Woke up at 6.30 to a grey day with snow falling. Despite the poor visibility it was good to walk outside on the lower deck and observe ice flowing all around the ship. Although most were only small chunks they did have Adelie penguins sitting on them and some swimming in the sea. There was also the occasional, but still distant, iceberg.
After breakfast we could see the outlines of the hills and mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula, as we made our way towards our first planned landing at Brown Bluff. It was very cold outside mainly due to the strong wind causing a significant chill factor.
At just before 9am the first tannoy announcement of the day was to advise that we had approached Brown Bluff but because of a 40 knot wind from the north it was not safe to make a landing. One of the concerns is that having landed the pack ice might be blown in with such a strong wind and it would then not be possible to get out. Now that sounds like fun, but can understand that they will not take any risks.
The uncertainty is part of the total experience, and is actually rather refreshing, as we are so used to being in control of our environment. But as the saying goes “It is not possible to conquer Antarctica; just survive it”.
Disappointing, but understandable, and I am sure that there will be other opportunities for landing and for photographs. In the meantime lectures are being arranged, but may give them a miss as mainly re-runs of those on the last trip.
Headed to the bridge where there is a different atmosphere. Instead of one office sitting relaxed in his chair there are two or three officers, with hands on the wheel and constantly checking and rechecking their charts and observing the ice floes.
The disappointment of not landing has been balanced by the stunning icebergs we have seen, and which the ship has cruised around. The first one seemed big enough at 600 metres long as we passed by it at a distance of 100 metres. But we continued to see even larger icebergs, and even the crew were taking photos. The largest one that we saw was triangular in shape with sides 1100 x 880 x 530 metres and approximately 30 metres high; and that’s just what we could see above the water. The light was poor for any decent photographs and it is impossible in a photograph to convey the sheer size of this massive block of ice, with nothing else around to provide any scale. There were however beautiful blue colours, running like veins through the ice, and intricate patterns and shapes and cave like entrances. Majestic.
Lunch is now planned for 11.45 and by 1pm we hope to be at Gourdin Island for a possible landing, although time will tell as the anemometer is showing the wind gusting up to 50 knots.
Had a great lunch of vegetable soup (with seconds), steak and chips, followed by ice cream (sorry Mark, photos to follow).
As I type this it has just been announced that the attempted landing this afternoon is not going to happen, although that was obvious as the wind is very strong, the sea is wild and there has just been a snow storm. Despite the weather the main problem is the dense ice, many years old, which blocks the entrance to Gourdin Island. That’s life in Antarctica.
So we have currently given up on the Antarctic Sound due to the dense ice and the strong winds, although the plan is to return in a day or two. Instead we are currently currently going back across Bransfield Strait (also known as “mini Drake” - so could be interesting) towards the South Shetlands and heading to Deception Island, which would normally be visited at the end of the trip as we head back to Ushuaia. We will arrive there at about 8.30. Deception Island is an active volcano. The visible islands are actually the caldera and we will enter inside this rim through a very narrow passage known as Neptune’s Bellows. We will be at anchor inside this caldera overnight and then hope to be able to land tomorrow.
Tomorrow is another day!