Sunday 13 January.
Absolutely spectacular weather today. Some people even got sunburt.
We have had several briefings today. The bird man, the historical man (he was particularly interesting). We have fitted our gum boots. Also learnt about the zodiac procedures and watched some of David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet.
There was the formal welcome and champagne toast, followed by another excellent meal. Will really need to find to gym.
Met a lovely couple from Cairns, Darcy and Raylee. (she’s a Boulia girl and he’s in the meat trade)
Monday 14 January
Smooth sailing overnight and another perfect day (some cloud building)
Early breakfast at 7am in preparation for our trip to New Island. We are in Ross group so we had to wait until the first two groups (Amundsen and Scott) had left. We reached shore of New Island about 8.45. This place is really remote, beats me why anyone would want to try to make a living out here. There are a few buildings up on the top of the low cliffs. Trekked across island to windward side, there were hundreds of birds – black browed albatross circling above the penguin colony. Climbed down the cliff through the button grass to watch the rock hopper penguins returning from the ocean, avoiding the sea lions lurking just below the landing point. Also saw a fur seal sunning itself; kelp geese eating sea lettuce and a variety of small plants.
Cloud formations over the mountains – sky particularly blue.
The afternoon was spent at West Point Island. It was a brisk 30 minute hike uphill to the other side of the island to view the penguin nursery. Spent ages trying to get the perfect shot of the albatross and parent penguins grooming their chicks. Discovered one diligent penguin build a nest. The best shot of the albatross was the one wandering around the button grass. Nigh impossible to get a decent photo of them in flight.
We were treated to a fine afternoon tea in the cottage. Proper tea and homemade cakes. Very enjoyable sunning oneself on the soft lawn amongst the very “English” flower beds. We are becoming very proficient at getting in and out of the zodiac.
Tuesday 15 Jan
Having great difficulty remembering which day it is. We arrived in Stanley (Faulkland Islands) early today. First stop was Gypsy Cove to see more penguins (magellanic penguins, black night herons, turkey vultures, the odd shag on a rock, little brown birds and some more interesting little plants. The cannon on the point was in quite good condition considering it had been there for quite some time. Would have been a pretty bleak cold place to work. Some of this area has been cleared of mines. Not as clearly marked as we would have liked. From here we took a bus into town to visit the museum, lots of old memorabilia (stuff our grandparents would have used)and some exotic china and silver ware. We walked the length of Ross Road, unfortunately no invitation to tea at Government house, but did find an excellent coffee and cake shop after we visited the Post Office. Was hoping to buy some felted soap at the Pink Shop, but they were closed for lunch. Had to settle for a few bars of chocolate at the Bitter Sweet shop instead. Called into the Globe Hotel to check out the flags on the ceiling and got back to the bus just in time to catch the bus back to the boat.
Spent some time this afternoon on the deck trying to spot whales, but gave up and decided it was time to visit the gym (40 minutes in all); very interesting walking on the treadmill as the ship pitched with each swell. Listened to an interesting talk on Shackleton, we are waiting for the final instalment in the next few days. Enjoyed dinner conversation with Elaine a doctor(nephrologist) from London and her friend Sandy.
Wednesday 16 Jan & Thursday 17 Jan
These two days were spent enroute to South Georgia Island. Suffering from conference room syndrome as I kept falling asleep on a regular basis. Ewen attempted to do some radio work while I tried to get some shots of the birds circling the boat. There was a wind change and consequently the air became too cold to stay outside. We crossed the Antarctic convergence in the early hours of Thursday morning. The temperature dropped quite dramatically, now down to 0-2 deg C. As we haven’t done too much today, I thought I should venture back to the gym after lunch. The sea was becoming a little rougher and it made using the equipment fairly interesting. About 2 pm we approached Shag Rocks. Didn’t see any shags, but the shipped slowed so that we could get a little closer to view the rocks. The sea was very rough and at one point the boat lurched dramatically and most things not anchored down slip across the floor, including people. I’m not sure what was in the room next to the gym but it made a loud continuous rumble of metal and I hoped it would not come through the wall. Fortunately we all survived unharmed, and as soon as we moved away from the rocks the sea settled down to a manageable level. Didn’t need any meds tonight and slept like a top.