Paulet Island and Tabular Iceberg A-68-A

Dec 14, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


We awoke this morning just off Paulet Island, a small volcanic island in the Weddell Sea. Paulet Island is not only the home to many thousands of breeding pairs of Adelie penguins, but it is also the historic site of a bare-bone stone hut built in 1903 by members of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition under the leadership of geologist Otto Nordenskjold. These 20 men did not intend to spend nearly 10 months in privation that would involve having to subsist on penguin and seal and fending off boredom by reading and re-reading the text on the few tins of food they were able to fit into their lifeboat. They were forced to abandon their ship Antarctic when she was beset by ice in the Weddell Sea and sank. They found their way 25 miles to Paulet Island after man-hauling and sailing their lifeboat to shore and, soon after, started building the primitive hut which is a key highlight to visiting Paulet.

While contemplating the hardships of a winter under these circumstances, we enjoyed watching the comings and goings of hopping, tobogganing and waddling Adelies that were making their way to and from their pebble nests. We were incredibly excited and fortunate to see several very tiny newborn chicks vying for food from parents. Most Adelies were still incubating their eggs, occasionally rising to reposition themselves or their eggs.

We furthered into the Weddell Sea during lunch and had a brief encounter with Type-B Killer whales before sailing along the edge of a very impressive tabular iceberg called A-68-A. This iceberg calved from the Larsen C ice shelf in July of 2017 and has since travelled about 155 miles (250 kilometers) north to its present location to the east of Snow Hill and Seymour Islands. It is absolutely enormous, measuring about 85 miles long by 26 miles wide (137 kilometers by 42 kilometers). Scientists estimate that the iceberg contains one trillion tons of ice and in case you are wondering, that is enough to make 8,818,490,000,000,000 frozen margaritas! Having done those calculations, we are primed for cocktails and recap as we spend our evening in the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Sound. Cheers!

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About the Author

Sheri Bluestein

Expedition Leader

Sheri has lived, worked, volunteered, and traveled on all seven continents including several years in Portland, Oregon and 3.5 years in Amsterdam, where she became fluent in Dutch and became a citizen. She currently resides in the French Pyrenees, living in a restored cow barn with her Dutch husband, whom she met while riding an elephant in Thailand.

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