The Weddell Sea, Devil Island
What an amazing day this has been! We awoke to beautiful, calm conditions in the Weddell Sea and our approach to Devil Island was littered with floating sculptures of ice.
We split our time here with a visit ashore to an Adélie penguin colony and a Zodiac tour amongst the ice floes. The calm conditions made for an incredible experience in either setting. The penguin colony was full of fluffy, downy chicks begging for food and Antarctic skuas stealthily hunting their prey. Many of us walked to the top of one of the “horns” of the island, enjoying views of Vega Island, which encircles Devil on three sides.
At the same time, we plied the ice with our small boats, enjoying close views of penguins on ice, bergs resembling blue glass, and even a Weddell seal. Antarctic terns and Wilson’s storm petrels also made an appearance while on the search for food at the surface of the sea.
Once our ship continued out into the Weddell Sea we were expecting a somewhat relaxing afternoon, perhaps with an expedition stop at one of the numerous landing locations nearby. This plan was quickly amended when it became clear that we had a juvenile Emperor penguin on a flat piece of sea ice. The ship quietly approached the animal and everyone was able to come out to the bow for a closer inspection. Shortly thereafter, Magnus entertained us with the amazing tale of the Nordenskjöld expedition, which traversed these same waters just after the turn of the 20th century.
Immediately after the presentation, we were called to come out again to the bow, dressed to fend off a light drizzle. There were several small groups of killer whales that were slowly sliding through the water ahead of the ship. With the impossibly calm conditions, it was easy to see the dorsal fins of several adult males and a few tiny calves in the midst of the groups. After nearly an hour of wonderful views, our intrepid guest scientists onboard: Bob Pitman, John Durban, and our own Stephanie Martin ventured out in a Zodiac to attempt to radio tag a few of the whales. They spent a great deal of time in observation and careful approach before returning triumphant with one radio tag on one whale and a biopsy of another.
It was an incredible day and proved once again that the Weddell Sea is home to many treasures. We were fortunate enough to have favorable conditions, cooperative wildlife, and great spotters on the lookout. It’s difficult to believe that we have experienced so much in only two days in Antarctica, with many more days of exploration ahead of us.