ANTARCTICA Day 6: Almirante Brown Base & the Cuverville Island Penguins
Our first landing on the third day was to the small picture perfect Argentinian base and research station, Almirante Brown. Before our landing at the base itself we went for a morning zodiac cruise to see the unique icebergs, glaciers, rocks and creatures in the area adjacent to Almirante.
ALMIRANTE BROWN STATION
An Argentinian base was established in this location in 1951, but the current buildings were rebuilt after 1984 when the station’s doctor decided to set fire to the base upon hearing he was to stay another winter (this crazy plan worked and the residents were eventually rescued) . Today the base can house a maximum of 18 people, although on this day that we visited there were fewer than that. The scientists and residents of Almirante were very welcoming and extremely eager to go home as their ship to bring them back to Argentina was already a day late (let’s hope they didn’t get stuck for the winter and do a repeat of 1984).
At Almirante Brown we climbed the steep, deep snowy hillside to see the view of the station and bay. This was our first landing on the actual Antarctic continent (previous landings were to islands and not technically the continent itself). Several people celebrated this as the visit to their 7th and final continent, but for me this was my 6th since I have not yet been to Australia.
When we returned to the ship the crew had prepared a BBQ lunch on deck. We ate hot dogs and burgers with the most spectacular view, after which I enjoyed a soak in the top deck hot tub while we cruised to our next destination, Cuverville Island. As we made our way to Cuverville, the clouds at last started to part and the blue sky showed for the first time since we had been in Antarctica.
As our zodiac approached the shore of Cuverville Island I anxiously squealed like a kid outside of Disneyland knowing I was moments away from being surrounded by THOUSANDS of penguins.
Cuverville Island is home to the largest colony of Gentoo penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, 6,000 nesting pairs (so I guess 12,000 penguins and their babies?). We arrived to shore and were briefed again that we should attempt to give the penguins 5 meters of space, but we all knew this was going to be impossible. As usual the penguins were welcome to come up to us if they so pleased, and that they did. I sat in one place on the shore for a while watching penguins laying on their bellies doing nothing, penguins standing in one place doing nothing, penguins splashing in the water, penguins sliding down the snow on their bellies, chicks chasing their parents and one another, parents regurgitating food for their chicks, penguins fighting off aggressive skuas, and penguins in every cycle of life from just hatched to being killed by a skua to dead to very dead to very very dead to skeletons. It was the whole penguin circle of life happening all around me. When walking around I constantly needed to be very careful where I stepped because every 4 steps there would be a penguin laying there.
Alex and I set up GoPros around the beach and captured video and timelapses of the Penguins doing their thing. We caught video of one curious penguin investigating the GoPro.