the work began, as we hiked up to a spectacular view point. Many of us came down like penguins, sliding on our front or our backs, and then we made a zodiac cruise in Paradise Bay, named so because for its spectacular scenery. Glaciers poured into the tranquil bay, protected from open waters by several islands. Our drivers and Expedition Staff took us on a tour of Skontorp Bay where we saw three Weddell seals sleeping on the ice.

we This small rocky island lying in the Errera Channel was discovered by Gerlache’s Belgian Antarctic expedition (1897-99). On bedrock terraces around the beach where we landed at 16:00 hr, and on higher ridges and slopes, could observe numerous Gentoo penguins nesting sites. After a short march in high snow, we reached the Western end of the island in front of Rongé Island. Before returning onboard, we went zodiac cruising among the many huge iceberg that were grounded all around the place

As we approached the beach of Cuverville Island, we came upon a Crabeater seal fast asleep on the ice. After a few minutes it awoke and took a good look at us, then went back to sleep, unbothered.

Day 5: Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Location:
Deception Island, Walker Bay,


Fact:

Day program

07:45 Wake up call.
08:00-09:00 Breakfast
09:00 Entering Deception Island through Neptune’s Bellows
09:30 Landing at Whalers’ Bay and…. swimming in the volcano!
13:00 Lunch
15:00 Lecture: “Life in the Southern Ocean” by Shoshanah – in Spanish
15:00 Lecture: “The age of heroes” by Sebastian – in English
16:15 Landing at Walker Bay, Livingston Island
19:30 Farwell barbecue at the stern!!!
22:00 Photographic contest: voting the winner



Wildlife observed during landing
on 5 December 2007


Elephant seals, mostly young males
Southern giant petrels (nesting)
Gentoo penguins (nesting)
Chinstrap penguins
Antarctic terns
Skuas


In the morning we crossed the Neptune’s Bellows of Deception Island. We had to navigate very close to one side of the Bellows due to the presence of a rather shallow rock in the middle of the opening. We were thrilled by the close-up of the basaltic cliffs as we sailed into the caldera.

Deception is a ring-shaped island, about 8 miles in diameter, enclosing a large harbor called Port Foster. It is the largest of three recent volcanic centers in the South Shetlands. Most of the island is covered by permanent glaciers, many of which are overlaid with volcanic ash. The eruption which formed the caldera occurred about 10,000 years ago with a large scale explosive eruption which made the volcano summit region collapse to form Port Foster. The volcano was particularly active during the past centuries; 20th century eruptions were restricted to two periods, the latest in 1967–1970, altering many of the topographical features of the island. The island is still classified as a restless caldera with a significant volcanic risk. Deception Island is the only active volcano with an open caldera that can be accessed by ships. When we made it through, we made a sharp turn to starboard and we entered Whalers’ Bay. The black volcanic beaches were steaming as we landed and we sunk our hands into the sand to feel the heat. We wandered around the abandoned whaling station, and then British research station, imagining what it must have been like when the volcano last erupted in the early 1970s. We walked along the beach to Neptune’s Window to get a view of the outside of the volcano. Swimming in the volcano! All over the place there are a number of sites of geothermal activity with numerous active fumaroles which make the water in Port Foster warmer than the surrounding sea. What a temptation for the bravest ones!

Due to the shallow sea water, the ship anchored at a distance from the landing beach. What an adventurous zodiac crossing to get there: the swell looked much higher when seen from sea level! But we made it, and it was really worthwile to explore the place. Once on land, we were immediately greeted by dozens of elephant seals, itchy from molting and in a rather foul mood. We kept our distance but took many photos of them as they basked on the beach and patrolled the waters just in front. We walked along the beaches and spotted the nesting Giant Petrels sitting tightly on their eggs. Above our heads, Antarctic Terns swooped above and hunted for krill along the beaches. We walked along the volcanic cliffs to just outside the Gentoo Penguin rookery and enjoyed the view and the day. With almost 1.000 breeding pairs, this is one of largest colonies of this species in the South Shetlands. Along the beach juvenile elephant seals simulated the ferocious clashes that they will fight once they become adults to turn into beach masters and control a crowded harem.

Day 6: Thursday, 6 December 2007

Location:
The neighboring stations Frei (Chile) and Bellingshausen (Russia)


The last visit before getting on the airplane and returning to Punta Arenas. At Frei we had to give back our lifejackets and the white boots: only a few days ago we could have never imagined how much we would miss them!

Search For Cruises and Expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic JourneySearch
  • Antarctica
  • Arctic
  • Cruise
  • Ship
  • Date
  • Interest
  • Destination

Choose a Cruise To Antarctica:

To browse our complete selection of cruises, just select from the list above of all the Antarctic cruises

Choose a Ship to Antarctica:

To browse our complete selection of cruises, just select from the list above of all the Antarctic cruises

Choose a Cruise by Date To Antarctica:

To browse our complete selection of cruises, just select from the list above of all the Antarctic cruises

Choose a Cruise by Interest in Antarctica:

To browse our complete selection of cruises, just select from the list above of all the Antarctic cruises

Choose a Cruise by Destination in Antarctica:

To browse our complete selection of cruises, just select from the list above of all the Antarctic cruises