Antarctica, Day 7: Petermann Island

March 9, 2022 • 9:30 am

Welcome to Petermann Island, a small but popular tourist destination off the Antarctic Peninsula:

Some maps of the location:

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I believe we landed at the harbor “Port Circumcision” at the lower right and walked across to the bay on the west side. Some reader should find out how it got that name!

A topographic aerial map: Petermann is marked with the read teardrop:

A brief description from Wikipedia; note that it’s off the Kyiv Peninsula:

Petermann Island is a small, low and rounded island, lying off the northwest coast of Kyiv Peninsula in Graham Land, Antarctica, a short distance south of Booth Island and the Lemaire Channel. It is a popular tourist destination.

The island is 1.8 km (1.1 mi) long and 1.2 km (0.75 mi) across. It rises steeply to elevations of up to 250 m from a rocky coastline with raised pebble beaches. It has volcanic origins, with about half the land surface covered by a permanent, crevassed icecap. Ice-free areas have a sparse vegetation of mosses and lichens. The bedrock of the island is granodiorite.

. . . The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a breeding colony of about 3,000 pairs of gentoo penguins. Other birds nesting at the site in smaller numbers include Adélie penguinsimperial shagsWilson’s storm petrels and south polar skuas

There were lovely sites on the morning cruise to the island, and we stopped for a while to let the Ukrainians return to their research base.

Lovely views from my balcony on the way. It’s great having a balcony, as you don’t have to run up to the top deck every time you want to photograph or see something. However, I can see things only on the port side.

Lots of icebergs, and their shapes and sizes are endlessly variable:

Lunch: a pork sausage, and ignore the un-Chicago-an

A selfie of my in full field gear: hat, mask, glasses with neck fastener, camera, lifejacket, a light down jacket covered by a light fleece covered by the official Hurtigruten windbreaker, long johns, expedition team water-resistant pants, and rubber boots (supplied by the ship).

I love it when the water is still and you can see reflections of the mountains and sky:

There are enough Bergs here to fill the New York City telephone book. (I’ll be here all month folks):

When the water is still you can see that, as is common knowledge, most of an iceberg is underwater, and those beats are very blue:

Gentoo penguin tracks around a rookery:

Juveniles on the rocks in front of a snow ridge:

A  juvenile gentoo well into molting, but still very downy:

Gentoos on a rock (that’s where they nest) in front of a perfectly curved snow ride:

And in front of the sea. These were juveniles, but were in various stages of molting:

The Amundsen parked conveniently nearby.

This is the edge of a very steep cliff. You’d die if you fell off. The penguins know that, too.

See how their tracks keep show how they keep away from the edge of the cliff?

The other side of the island:

A group of passengers hiking to see more gentoos, with rumors of an Adelie penguin or two.

A rookery, though it’s not breeding time. You could tell the nests were because they consisted of a spot from which spurted out dried white lines of penguin poop.

Looking south from Port Circumcision. What with the running penguin, this is one of my favorite photos.

A south polar skua,(Stercorarius maccormicki), the most active predator of penguin eggs and chicks on land. They breed on the Antarctic coast and overwinter (soon) at sea.  Penguins hate them and will chase them away.

A small group of the birds:

Three pictures of a gentoo eating snow. This is how they have to get their fresh water. First it goes belly down, sticks its beak deep into the snow (avoiding the penguin poop!), and taking a mouthful. Then it swallows:

Beak is open and full of snow

Gulp.

A beautiful rookery; I’ve never seen a snow ridge so beautifully curved.

A lone gentoo is ready for its closeup:

One of these penguins is not like the others. Can you spot the odd bird out?

An Adelie penguin (arrow)—everyone’s favorite penguin! They are getting rarer and rarer though. Our ornithologist told us this one was building a nest. (This is an extreme closeup: about 25X.)

The Adelie is bending over. Since it was building a nest by carrying stones, surely there is a partner somewhere nearby.

Juveniles on the rookery.

