Home > Dive Discovery Trip Reports

Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp, On board the M/V Plancius
March 3-14 2015 Trip Report

Escorted by: Cindi LaRaia

Page Seven

Day 7 – Monday 9th March 2015
Yalour Islands and Vernadsky Station, Antarctica

GPS 08.00 Position: 065°12’S / 064°09’W
Weather: Wind: S 2. Sea State: Calm. Weather: Overcast/fog. Temperature: + 4°C

Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp, On board the M/V Plancius, March 3-14 2015 Trip Report - Page SevenThe first job of the morning was for staff to go ashore and collect the campers from Hovegaard Island where they had enjoyed a quiet night on shore with only a light sprinkling of snow over the tents. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits as they got back on board, enjoyed a hot shower and had a good breakfast in preparation for the day ahead. The morning was a little foggy and snowy as we made our way to the anchorage off the Yalour Islands but whatever the weather the Antarctic wildlife will always be out there so we wrapped up warmly, with full waterproofs ready for the morning zodiac cruise around the area. The staff were ready and waiting at the gangway so, once we boarded the boats we headed out into the bay area to see what we could find. Some Humpback whales had been seen from the ship so a couple of boats headed out to their last know location and within about 20 minutes the female and calf had been spotted and the rest of the boats gathered at their location amongst the ice.

What followed was over half an hour of pure whale magic. At this time of year the whales have been feeding on Krill for the entire summer so they are full and content and very relaxed. The whales were curious to see what had arrived in their area so the staff drivers all switched off their engines and the whales came for a closer look. The calf was spy hopping, raising itself out of the water for a better look at the boats and their occupants and both whales swam underneath a number of the boats giving everyone an amazing experience and thrill, as well as some incredible photo opportunities. It was a very special encounter. Once they had checked us all out the whales moved off a little and then just lay on the surface for sleeping and relaxing. They were completely unconcerned by our presence and it was lovely just to watch them being so relaxed. Their breathing rate slowed right down and the female was only breathing once every minute or so, sleeping and relaxed!

Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp, On board the M/V Plancius, March 3-14 2015 Trip Report - Page Seven*****So on this zodiac run, I once again asked this Expedition leader if he could please find us some Orca’s ;-)) when moments later, we are surround by Humpbacks!!! This Humpback whale mommy and baby were amazing!! We were one of the lucky zodiacs that had the pair very very close and the baby just popping his head up right in front of us to see what we were up to!! Amazing in this dreamlike fantasy place we were in with full snow blizzard, I mean thick full on snow flakes, pouring down on us!!! What a hoot, to be in this magic place, hundreds of blue icebergs, glaciers, mountains and WHALES!!!!

After a while we left the whales to their morning snooze and made our way over to one of the smaller islands in the Yalour archipelago, stopping to watch a couple of Crabeater seals on an ice floe along the way. There were Adélie penguins along the shore and up on the snow patches so it was a great opportunity to get closer to these entertaining little birds. All of them were either moulting or finishing their annual moult so some looked a bit tidier than others but it was great to see the most southerly breeding penguin in such numbers, especially at this time of year when many of the birds have left the islands to spend the winter at sea.

From the islands we all headed back to the ship to warm up and dry out and download those amazing whale pictures from what had been an unforgettable morning. We don’t get whales like this on every trip that is for sure!

During lunchtime the ship was repositioned round to the anchorage near Vernadsky Station in the Argentine Islands, where we were due to spend the afternoon. The station at Vernadksy used to be a British Antarctic Survey base known as Faraday, which was established in 1947 but it was sold to the Ukrainians in 1995 for the sum of £1:00 and since then they have been continuing their research. The plan for the afternoon was for half of the group to go ashore for a visit to the station and the other half to go for a zodiac cruise around the small islands and channels and then swap over.

Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp, On board the M/V Plancius, March 3-14 2015 Trip Report - Page SevenAshore at the base small groups were guided around the buildings to see rooms such as the laboratories, hospital and ski store before being led upstairs to the infamous Faraday Bar, with its unique bar decorations for female visitors! There was opportunities to buy souvenirs, send a postcard or two and sample the home brewed vodka as well as chat to the base personnel about life on this remote base. They are coming to the end of their year long posting and were all looking forward to going home in April to a Ukraine that is probably very different from the country they left due to the political unrest in recent months.

Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp, On board the M/V Plancius, March 3-14 2015 Trip Report - Page Seven******This place was amazing!! Very passionate about their research, these men sign on for 1 yr. Long, dark and brutal! When people spend the winter in Antarctica it is called ‘over wintering’. Yet they have created a small warm welcoming base. Along with the metrological equipment and chores for this, they have a home away from home. 12 men are here year round. They have a work out room and a very warm inviting recreational area equipped with a bar with ladies bra’s! Pool table, music and instruments, kitchen and gift shop! We purchased postcards and doo-dads to help them with $$. They make their own vodka of course, some of us bought a shot of YUMMY tasting Vodka for 3.00 a shot. It was delicious, made of almonds & lime! I thought about offering my leopard bra in trade for the bright blue one hanging behind the bar , then changed my mind ;-)

Those that were out in the zodiacs first enjoyed a cruise around the islands and channels passing by Wordie House which was another British Antarctic Survey base known as Base F. There were a few Gentoo penguins around the islands, as they breed on the island nearby and some impressive icebergs in the bay and with great views of some ice cliffs on the far side of island it was an interesting cruise. Once the groups had swapped over and the divers and kayakers had also enjoyed a short visit it was time to warm up and gather in the lounge for a short Re‐cap where Wilson talked about some of the whale species we had seen during the trip, Humpback, Minke and Fin whales. Kelvin then explained our plans for the next day when we would cruise back through the Lemaire Channel and into Paradise Bay which would be our Basecamp location for the day.

At 7pm we were invited down to the aft deck for our special Antarctic BBQ where staff had prepared a real feast of meats and salads and with complimentary drinks the party soon got underway and dancing continued late into the evening. A great end to a great day.

Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp, On board the M/V Plancius, March 3-14 2015 Trip Report - Page Seven


Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp, On board the M/V Plancius, March 3-14 2015 Trip Report - Page SevenAntarctic Peninsula Basecamp, On board the M/V Plancius, March 3-14 2015 Trip Report - Page SevenPM After lunch, it was the long awaited turn of Team C (that’s us!!). The team entered their kayaks near Vernardsky Station and paddled clockwise around the island which many Gentoo penguins were encountered. As they ventured into the open sea, so the chop picked up a little, which everyone coped with extremely well. The team sought shelter in the narrow channel where the fantastic ice cliff hangs above. At one minute intervals, each kayak made its way swiftly through the channel, in total awe. The conditions calmed completely as they paddled passed Wordie & back towards the station where they re‐entered the zodiac & headed into the station for a tour. What another great afternoon!

******Finally Shari and I got to Kayak! After a few false starts getting used to paddling in my dry suit and trying to steer, after knocking her in the head!! (I am a rower) We managed to follow Paul and the group and one by one we paddled thru the channel with the tall close glacier next to us! Come to find out later, if it calves,,, we would may have been gonners! Rita and Dieter had Kayaked early on in the trip, I think the first group. Rita not too impressed as Dieter trying to take pictures and he in the steering seat, oh my.

<<  Previous Page | Next Page  >>