The guests and crew of National Geographic Endurance awoke this morning to fog, driving snow, 40 knot winds and rolling seas. They would have never known this until they looked out the windows, as our impressive ship cut through it all in quiet comfort.
We passed Charcot Island before dawn and headed roughly east-northeast toward Adelaide Island, many hours yet distant. This gave some of us the opportunity to relax. Others learned a little more about the ship. A handful of guests took to the bridge for a tour of the ship’s nerve centre, where they learned more about the ship’s capabilities and met those who steer her.
Later in the morning, naturalist Erin Britton gave a thorough presentation on emperor penguins. We were lucky enough to find a number of these individuals in the previous couple of days. We learned that emperors are the largest penguin species, but in many ways perhaps the most vulnerable. Their breeding cycle relies on the presence of sea ice, which is affected by the warming seas.
Undersea Specialist Christine West gave a presentation on the history of Antarctic diving. Pioneering men and women who explored this icy world from below the surface needed special equipment from the start. We learned about early experimentation with bulky helmets and suits straight from a Jules Verne book to the sophisticated and much safer modern dry suits and masks worn today.
After dinner we approached Red Rock Ridge, near Rymill Bay. Originally named Île Pavie by the explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot in 1909, it was renamed to its current designation by John Rymill’s British Graham Land Expedition 27 years later. The name stuck. For us, it was an opportunity for a mile-long walk to a nesting colony of Adelie penguins. Most of the chicks were clearly approaching the end of their fledgling stage.
Sharing the edges of the nesting areas were several brown skua nests. The adults diligently protected their very fluffy young chicks while their partners went out to find food for them both. Some of us were lucky enough to see an adult return to the nest, feed the chick and then their partner, before swapping roles and taking over nest duties. It was a late return to the ship, but another unique experience south of the Antarctic Circle.