To the west of Petermann Island:

Ominious clouds over the ridge. But they soon went away to be replaced by more sun. It was a lovely day and I certainly didn’t need all that clothing!

Can you spot the two penguins?

Groussac Refuge. From Wikipedia:

Groussac Refuge (65°10′33″S 64°08′10″W) is an Argentine naval refuge (originally called Hippolyte Bouchard) in Antarctica, located on the southern coast of the Port Circumcision, on Petermann Island, next to the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The refuge was inaugurated on February 6, 1955 and is operated by the Argentine Navy and was occupied periodically by personnel of the British Antarctic Survey of the former Faraday Station. The refuge take place[sic] in the middle of a colony of Gentoo penguin. Its current name is in honour of Paul Groussac, a French writer and historian who lived in Argentina, author of a plea on the Argentine claim of the Malvinas Islands and biographies of Argentine national heroes

The expedition team in charge of landing. These guys stand by the water for six hours or so to help passengers in and out of the Zodiacs.

A beer before dinner. You can’t ask for a better view!

I broke kosher big time today, at both lunch and dinner. Here are my pork quesadillas for dinner. I was eating light. Tomorrow I’ll skip lunch.

Sveler, traditional Norwegian griddle cakes. This one is the chocolate cream version, made with pancakes, chocolate ganache, and crushed meringue.

We went through the Lemaire Channel after dinner, but I’ll show some photos of that tomorrow.

14 thoughts on “Antarctica, Day 7: Petermann Island

  1. To the west of Petermann Island:[picture]

    Are those people in kayaks? I think my fingers are freezing off just looking at them.

    Other birds nesting at the site in smaller numbers include Adélie penguins, imperial shags, Wilson’s storm petrels and south polar skuas

    Didn’t see any pictures of imperial shags. I guess Harry and Meghan were inside today? Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

  2. Excellent photos again – thanks!

    I believe we landed at the harbor “Port Circumcision” at the lower right and walked across to the bay on the west side. Some reader should find out how it got that name! – According to the Wikipedia article linked to in the post:

    Port Circumcision is a cove indenting the southeast side of Petermann Island. It was discovered on January 1, 1909. In the Roman Catholic calendar, this date is the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, for which Captain Charcot named the cove.

    “[N]ote that it’s off the Kyiv Peninsula” – that city’s name is everywhere at the moment!

    1. OK, but I gotta wonder about the mindset of the namers, as it’s on Petermann Island, off the Penola Strait

  3. This post made my day! Very exciting to see your adventure. I love the gentoo getting his picture taken. Penguins just look like great comedians, even though from their point of view, life is just serious stuff. Of course, who knows what it’s like to be a penguin!

    I love the penguin hat!

  4. That photo of the penguin tracks avoiding the edge of the cliff is just fantastic. I wish we could see videos of the running penguins. (Though I’m sure I can find plenty of that on YouTube.) Are the birds very loud there? The landscape photos, especially the ones with the very still water, look so grand and sublime. It is hard to imagine any sounds at all in that, but it can’t be entirely silent with so many birds around.

    1. I have some but i can’t post them from here; YouTube access is nearly impossible and uploading video totally impossible. The birds make very raucous squawks, and, as everybody knows, a penguin colony smells horrible.
      .

  5. The Petermann for whom the island is named is also commemorated in a glacier in NW Greenland. People might remember the calving of a 260sq.km iceberg into the Davis strait in 2010 (I remember it because I was working in “Iceberg Alley” at the time and we were eyeing it with due care and attention.) – that glacier.
    Cartographers get their names on a lot of interesting places.

  6. I’m guessing it smells pretty ripe around that Groussac refuge. Does not look like anyone stays there any longer. The windows are covered with boards. The roof looks like corrugated metal and the siding is plywood or something similar. I’m guessing the roof was installed with a lot of screws.

  7. Stunning photos! Seeing that lone Adelie in the midst of Gentoos makes me wonder how different species of penguin get along. Do they mostly ignore each other?

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