NOTE: Society Expeditions is no longer in service, however this four-part report on Antarctic cruising contains much valuable information for those wishing to sail in the region with other cruise lines.
So far, we have missed quite a few intended landing sites. Either the seas were too high or the intense katabatic winds peculiar to the polar regions descended, reaching gales of 75 miles per hour! Because of these conditions we had to pass on visits to Palmer Station, Petermann Island, and this morning, Henryk Arctowski, the Polish research station. As the ship approached the Polish station, the sun was shining and it was beautiful. But in the 45 minutes it took for the scout zodiac to go ashore and return, the winds picked up and became too intense and dangerous for us to land.
Let me backtrack again to Friday, December 13 when we landed at Danco Island. I stood in one place and watched the gentoo penguins making their way along the paths they carved into the snow, all the way up the mountain to their colony at the top. I even saw a traffic jam as six little guys marched in single file up one road, only to meet a single fellow coming down. There was an impasse. But they had a crossroads. Two animals went across and up the other road. The lone bird coming down also crossed over and continued down to the water. The rest continued their journey up the mountain. Amazing. We were told not to impinge on their penguin paths in any way, because if they were damaged, the animals would have to create new ones. Their lives are stressful enough.
Later we had the disappointment of not being able to visit Palmer Station or see the penguins there. But we went on to Port Lockroy, a restored British research station and museum. It was raining hard and the wind was blowing. Going ashore was an adventure. But we were able to buy postcards and send them from the station. They will arrive eventually.
Conditions change quickly. When World Discoverer was at Port Lockroy 10 days earlier, the harbor was icebound and the passengers were able to walk down the gangway, across the pack ice and to the station! Now the water was open all the way to the shore. Next we are off to Half Moon Island, a place with a sheltered harbor and no icecaps, which are what help to create the katabatic winds.
To be continued...