26 March – Science, surveys and scenery

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Wednesday 27 March 2019

Written by Meaghan

It was another early morning, 7 o’clock start for our marine mammal and bird surveyors. There were far less sightings than yesterday morning, so the surveys were done with relative ease. Straight after breakfast we got our gear and rallied up to join Sonja in one of the zodiacs for our science cruise. Whilst the passengers went hunting for wildlife we went hunting for data. Secchi disk, Bolo and Rolo (names for our data collection devices) and a hydrophone (underwater microphone) were inserted into the water to get recordings of what was going on below the water’s surface – for example, some of those icebergs can get really loud! At each sampling station, the zodiac stopped and the water was so still that the stunning scenery around us became mirrored reflections on the icy sea surface.

 

Reflections in Paradise Bay (photo by Meaghan)

 

After the data collection we set foot on the actual continent of Antarctica where we did a very scenic hike. The walk was steep and tiring but well worth it. We were greeted with striking blue skies and the view from above was just so unique and awe-inspiring that everyone, passengers included, took part in a 5-minute silence so that we could all take in this awe-inspiring place and the sounds of this amazing landscape. I think everyone really appreciated this once in a lifetime experience, I know I did! We hiked back down to the landing site where a Weddell seal was waiting for us. Many pictures were taken of our furry friend before we went back to the Plancius for lunch and more surveying.

 

Stunning scenery of Stony Point (photo by Meaghan)

 

Weddell seal, our furry friend (photo by Meaghan)

 

After this morning’s activities I really didn’t think the day could get any better. However, around half way through lunch our marine mammal surveyors spotted a pod of killer whales (orcas). Even the ship crew were getting excited. The Plancius stopped, and everyone just watched as the whales moved steadily along the shoreline. This was just such a surreal experience. However, time stops for no one and shortly we were back on track to our next destination, Neko Harbour. Soon we were in the zodiac again, and out gathering more data. We even had the hydrophone in the water when a large chunk of the glacier calved, so fingers crossed we got that on the recordings (especially useful for my podcast)!

Fledgeling gentoo penguin jumping into a meltwater puddle at Neko Harbour (photo by Sonja)

Once back from the afternoon’s excursions it was straight back to marine mammal and sea bird surveys on the ship. However, by this time true Antarctic weather caught up with us and within minutes we were surrounded by swirling snow. We felt the cold set in and vision became so limited that we had to go off effort and join the rest of the passengers for the daily recap followed by dinner. After today’s exciting events we can all use a little rest, and an early night (for some at least).

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