González Videla Station
Today started early because we were in the first group out. We went back to González Videla Station in Paradise Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula. It’s run by the Chileans. Yesterday, we were supposed to go, but the winds were too high for the Zodiacs. This morning, the winds were lighter, but our Zuber ride to the station was still chilly and wet.
Upon landing at the station, a red carpet led us to a concrete pathway. The red carpet comes out just for Silversea guests. We felt quite special!
The welcome sign told us this station opened in 1951. The same year we were born!
There were lots of gentoo penguins at González Videla with plenty to say about our arrival. This little fellow posed for me.
We noticed one penguin that didn’t fit in with the other gentoo penguins. It lacked the same coloring as the others. We thought it might have been a different species. But our naturalist told us that the penguin had lost some of its pigmentation but was not classified as an albino.
We also saw a sign pointing in various directions toward major cities like Rome, London, Paris, New York, Beijing and Santiago (a stop on our journey here) and the South Pole. We’ve been to all those cities and are visiting the South Pole soon.
We saw a pair of penguins pointing their beaks at the sky and making noise. The naturalist said they are declaring to the others that they are a couple. They imprint the call of their mate so that when they come back from feeding, they easily can find their mate and chick.
We saw more than 1,000 gentoo penguins and quickly understood how difficult it could be to find your mate. While we didn’t see any chicks, there were lots of eggs being warmed by their parents.
In the afternoon, we took a Zodiac ride through the Melchior Islands. They’re known as the Venice of Antarctica because of the many narrow canals and islands. This part of the Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica.
We’ve heard the term Venice of the… before. In China we visited Zhouzhuang, the Venice of the East. In Europe we enjoyed Bruges, Belgium, the Venice of the North. And we’ve been to Venice, the Venice of Everywhere!
The Melchior Islands are on the Antarctic peninsula, just outside of the Antarctic Circle facing South America. The peninsula is mountainous with peaks more than 9,000 feet high. We hoped to see more icebergs, penguins, seals, whales and sea birds, including our giant winged albatross.
But you never know what you’ll see in Antarctica. Our zodiac driver, an Argentine named Federico, for years has been studying seals in Antarctica. He expertly maneuvered our Zodiac for a 90-minute iceberg tour.
Federico drove our Zodiac like a gondola (a Zondola?) with a high-speed motor around the icebergs. We frequently saw blue ice.
Some of the blue ice looked to us like a teardrop. Some of the icebergs seem to have been formed by artists. But Mother Nature does all the hard work here.
We saw plenty of antarctic birds. Most were flying, but some landed for a bit. We saw a kelp gull hanging out by himself on the rocks.
And we came across a group of conversing cormorants.
We photographed one group of cormorants just when they finished fishing and were trying to get aloft.
The ice sculptures created by Mother Nature were fantastic. The iceberg in the background looked to us like a sculpted bird.
We also saw Weddell seals. These guys are 10 feet long. They rest on the ice floes during the day, as they feed mainly at night and spend a lot of energy doing so. Federico knows where to find the seals and how to silently approach. Weddell seals look huge even from a distance.
We wore our cold weather gear. Even though it averaged about 32 degrees, we stayed nice and warm.
We also saw an Argentinian base of operations on our Melchior Islands tour. I think we went because Federico is a proud Argentine and wanted to show his guests his country’s outpost in Antarctica.
We thought this door was a bit unusual. What kind of door leads you outside to a drop of several feet? Maybe it’s more suitable for winter when the snow comes up to the door?
Today is Christmas Eve in the Antarctic Peninsula. Hanukkah also is being observed on the ship. And I’m sure there are people on board that have no reverence for either. Silversea put up some Christmas decorations in all over the ship. The staff serving us are from all over the world, and we guess they’ll have their own celebrations after dinner tonight.
We wish you a peaceful and joyous holiday season!
That's it for Day 5 of our trip to Antarctica. More tomorrow!
Tips: You can learn how we planned our trip by reading Planning Our Antarctica Trip. Learn what we read to prepare at Reading Antarctica. And you can find out what we packed at Packing for Cruising Antarctica on Silversea.