Anarchy of Antarctica – First step on the land of pebble thieves

Thursday 26 January 2023

Day 5 – 21st Jan, Woodie Hut, Winter Island and Yalours Islands

After a rocky start in the Drake passage, the group woke up to incredible views of humpback whales swimming in between Antarctic glaciers! Students enjoyed their morning in the channel admiring the landscape. Before our first steps in Antarctica, we had a brief meeting to catch up on survey data compilation and penguin behaviour observation protocol.

As soon as Cape Petrels (our group) were called to board the shuttle boats, we rushed downstairs, all geared up and looking like red balloons.

Ready to go to the zodiacs in the boot room (by Kelly)

We were greeted by Gentoo penguins chilling on the rocks or porpoising around the boat whilst the zodiac cruising through Antarctic channels. On the way, we passed Vernadsky station, previously used by the British, and sold to the Ukrainians for £1. While waiting to get to land, Sonja reminisced about the nice moments she spent at the station in her previous voyages, and entertained us with interesting traditions of the scientists there. When docked, we were greeted by a sleeping smiling Weddell seal, lying right in front of a hut, called Wordie House. Inside, the group saw what the station looked like during the 50s. Everything inside has been untouched, including an open pack of butter, and students had a chance to sign their names in a guest book. It took us a while to get back to the ship as no one wanted to leave, but we finally made it to a late lunch.

Snoozing Weddell seal (by Kelly)


Inside Wordie House (all by Sonja)

Ceilidh dancing!

Today we had a chance to try a new restaurant on the Nansen ship, as our usual spot was already closed. We feasted on burgers, fries with aioli, and milkshakes! However, not all of us could rest as some of us had to dash out onto the observation deck to collect data while the ship was moving to the next location. The journey did not take long, and we had a bit of time to rest before the next expedition of the day. Some of us napped whereas Julia and Rebecca decided to get ready quickly and bring some of Scotland to Antarctica, by dancing ceilidh on the upper deck.

When the staff called out Cape Petrels, we rushed to the boats, we were quickly transported to an island with Adelie penguins. We were excited to see that the penguins were with chicks! Students were divided into pairs and one team of three picked their focal penguin and followed their every move for the next 20-30 minutes. Sonja warned us that Adelie penguins are pretty temperamental, which some people experienced. However, Julia’s, Jess’s and my penguin was a bit more shy, and quite unlucky. While trying to take care of its chick from passing by skuas, its neighbour seized the opportunity to steal pebbles from our penguin’s nest 17 times! At least the chick looked cute and healthy!

The Adelie penguin colony, where we collected behaviour observations on the nesting pairs.

We had to say our goodbyes to the penguin colony sooner than we wanted and get back to the ship to have dinner. Vegetarians, as usual, were treated with beet-heavy meals, while everything-eaters had a bit more choice. The ship started moving a bit earlier than expected, and started heading through the Lemaire channel which left Sonja with a bit of disappointment as it is a prime area for whales, but Kelly came to the rescue and collected all marine mammal data on the way. The rest of us were treated to incredible views from the Aune restaurant, including a first sighting of a minke whale, some humpback whales, and a variety of Antarctic seabirds passing the vessel. As soon as possible, the group joined Kelly at the bow of the vessel and watched out for all the fauna, until late at night, when we fell into a deep slumber

Hopefully, tomorrow will be as exciting as today was!

Written by Nadia (left)

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