25 March – A lot of firsts on our first day in Antarctica

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Tuesday 26 March 2019

Written by Iga

Picturesque, unforgettable views were waiting for us early in the morning. We were woken up by our expedition leader’s words “Welcome to Antarctica”. When we looked out of the window, we saw stunning views of Antarctica with multiple icebergs floating around. It was cloudy almost all day, with a little bit of snow, which only added magic to this place. It was also relatively warm (around 4 degrees Celsius) and the sea was very calm, which favoured data collection. The first shift was on the bridge at 7 am and the observers were lucky enough not to only see the beautiful landscape, but also to spot multiple humpback whales swimming around the ship. Well, we can get used to this kind of Mondays!

The stunning scenery of the Errera Channel dwarfs our ship and zodiac (photo by Sonja)

Our morning activities included zodiac cruising and on-shore landing. Most of our group went cruising in the science zodiac. During the cruise we spotted numerous humpback whales playing around, a crabeater seal hiding behind the iceberg, and a leopard seal (both resting on a piece of floating ice and in the water). The latter one was trying to cause some troubles, biting the side of the zodiac. The rest of the morning we spent on Cuverville Island, where we walked along the shore and looked at gentoo penguins. For all of our group, it was the first time stepping ashore in Antarctica!

Zodiac cruising for data collection was our favorite learning opportunity of the morning, therefore hopefully we will repeat it in the next days. We collected records from three different positions in the same manner as it was done in previous years, in order to preserve continuity of the data. We are very lucky to use the CDT (which measures depth, salinity, water temperature), Secchi disk, and echo-sounder, which make our research much more precise, professional and exciting.

 

Collecting data in the science zodiac. (photo by Sonja)

 

Danco Island was the afternoon landing spot, and involved a 3 km hike to the top of a snow-covered hill. Surrounded by gentoo penguin sounds and views of floating ice all around the island, we took time to sit down, reflect, and observe the behavior of penguins. We were very respectful trying not to get too close to the penguins, as they are moulting at this time of year, which makes them particularly sensitive to disturbance. Some of them, though, were approachable and inquisitive. We have seen them fighting for pebbles (which they use to build nests), stealing each other’s stones, and sliding on their bellies.

 

On the snow dome of Danco Island

 

A reasonably crazy activity – the polar plunge – was waiting for us at the end of the landing. With the water temperature around +1 degree Celsius, we had no fears to have a little dive with penguins all around us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a really good team-bonding event. In case you don’t believe us, we’ve got a video- and photo-documentation.

 

The polar plunge. (photo by Sonja)

 

Our next days are going to be filled with numerous landings and activities on-shore, supplemented by data collection whenever the ship is moving. It will be very intensive but also extremely interesting and exciting. We will keep you updated!

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