Cuverville Island (64°41’S / 62°38’W) & Paradise Bay

Monday 21 February 2011

I’m currently sitting inside the bridge of the MV Ushuaia, facing panoramic views of snow-covered mountains and sea, listening to Beethoven playing in the background as it begins to get dark. Reflecting on the amazing day makes this morning feel like ages ago.
After breakfast and some time on deck taking in the fantastic views of the continent, we jumped in the zodiacs and headed to Cuverville Island. It was a mountainous place with a rocky beach, home to a dispersed colony of Gentoo penguins. We broke into groups, some of us counting penguins, some observing their behaviour, and some counting seals. It was especially peaceful because the St. Andrews group got this island all to ourselves to take our surveys, while the rest of the students went to a similar island nearby. Someone noticed a leopard seal in the water nearby, and those near the beach got in the zodiac in time to witness it devouring a penguin! We then took a cruise in the zodiac around the area to admire the massive icebergs. I heard what sounded like a loud explosion, and turned in time to see a huge iceberg turning over and smashing back into the sea. The sheer force contained in the landscape here is overwhelming.

This afternoon, though, has been the highlight of the trip for me so far. Our ship anchored in the aptly named Paradise Bay, and we went out for a zodiac cruise. The water was glassy except for some icebergs in hues of bright blue and white, and all around were mountains and glaciers. We observed several crabeater seals which were sleeping on icebergs, explored around the glacier caves, and then headed over to the Argentinean Brown Base. There we walked up through deep snow to the peak of a steep cliff overlooking the bay. At the top, we had five minutes of silence. I sat towards the edge so that I could see no other people, and tried to take in the beauty and allow the reality of where I was on the globe to sink in. We descended via an exhilarating slide through the snow, which was a perfect finish for an incredible day in Antarctica!

Hannah (MRes MMS)

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