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Gourdin Island

Darren on the bridge of L'Austral

Woke up this morning, I should I say we didn’t wake up at Astrolabe Island.We missed our early zodiac excursion, owing to the fact that we were just too tired from all the early starts on this trip, combined with the fact that we have been going to bed really late as it doesn’t get dark at all.

Actually, managed to have a nice leisurely breakfast in the level 2 restaurant, one of the first we have managed to be there for, as the zodiac excursions always seem to be over breakfast time, unless you want to get up even earlier.

After breakfast enjoyed some time on deck watching the ship passing through the Antarctic sound, where the mountains which had once been part of the Andes, separated in the continental drift, rose majestically out of the water which was a still and as clear as glass.At the other extreme the snow-covered mountains mingled with the clouds, making it difficult to tell where one started and the other began.

Massive Iceberg

At 12:00 today, the captain opened the bridge to the passengers, apparently a common occurrence on Antarctic vessels.We sat right up front for a while, with the crew member whose job appeared to be spotting wildlife.There were so many differently instruments, radar, sonar, infrared and a device that allows for the detection of icebergs.I think Darren was a bit disappointed that the captain was steering the ship with a video game like joy stick, instead of a big ol’ wooden wheel.

Saw the mother and father of all icebergs, one looked like a floating mountain and the other a floating stadium, but probably ten times as big.

Attended a lecture on Antarctic ecology, all about food webs it was interesting to learn about the delicate balance of life in this part of the world.Most people found it too advanced, but I appreciated the lecture because it was something that apparently had not been dumbed down for once.

Darren on Gourdin Island

Our afternoon landing was on Gourdin Island, home to 14,000 pairs of Adelie penguins and 6000 Gentoos, with a few Chin Straps thrown in for good measure.I smelt the island before I saw it from our balcony!

On arrival at the island, there was no hike, we just milled around on the beach trying not to get in the way of the penguins.The Adelie’s had much bigger fluffier chicks than the Gentoos in Neko Harbour and despite our attempts to stay well back from them, they insisted in coming into our path and investigating us having no fear of humans.This is good, it means no one has given them a reason to be afraid.

From our landing spot we could see icy hills in front of us at least one hundred meters high and covered in penguins.We watched them walking up the hills, down the hills, diving in the water to get food and then walking back up the hills, content with their lives on this rather smelly island.

3 types of penguins

Even with out my camera, only having my ailing iphone I was still able to complete the crews challenge of getting one of each penguin in the same photo.I didn’t have the use of my phone for long, before it too died.It had been on 90% charge prior to leaving the ship and now I look at it and its on 3% just half an hour later.This place is like the Bermuda triangle for electronics.

When we reboarded the ship, we had to scrub all the penguin poop off our waterproof boots and then disinfect them.Had dinner in the level 6 buffet restaurant and then admired the scenery on deck as the ship passed back through the Antarctic sound.I go back to the cabin and lo and behold my phone, which I thought had died along with my camera, starts up and is back at 90%.It has to be the cold.Next time I go out I will keep it in the pocket inside my Artic parker and see if that makes the difference.

Went back to our cabin to enjoy some drinks on the balcony and again humpback whales surfaced so we could watch them.

Tomorrow the captain is going to try to negotiate passage through the treacherous Weddell Sea, the same place where Sir Ernest Shackleton and his ship the Endurance, were trapped locked in ice for months.

Antarctic sound

Gourdin & Astrolabe Island

Gourdin Island


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