Antarctic Peninsula – Paulet Island

Paulet Island is home to a large Adelie penguin rookery (over 100,000 pairs). We spent a spectacular morning zodiac cruising around the island watching as penguins leapt off icebergs en masse. The rest of the day was on shore where we spent hours mesmerized and entertained by the adelie penguins’ antics. Interesting historical side note: in 1901 to 1903, a Swedish geologist named Otto Nordenskjöld led an expedition to this region on a ship named the “Antarctic”. The ship was under the command of Norwegian whaling captain Carl Larsen, who inadvertently trapped the vessel in ice, causing it to sink. Forced to overwinter in 1903, all but one of the shipwreck survivors made it out alive by building a stone hut (Nordenskjöld Hut) and eating the Adelie penguins. This was a great first stop on the Antarctic Peninsula…we can’t wait to see what the upcoming week brings!

Robby at the stern of the Polar Star with Paulet Island in the background. Paulet is located off the northeastern end of the Antarctic Peninsula, and is composed of lava flows capped by a cinder cone with a small summit crater Early morning view of Paulet Island from the deck of the Polar Star Geothermal heat keeps parts of the Paulet Island ice-free, and a visible guano stain is seen from the middle of the island leading down towards the sea A Polar Star staff member chasing away scavenging sheathbills from the ship A large, inhospitable Antarctic Peninsula island near Paulet Island Zodiacs preparing for our day's excursion to Paulet Island, a circular island about 1 mile in diameter There are plenty of massive icebergs surrounding Paulet Island Adelie penguins claim any low lying icebergs near Paulet Island as their own Large icicles drape off this interesting iceberg; near Paulet Island Icebergs surrounding Paulet Island have interesting formations and colors The remnants of what appears to be a large tabular iceberg Imagine that only 10% of this iceberg is visible above the surface. The remaining 90% is below water, and continual calving can lead to "shooters" as icebergs rise rapidly to the surface from the hundreds of feet of submerged ice The beautiful shades and shapes of Paulet Island's icebergs made zodiac cruising a joy Adelie penguins porpoising beside our zodiac Robby smiles as Rod Planck navigates our zodiac around Paulet Island Adelie penguins seek safety in numbers as they jump from the peaceful oasis of an iceberg into leopard seal territory Massive icebergs just off Paulet Island Freeze frame of an adelie penguin about to hit the water after hurling itself of an iceberg near Paulet Island The stuff of dreams as iceberg apparitions appear in various shapes, sizes, and colors near Paulet Island Adelie penguins on a gorgeous iceberg near Paulet Island An adelie about to hit the water while its companions contemplate following suit Adelie penguins on an iceberg off of Paulet Island Adelie penguins are comical to watch, as they engage in playful behavior; iceberg near Paulet Island Portrait of an adelie penguin; iceberg near Paulet Island Adelie penguins catapulting themselves to the sea; Paulet Island Adelies jumping into the turquoise blue waters; near Paulet Island Penguins trying to stay afloat on an unstable iceberg bit The current changes rapidly near Paulet Island. One minute our fellow zodiac cruisers were blissful and the next, their zodiac was crushed up against some fast flowing ice. Here we watch a rescue operation to free the trapped zodiac Gorgeous shot of adelie penguins jumping into the water to feed on krill Amazing iceberg texture We spent 2 hours in the morning zodiac cruising around Paulet Island and were mesmerized by the gorgeous icebergs This iceberg's incredible shade of blue was absolutely mesmerizing! An ice "cave" on Paulet Island We spent an entire glorious day at Paulet Island, admiring not only its beautiful icebergs but its massive colony of Adelie Penguins Adelie penguins making their way to and from the sea; Paulet Island Imperial shag protectively grooming its chick; Paulet Island An imperial shag curiously checks us out; Paulet Island Unusual view of an Imperial shag stretching its wings; Paulet Island View of penguins making their way back to the colony on Paulet Island Guano stained adelie chicks acting rambunctious in the middle of a colony; Paulet Island Adelie chicks have sooty-blackish heads and gray down-covered bodies Paulet Island is home to over 200,000 adelie penguins. Here, the colony stretches as far as the eye can see An adelie pair performing courtship or mating rituals; Paulet Island Adelies walking in formation; Paulet Island Adelie penguin amusing us with its antics Hundreds of adelie penguin prints on Paulet Island Plaque at the remains of the Nordenskjold hut. Paulet Island was home to Anton Larsen and 17 of his crew from the Antarctic, a vessel supporting a Swedish expedition in 1901-1903 Remains of the Nordenskjold/Larsen hut, which was built by Larsen's men when their ship was crushed in pack ice, and they sought refuge on Paulet Island. They spent the winter of 1903 here, eating penguins to survive Adelie penguin chicks trying to get their parent to regurgitate krill; atop the Nordenskjold hut on Paulet Island How adelie penguins make their way from the beach back towards their colony (they have to hop almost their full body's length from one icy path to another!) Becky sits back to watch as the adelie penguins head back towards their respective colonies after a successful outing at sea Robby uses a tripod to take photos of the adelies; Paulet Island Walking on Paulet Island can be an exercise in patience...the adelie penguins have the right of way so we took our time walking from one side of the island to the other An adelie penguin breaks off an ice chunk; possibly to quench its thirst? Paulet Island A resting skua conserves its energy before the next meal; Paulet Island Paulet Island can be tricky in some places. Here Becky is submerged to knee level. Note: its vital to fill the holes back up with snow afterwards because if a penguin falls into the hole, it will die a slow death, unable to pull itself out The Polar Star anchored near Paulet Island Imperial shags returning to nest on Paulet Island A large tabular iceberg with a perfect mirror reflection; near Paulet Island Ice floe near Paulet Island foto gallery lightboxby v6.1

