Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gerlache Strait

23:50 GMT, 5 March, 64�00 S 061�21 W

If you looked at the above coordinates, you will have noticed that
we (contrary to my expectations) did venture south of 63 S. We have
been sampling in the Gerlache Strait for the last couple of days, and a
wonderful couple of days it has been. Yesterday, after we anchored in
the very aptly named Paradise Harbor (which was the farthest south we
ventured--around 64�30 S), we were treated to a long sightseeing trip
in the zodiacs (I was bowman in one). It was a day or firsts for many
of us including me--first time setting foot on the mainland continent
of Antarctica and first time standing on an iceberg. As we drove around
Paradise Harbor, we explored numerous coves, icebergs (many of them
with crabeater seals sleeping on them), and glaciers. Paradise Harbor
is surrounded by mile-high mountains though we couldn't see the tops of
any of them for the clouds. We landed on a rocky beach at the base of
one of the mountains. We hiked up about two-hundred meters of a steep
hill and enjoyed the view for a while. Some of us took the opportunity
to urinate on the mainland (another first). We then glissaded down the
snow to the beach where a leopard seal was swimming around the zodiacs,
checking us out. It eventually decided that we were not good eating or
maybe boring and swam away.
As spectacular as the scenery is in the South Shetland Islands,
the mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula is even more awesome--the
mountains are taller, the glaciers are bigger. The sheltered waters in
Paradise Harbor also allowed for very calm (glassy, actually) waters
which made the whole experience even more enjoyable. The diversity of
zooplankton is also something; we collected several species of
amphiphods and other arthropods I had not seen before.
We are now steaming northwards towards our last group of sampling
stations north of Livingston Island. I believe the 9th of March will be
our last day sampling. On the 10th we are scheduled to pick up people
and close down the field camps on King George and Livingston Islands.

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