Antarctica, day 21a: Cuverville Island and lunch

March 24, 2022 • 11:45 am

Yesterday morning we had a visit to Cuverville Island, a small but magical place I hadn’t visited since 2019. It was even better this time as the weather was a mixture of sun and overcast sky, and there was little wind (wind is the visit-killer down here).

My previous post is here, and I’ll give the same introduction (indented). Before we start, I recommend again that you click once (or twice) on the photos to enlarge them, as I’ve beefed up the pixel numbers compared the photos I posted in 2019.

Here’s a bit of what Wikipedia says about the place:

Cuverville Island or Île de Cavelier de Cuverville is a dark, rocky island lying in Errera Channel between Arctowski Peninsula and the northern part of Rongé Island, off the west coast of Graham Land in Antarctica. [JAC: it’s only 2 X 2.5 km] Cuverville Island was discovered by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897–1899) under Adrien de Gerlache, who named it for J.M.A. Cavelier de Cuverville (1834–1912), a vice admiral of the French Navy.

The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a breeding colonyof about 6500 pairs of gentoo penguins, the largest for this species on the Antarctic Peninsula. Other birds nesting at the site include southern giant petrels and Antarctic shags

Here’s where Cuverville is on Google maps; it’s a tiny island in the inlet marked below:

And a bigger map from The Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty site. Note the “landing site” (where we landed) and the adjacent gentoo penguin colonies, most of which are off limits. But there are plenty of gentoos you can visit, as you’ll see below. I saw colonies to both the north and south, walking up the cliff until we were prohibited from going further.

And a photo of Cuverville Island—not mine, but taken from the site Alli’s Excellent Adventures!:

Now we begin the post for yesterday’s visit, and the photos are mine. There’s really not much to say except that the site epitomizes what’s so amazing about Antarctica: the scenery, unmatched anywhere in the world, yet with a limited palette of colors, the huge scale of the place, and, of course, the penguins.  They’re all gentoos, and the island has one of the largest gentoo rookeries on the Peninsula.

This is what you see as you land. The penguins were all adults, many of them molting.

I love to frame shots that seem to show a penguin admiring its environment, but of course that’s a fantasy:

More penguins:

A rookery on the west side of the “landing site,” with majestic scenery and—SUN!

An iceberg. They really are this blue; I don’t enhance the blue color when I post these:

In the rookery the birds are busy attending to their toilette:

A plump resting penguin, with a bit of last year’s coat still showing:

More penguins and a glacier:

This guy was patiently sitting on a rock trying to photograph the gentoos, unaware that one was right behind him:

You can see that many of these are still molting. It takes several weeks to shed the old coat and grow in the new:

I wanted to take a vanity photo of myself reflected in an expedition guide’s goggles, with penguins in the background. I got mostly myself and you can barely see the penguins. But if you click on the photo to enlarge it, and then click again, you’ll see a pile o’ penguins behind my head.

Penguins doing their best to match the background:

If you love penguins, then you hate skuas, as they eat both eggs and penguin chicks. Penguins hate these birds, too. This is the head of a South Polar Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki), although I’m not 100% sure, as it could be an Antarctic Skua. (Readers can help here.)

There were more bergs in the bay than there are in the Brooklyn phone book (I’m allowed to say that). You can see the passengers for scale.

Moe Bergs:

The alternating cloud and sun made for some lovely views. Here’s the estimable MS Roald Amundsen awaiting our return by Zodiac:

Spot the penguin!

Here we have the tracks of three penguins who were sick of stumbling through the thick snow and decided to toboggan on their bellies. There are three parallel belly tracks, and you can see the sporadic imprints of their flippers (wings), which they use to propel themselves:

Another of my favorite photos: “Lone penguin in the vastness of its environment.” It’s the penguin equivalent of the Pale Blue Dot.

Now here’s a weird feature of many polar cruises: they offer passengers a chance to strip to their bathing suits and immerse themselves in the polar seas (-1.9° C, a bit below freezing) for a quick dip. After they jump in, scream loudly and hustle back out, expedition guides are there to wrap them in towels. For that they get an official “Antarctic Beach Club” certificate.

I don’t understand this, but so it goes.

I returned to my cabin and decided to take a selfie wearing my “landing” outfit.

Then I decided to have lunch. I wasn’t all that hungry, but wanted to show the readers what is available in the “fancy” dining room. (There’s an even fancier one that’s free for suite passengers, but costs us proles 25 Euros for a meal.) Here’s me in the Aune, sipping a diet Coke while admiring the scenery. By this time the sun was fully out.  I prefer to photograph in overcast conditions, though, for both the atmosphere and the reduced contrast.

