Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Antarctica Cruise Day 6 Vernadsky Station & Pleneau Island

Position at sunrise 65 15 S, 64 16 W. Temp 1 C. This is the farthest south we traveled. Tourists generally don't go south of here. Surprising, since the Antarctic Circle is less than one hundred miles. But from what I hear, as you go south ice is more and more of a problem, but the scenery is less interesting, so people don't find it worth the time and effort. In the Argentine Islands. It's warmer again with a little sun in the morning. Vernadsky Station (Wikipedia) is the Ukraine scientific station. We were hosted for a tour; rather perfunctory; they are scientists, not tour guides. Their accommodations are decent - looks OK when the weather allows going outside, but during the dark, wild winter it would get pretty small. This was a British base, but they surpluses it and sold it for one pound sterling. The Ukrainians took it over and maintained the continuity of the weather and ozone-hole observations. They have a souvenir shop and a bar! On an adjacent island Wordie House is an abandoned, yet maintained, British station. It is maintained as it was in the 1940s - very small and cramped. I could not imagine spending more than an overnight there, let alone a long, dark Antarctic winter. On the ship they cooked bar-b-que outside and we ate outside and hosted the Ukrainians. In the afternoon we went a few miles to Pleneau Island. It is a shallower area with dozens of beached ice bergs. Being beached it is safe to observe them closely (if not it is very dangerous because a berg can rotate at any time). After they melt and get smaller they float off. We did a zodiac tour around them. We saw four leopard seals, one of which was on a berg; two of them put on a show for us; another passenger got dynamite close-ups of the open mouth with fangs. Several crabeater seals were hauled out. Other people saw humpback whales today. None of us it getting tired of seeing yet another ice berg. Every one is different. We will stay in this area another day because there are high winds to the NE and it's nearly calm here. The photos are by Corinthian II crew/staff. Wordie House is overwhelmed by a sea-level glacier on flat ground; not an unusual site at all. Yet another ice berg. It is shows clearly that it has melted from above, so its sea-level line has shifted upward.