A solitary Adelie penguin preened itself on top of an iceberg, oblivious of the humpback whales sleeping alongside. The youngster awoke after a while and began to pester the mother, snorting loudly for attention. We watched, engrossed in the activity for a good while. We contemplated the spectacular, serene scene that was hard for us to process.
It was a fascinating transit from our morning destination, Snow Hill Island. There, the 1902 Nordenskjold expedition had its winter base. The small hut still sits on a pedestal of soft mud and moraine. The site has been worked on by a team of Argentinean conservators who shored up the hut’s platform. This is an ongoing project, and the Argentinean team certainly has their work cut out for them.
Inside the hut, four rooms come off a central lounge – some three by five metres. The wood is bare, and the lounge has a small table and a pot stove. One of the four rooms leading off the lounge was a compact kitchen complete with a stove. The others were bunk rooms, two bunks per room that slept six men. Outside the hut, a pile of fossils is testament to the purpose of the expedition, which was to geologise along the eastern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Our expedition focused on the east side of the peninsula, which is Nordenskjold central. The expedition story is a saga unlike any other and following its track has been a fascinating opportunity for us all.
Tabular bergs aside, we sailed north through pristine, calm waters in search of our evening destination, Paulet Island. The island is home to around 400,000 Adelie penguins and many thousand shags, kelp gulls, and sheathbills, not to mention the skuas that hunt mercilessly overhead.
An early dinner gave us the opportunity to get onto the island and explore the rookery, which had some of the largest chicks seen this season. Healthy and plump, just what the doctor ordered!
Adelie penguins populate the deeper reaches of the western peninsula, but here on the east side, their distribution comes to the northern islands and makes them easily accessible. Over the remains of yet another Nordenskjold hut, the chicks lined up along the tops of the walls and waited patiently for their parents to deliver another feed of krill.
As the day waned, we returned to the ship, and the sky lit up with a pink and orange glow, bringing this fine day to a close.