From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica
Jan 13, 2013 - National Geographic Explorer
Detaille Island, Antarctica
We crossed the Antarctic Circle during the beautiful night and awoke to sunshine in the far southern reaches of the peninsula. And it would prove to be a day of unusual and extra special circumstances. Not every trip, nor even every year, are we able to get so far south; it all depends on ice and weather.
So this morning we started with a landing to Detaille Island – a historic site, once a working British station in the late 1950s, the place had been abandoned already in 1959 due to difficult access. But it was a fascinating place to visit and felt a bit like time travel to step inside this hut full of food and equipment and papers and clothes used just yesterday, or so it seemed. They left it fully intending to come back, but instead the chocolate bars became covered with mold, the stove with rust, the books faded and tattered. It was wonderful to poke around and imagine life here in the 50s. Outside, a short walk provided a view across to a small Adelie penguin colony. The sun shone brilliantly, illuminating the surrounding islands and the mountains of the mainland in the distance.
We pushed further south and encountered the pack ice and the rumbling and bumping and lurching of the ship increased as we made our way through the ice. Crabeater seals dotted the ice floes in all directions. Adelie penguins scrambled at the sight of our massive looming ship. And then our captain took the ship and parked her nicely right tight in the fast ice! The gangway was lowered and everyone could step outside onto the ice to wander around and admire the views of the ship in the ice. Again, an unusual thing to be able to do so late in the summer!
What else could the day provide – why, a sighting of something we didn’t expect of course – an emperor penguin! Called the “holy grail” of bird sightings, this huge bird nests further south on ice shelves and is not often seen on these trips, but these two young birds stood quietly while the captain nosed the ship right up to the edge of ice next to them, and they didn’t move with all the cameras clicking away at them in mad frenzy. Curious and unperturbed, they stood placidly and let us admire their regal stature, and they continued to stand there and stare as we pulled away and slowly turned the ship towards the north.