A panorama of part of the Aune dining room:

It’s amazing to have a meal with scenery like this outside. It’s too easy to get jaded!

And my meal, with the courses quoted from the menu:

Starter: “Pasta salad with pesto, baby corn [JAC: it was adult corn!], radish, cherry tomato and parmesan.”

Main: “Local sausage fried mushrooms, leeks, mashed potatoes”:

Dessert: “Peanut cake with pear compote.”  It was good. Desserts seem to be the most consistently good course here, but that could be because I have a sweet tooth.

I had so many photos from yesterday that I’ve divided them into two bits. Tomorrow I’ll show the sights after we left Cuverville to head north along the Peninsula, and show my dinner as well.

22 thoughts on “Antarctica, day 21a: Cuverville Island and lunch

  1. Would adult corn not be the whole maize plant, stems, leaves, flowers and all, rather than the grains? 😉 I am also curious as to where the sausage is local to. Important questions that I am sure in no way intrude on the pleasure of eating in such amazing surroundings.

    1. “Baby corn” refers to those entire miniature ears of corn, about as long as your pinkie finger, that you can find in some Chinese food. Avoid any Chinese food that contains them; they’re not really authentic (remember where corn comes from) and, worst of all, they taste bad.

  2. Is there anywhere to sit in the dining room without a view. It’s unreal. This day should be called Penguins unlimited.

  3. Dessert offered two meals a day, which seems to be the standard on cruises and trips that include meals – we saw it on a European river cruise a few years back, is definitely a feature for people like us who don’t usually eat dessert at home.

    1. I don’t know derek. With the breakfast selections on offer that jerry showed us a couple of weeks ago, i would say that dessert is available with all three meals a day….with a proper selection of buttered sweet rolls, cinnamon rolls, danish, and the like from the breakfast menu.

  4. “Moe Bergs”

    Props on namechecking the ballplayer-cum-lawyer-cum-spy whom no less a flake than Casey Stengel himself once called “the strangest man ever to play baseball.”

    Also, way cool pics.

  5. “I love to frame shots that seem to show a penguin admiring its environment, but of course that’s a fantasy” – I’m not so sure…!

    Excellent photos – like Jonathan at #1 above, I ‘m puzzled about the “local sausage”.

    1. I have to say, I didn’t enjoy the “local sausage” and it crossed my mind that it could be PENGUIN. (But of course that’s illegal.) I think they mean that it’s from South America.

  6. I love the picture of the photographer with the penguin behind him. It looks to me like the penguin is tip-toeing along in hopes that he isn’t noticed.

    1. Yeah, same here… that one made me chuckle.

      A zoom-in of the first blue iceberg photo bears an icy resemblance of the head of an aquatic creature, emerging from the water (not quite an orca, maybe a shark, seal or walrus?).

  7. they offer passengers a chance to strip to their bathing suits and immerse themselves in the polar seas…I don’t understand this, but so it goes.

    In my 20s I did the whole naked sauna-to-icy-lake thing in Finland. My skin never felt so good as it did afterwards. So I can see the appeal of doing it on a regular basis, if you live in an area and culture where both saunas and icy lakes abound. It really makes your body feel good afterwards. But there’s no sauna in evidence here. And no companionable naked women friends who participate at the same time. So it doesn’t seem it would be as fun. If I’m ever on a similar cruise (unlikely), I might do it just to say I did it, but I really doubt I’d enjoy it as much as the Finnish experience…or even enjoy it at all.

  8. The photos are so wonderful and exciting for me to see!

    That lone penguin photo in his environment is priceless. It’s easy for me to project all kinds of human thoughts on that guy trudging along.

  9. These were my favorite photos so far…I don’t know why. Perhaps the mixture of people and penguins and all those bergs.

    For lunch, is sausage the only protein that restaurant offers? Or are you just partial to sausages (like me). I ask because I don’t know if I remember seeing a lunch w/o a sausage. I’d like to get my hands on one of those lamb sausages- those looked excellent.

  10. I was lucky enough to get to Antarctica several years ago. I was trying to decide whether to participate in the Polar Plunge when I saw the ship’s doctor setting up a portable defibrillator next to the dock. No thanks, says I…

  11. As a visitor to this site for a few years now I’ve been treated to various vicarious trips, but I think this one has to be my favourite. So many great photographs and ancillary details.

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