Devil Island - Vega Island & Brown Bluff – Weddell Sea

Dec 31, 2017 - National Geographic Explorer


After a very quiet night traveling east, where we navigated through the Antarctic Sound, we entered the waters of the Weddell Sea and around 7 AM we reached Devil Island, our first destination for the day.

Devil Island is a narrow island located at 63°48’S, 57°17’W, which lies in the centre of a bay on the north coast of Vega Island. The weather was perfect to conduct several activities such as kayaking between icebergs, visiting the large Adelie penguin colony and hiking to one of the peaks of this volcano island.

From where the National Geographic Explorer was positioned it was possible to see very clearly Cape Well-met located on Vega Island. The cape received its name since this is where on 12th Feb 1902, Andersson and two sailors (dropped by Larsen from the ship Antarctic) met with Nordenjold, who after spending the winter in the area was walking towards Hope Bay with a companion. They did not recognize each other at the beginning since they were totally covered in black as a result of the black fumes of using penguin oil to cook and stay warm.

The experience of kayaking in these calm waters surrounded by icebergs was incredible.  Also, the visit to the Adelie penguin colony was fantastic, especially since at this time of the season it is possible to see young chicks. The most courageous of us decided to make it all the way up the hill to enjoy the breath-taking views of the islands, mountain ridges and glaciers. The grey clouds gave space to the sun, and we were able to enjoy a sunny, quiet and peaceful morning at the top of the hill.

After lunch, as we were navigating to Brown Bluff, we encountered a group of orcas (ecotype small B); so everybody took their cameras and went on deck.  We spent some time traveling with them enjoying their majestic movements. To see orcas in the wild is one of those very special moments in life and everybody was very excited.

We arrived at Brown Bluff at 3 PM. Brown Bluff is located on the mainland of Antarctica and as its name implies, the towering cliffs are brown and abrupt reaching up to 745 meters above sea level. The vertical cliffs that extend for around 1.5 km are remnant of an ancient volcano and provide for a dramatic landscape. We were able to spend the afternoon walking along the beach enjoying the Adelie penguin colony (approximately 20,000 pairs) and numerous groups of breeding Gentoo penguins (approximately 600 pairs). Snow petrels, skuas and southern giant petrels, who also breed here, were constantly flying over the colony. The incredible cliffs of Brown Bluff provided the perfect scenario for this wonderful wildlife experience.

 After dinner and in preparation for New Year’s Eve we gathered at the lounge for a special musical presentation by the crew band “The Spice Boys”.  We spent the last couple of hours of 2017 navigating among icebergs in an area that it is being referred as Iceberg Ally. 

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About the Author

Rodolfo Werner

Naturalist

Dr. Rodolfo Werner Kinkelin is a wildlife conservationist who has devoted his professional career to the study and conservation of the Patagonian Sea, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica. For many years, he conducted field research on the Patagonian Coast studying the diving behavior and behavioral ecology of southern sea lions. He has also participated in research projects on southern elephant seals and Magellan penguins in Patagonia.

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