Australia yachts berthed at the wreck of the Guvernoren in Foyn Harbor
Resident Brown Skua at the wreck of the Guvernoren
Le Boreal hikers make a highway to the top of Cuverville Island
Gentoo penguin highways at Cuverville Island
We pass Le Boreal’s sister ship, L’Austral, in the Gerlache Strait
Le Boreal - December 14, 2011
Enterprise Island, Cuverville Island
Temperature: 36° F
Wind speed: 10 knots
Cloud cover: 80%
Precipitation: Midday snowfall, otherwise clear
This morning, Le Boreal arrived off of Wilhelmina Bay under perfect conditions, with the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula rising to 4,000 feet out of the sea to the east. We boarded the zodiacs to explore Enterprise Island and the small islets surrounding it. Everyone had different experiences, but most saw the evidence of the whaling era in the form of water boats, and anchoring posts. The harbor was used by Norwegian whalers who operated there between 1910 and 1930.
The wreck of the Guvernøren, a whaling factory ship that caught fire in 1915, was beached in a small cove. To contrast this hulk were two modern yachts, moored alongside the wreck probably sleeping away the morning after dealing with the same rough weather we dealt with yesterday, but in a much more intimate craft. Perched on top of the rusty wreck were a handful of Antarctic terns, their red beaks and feet contrasting strongly with the whites and blues of the landscape around them.
Some of us came across seals on our exploration of the area. One crabeater seal sitting alone on an ice floe had the signature teeth marks of a leopard seal on its side. Young crabeaters often fall prey to leopard seals or, at the very least, show scars from encounters they were fortunate enough to escape from. But it was unusual to see an adult with such a recent wound from a leopard seal's teeth.
We warmed up over lunch while Le Boreal was en route to our afternoon stop at Cuverville Island. It is one of the most verdant places in all of Antarctica, its steep slopes covered with mosses and lichen.
The gentoos at Cuverville have received a lot of visitors over the years, so the nearly 5000 breeding pairs tend to be downright welcoming and quite the opposite of skittish. We watched their behavior closely, noticing how the gentoos constantly add stones to their rock pile nests while attempting to steal stones from the nests of others.
Naturalist Russ Manning led a hike up to the top of the island to get a view over the iceberg-scattered sea to the mountains and glaciers beyond. It was quite strenuous walking up the steep snow covered slope so, by the time we arrived at the top, most of us had shed our red parkas to cool off. Being at the top of the 800-foot cliff was exhilarating, and we felt as though we were on top of the world!
Before heading back to the ship, many of us took a short zodiac ride around the bay, where water-sculpted icebergs and the silence of the bay were striking.
At the evening Recap, Marine Biologist Charley Wheatley talked about the importance of krill as the foundation of the entire Antarctic marine ecosystem. Naturalist Rich Pagen followed with a hilarious look at the world of one of Antarctica's premiere predators, the skua. After dinner, many of us headed back outside or to the bridge to watch the surreal Antarctic landscape unfold in the ever-changing light. We found it hard to pull ourselves away from the scene, so many of us decided a cocktail in the Observation Lounge was warranted before heading off to bed.