15 JAN: (Friday: Paulet Island & Weddell Sea): God must love us…he blessed us with a spectacular day today. We pulled into Paulet at around 0730 but due to thick ice conditions, were unable to pull into our originally desired anchor spot, so we had to chug around the island for an alternate anchoring. After breakfast, we got dressed and joined everyone else on deck to hop into the zodiacs. The weather was amazing…calm, beautiful, sunny and smooth. Paulet Island is always hit or miss on previous trips to Antarctica…the last few trips it had been awful, with slick hills that are supremely difficult to negotiate (Lois broke her leg here primarily because she was carrying too much gear, but also because of the slick conditions). We decided to zodiac cruise first, and hopped into a zodiac with Rod. We first zoomed over to a few icebergs to watch the penguins hop on and off, and witnessed a zodiac rescue. Poor Tom had navigated his zodiac into a tight spot that set up all his clients for a spectacular view of penguins hopping off. The current shifted suddenly, and two icebergs trapped his zodiac in between them. Unable to pull his zodiac out, Bruce had to come to the rescue and assisted in towing Tom’s zodiac out of the predicament. All the passengers had to get out and stand on the iceberg in order to lift the zodiac up and out…we captured it on film for posterity.

Afterwards, we headed over to take a couple of iceberg photos…we were only supposed to get one hour of zodiac cruising but because no one was waiting on shore, Rod was able to give us two hours of uninterrupted cruising. We hit the landing spot at 1145 and head off down towards the Nordenskjöld hut. Paulet Island was home to Anton Larsen and 17 of his crew from the Antarctic, a vessel supporting a Swedish expedition in 1901-1903. The ship was crushed in pack ice and the men were able to seek refuge on Paulet Island. They spent the winter of 1903 in the stone hut, eating penguins to survive. One sailor died, and his graveyard is completely surrounded by penguins, so it was impossible for us to visit it. Paulet island is in a conical shaped volcanic island, and it houses a massive Adelie penguin rookery. There were more than 100,000 breeding pairs of penguins, and we could see their pinkish guano stained suburbs from the Polar Star. Penguins stretched across the island from the landing zone up the top of the high ridges.

Scavenging sheathbills weren’t shy at all! If they thought any remnant of your clothing, boots, or camera gear was edible, they’d try like hell to eat it. There were a few nesting Imperial shags, and we could see dozens of empty nests up on the hill side. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the shags were off at sea or on an iceberg…we saw them flying home en masse later that afternoon, reassuring us that their presence had not been diminished on Paulet. Most of the afternoon was spent getting sensory overland from the thousands of Adelies. We watched as they mated, fought, crooned, stole rocks from their neighbors, built nests, fed their young, and cleaned themselves off from all that guano goo…a very beautiful day. We finally left on one of the last zodiacs, (skipping lunch) and grabbed some hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies in the lounge. To our happy surprise, dinner was bumped up to 1830, and we had steak enchiladas and enjoyed Doug & Gail’s company. Some of the passengers were complaining bitterly to Doug about a couple who rudely hogged their zodiac. Apparently, there were a lot of disgruntled passengers who complained that some of their fellow shipmates were not as courteous as they should be…we weren’t sure who they were referring to but were glad that our fellow zodiac cruisers had been considerate so far. After dinner, we hung out on deck until 2100, talking to the aptly named Finn (our Finnish passenger wearing a decorative Moroccan outfit) and admiring the mirror smooth surface conditions. We took showers and washed our stinky dry bags and hung our jackets outside in the hallway to dry. The ship is starting to stink of guano goo…nasty!

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