Heads or Tails – Name droppin’

February 25, 2023 – (AM) Mikkelsen Harbor

After breakfast, we wrapped ourselves up in layers and headed to the north east beach of D’Hainaut Island, located in Mikkelsen Harbour that lies south of Trinity Island. While we sailed around the bay, I was fascinated by how determined the Antarctic explorers were to venture further south in extreme weather in the name of research, perhaps a tiny bit of competition.

D’Hainaut was named after the 6th Chilean Antarctic expedition in the 1950s, after El Captain Ladislao D’Hainaut an explorer from Chile. It explains the flag stamp on what looks like an old radio mast. Once we reached the island’s peak, we spotted Refuge Caillet – Bois far out. Set up by the Argentinian Navy 2 years after the Chilean Expedition’s quest, it was renamed in 1977 from Mikkelsen to Caillet Bois, after Theodore Caillet Bois an Argentinian navy guy with a Spanish wikipedia page.

Mikkelsen Harbour – was it the Norwegians or the Swedes who discovered it? I can’t get my head around it. BUT the Harbour was first seen by French Jean Baptiste Charcot on the “Pourquois Pas” expedition who identified a ton of territories in the Peninsula. We were on his trail. Pourquois Pas.

Trinity Island is a part of the Palmer archipelago first sighted by American Nathaniel Palmer in Nov 1820. Not to be confused with Trinity Peninsula which was first sighted by Edward Bransfield an Irish sailor in Jan 1820.

In any case, we were surrounded by glaciers eclipsed by low hanging clouds building up to the narrative of what happened here in the 19th century. After a smooth sail to the rocky shores of  D’Hainaut, our first sighting were the remains of what a lack of profit led to after whales and seals were hunted out. Run away and leave your sh** behind. In this case, piles of whale bones and a broken down water boat. Nowadays the remnants are enlivened with Gentoo Penguins waddling around, hanging out and making good pictures for beginner and advanced photographers. We began a 3 hour stroll to make our own non scientific discoveries.

We trudged through the snow, often stopped to gaze at a couple of relaxed Weddell Seals lying on their side, occasionally lifting their heads with puppy eyes. Congregated Gentoo Penguins making a scene, some feeding their chicks or keeping them warm. Antarctic Fur Seals poking their nose at intrusive humans.

(PM) – Spert Island

The crew scratched off plans to Cierva Cove and heard that conditions at Spert Island were calm and appropriate for a zodiac ride. Positioned off the far West of Trinity Island, large swells from the open sea make it notorious for its inaccessibility. The island was named after Sir Thomas Spert “Founder and First Master of the Mariners of England”, going back to the Tudor era. They did not know about the continent back then.

We zodiac cruised for three hours around basaltic cliffs rising out of the sea, in and out of steep gorges, and natural arches. Antarctic fur seals and a Weddell seal lying around could have easily been mistaken for rocks. Our first penguin sightings were of a Gentoo and Chinstrap hanging out on a rocky islet, snowy peaks in the background. Gradually, snowy peaks turned into full-on snow covered mountains, the color scheme alternating from brown to white. As we zoomed around the corner, interconnected glaciers and rocky mountains adorned with hanging icicles over a few risk taking penguins. While looking out for whales, humpbacks in particular, we entered a corridor lined by glaciers and massive turquoise/blue icebergs, subtle changes in color when we circled them from different directions. On our way back, the scenery shifted to grey and white, hundreds of penguins huddled on rocky slopes while Antarctic fur seals were swimming in the water and crawling up onto the rocks. A shag was sighted. We hoped a whale would jump out of nowhere. Our time was up.

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