This morning arrived with a last-minute invite from our Ukrainian colleagues to visit their home at Vernadsky Station, tour the base and see a brief glimpse of what living in Antarctica is like for those here year-round. The site was originally established as a British station in 1954. Dubbed Station F, the Faraday Station was eventually sold to Ukraine for the symbolic price of one pound sterling in 1996, and it remains (though known now as Vernadsky) the oldest functioning station along the Antarctic Peninsula. The team of 12 at the base welcomed us ashore for a tour including the living areas, science labs and, of course, the infamous Faraday Bar. Notable among the team were the first female wintering members, until now all winterers on the base had been males.
Increasingly, Gentoo penguins have also realized the perks of the location, and whereas historically a few birds nested there, now the aroma from the colony welcomes both guests and residents to the island and its buildings. But it’s hard to hold it against the furry penguins with their fluffy young chicks – some continuing to feed regurgitated meals from their parents while others braved the cold waters for the first time.
The afternoon brought blue skies and sunshine, blubbered and feathered fauna, and there was really no lasting reason to stay onboard today. Coming ashore at the Yalour Islands, our senses were once again piqued by the Eau de Colonie Pingouin as we walked among the colonies, the adults ambling to and from the ocean, the chicks nested comfortably atop cleared rocky substrates – a definite treat for all. And to top it off, our first quality humpback whale and Antarctic fur seal sightings of the trip. It just keeps getting better.