Classic Antarctica Trip Log (6 - 18 Jan, 2018) - Friday , Jan 12

Friday , January 12: Brown Station and Neko Harbour
January 2018

The weather continued as it left off last night: rather cloudy but bright and calm. Today would be a red-letter day because the two landings will be made on the actual mainland of Antarctica, rather than on offshore islands.

In the early morning ‘Le Lryial’ entered Paradise Harbour, one of the most scenically stunning parts of the Antarctic Peninsula region, and anchored off the Argentine Brown Station (formerly Almirante Brown). It is named for an Irishman who established the Argentine Navy. A short Zodiac ride brought us to the cluster of orange buildings. The station is now closed but is visited every year by a few people to undertake maintenance and some science programs. We were made welcome by the Argentineans as we came ashore at a small jetty and climbed steps to the station. It had been partly destroyed by fire in 1951, rebuilt in 1952, completely burnt down in 1984 and again rebuilt. Fire is greatest hazard in Antarctica!

There were some gentoo penguins nesting around the buildings but the main object was to climb a steep snow slope for a stunning view across Paradise Harbour. As the zodiacs started to return to the ship, there was a surprise waiting. Sally's Zodiac appeared to be having engine trouble but on further investigation she and her team were dispensing glasses of champagne to celebrate our continental landing. The cruise is full of surprises and this is one we might not have anticipated!

We left Paradise Harbour, heading north and passing close to the Chilean Gonzalez Videla station and, after lunch, ‘Le Lyrial’ maneuvered around magnificently sculpted icebergs into Anvord Bay and anchored off Neko Harbour. This scenic spot was first seen and roughly charted by de Gerlache. In 1921, Neko Harbor was named for Christian Salvesen’s floating whaling factory Neko, which operated in the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula area between 1911 and 1924.

Many of us decided to make the hike to the ridgeline above, but were pleasantly distracted by the charismatic gentoo penguins nesting in small clusters along the way. Once past the penguins, we ascended a steep snow-covered hill and cut back to a rock outcropping from which we could see Anvord Bay in its entirety.

Down below, we sat and watched the penguins, and absorbed the scene. A massive glacier with cerulean blue crevasses cascaded down to the sea on the other side of the harbour. There was some excitement when a large lump ‘calved’ off the face and hundreds of tons of ice crashed into the sea, setting up a small tsunami that lapped along the shore. Gentoo penguins loafed along the shoreline and from the water’s edge up to the nesting colonies stretched steep meandering “penguin highways”. The penguins use these trails when the snow is deep, to save energy on the walk from the sea to their nest. They are also happy to use human trails and we have to give them "right of way."

Moving away from Neko Harbour after the landing, ‘Le Lyrial’ continued to steam along the panorama of icy mountains of the Gerlache Strait until, just as dinner finished, we entered the famous Lemaire Channel, a 7-mile long, 1-mile wide, spectacular passage between Booth Island and mainland Antarctica. It is nicknamed 'Kodak Alley' and is a ‘must’ for any visit to the Antarctic Peninsula. The Channel is flanked by glaciated cliffs and peaks that soar to over 2000 feet on the island and 3000 feet on the mainland. Unfortunately visibility was not the best but the passage was still dramatic and was enlivened by ‘Le Lyrial’ weaving among the lumps of ice. Having passed down the Channel, we turned and made the passage in reverse and ‘Le Lyrial’ proceeded towards our next destination while we slept.

Click Here to read 'Saturday, January 13: Palmer Station '