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12/06/2009

Cuverville Island and Brown Station

This was our last day in Antarctica and we left on a high note. Breaks in the clouds through the day gave patchy sunshine but the wind held off so conditions ashore were pleasant.

We started with a landing at Cuverville Island where the landing place is nearly always guarded by stranded icebergs. The keener and fitter members of our party went ashore with outdoor expert Russ Manning to climb the side of the 815 ft hill that makes up most of the island. The thick cover of snow and ice prevented an ascent to the top but there was, nevertheless, a wonderful of the surrounding berg-covered sea and distant icy mountains. The rest of us were content to visit a colony of gentoo penguins and continue out appreciation of these birds. Stealing pebbles from each others' nests seems to be a major pastime! A zodiac cruise among the weirdly-shaped bergs completed the visit.

While we enjoyed a barbecue lunch on the pool deck, Minerva steamed through the ice-studded Errera Channel and Aguirre Passage to Paradise Harbour. Our destination was the abandoned Argentine station Brown (formerly Almirante Brown, named after the founder of the Argentine navy. This was our landing on the continental mainland of Antarctica (previous landings had been on islands). It is the 'Seventh Continent' to be visited by some of our party. The landing place was on a beach just below the empty station buildings where some gentoo penguins were nesting. The main object, however, was to climb a steep snow slope for a stunning view across Paradise Harbour. Despite the deep snow, most of us climbed to the top for the view over the sea to the mountains that were emerging from the clouds, and then slid down the snow slope below. A nice surprise awaited us on the trip back to Minerva. Hiding behind a large lump of ice was another zodiac from which glasses of champagne were dispensed to celebrate the continental landing.
 

   

Blue-eyed Shags in Cuverville.

Dancing to the music of the Minerva quartet during Barbeque.

Many climbed up the hill in Paradise Bay in order to slide down!

Champagne on ice, anyone?

Of course, a toast to the Antarctic Continent.


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