Last week saw seven intrepid expeditioners headed west to the Colbeck archipelago and surrounding areas.
Setting off early on Tuesday 11th September on a lovely day, we made excellent time owing to having to cross very few tide cracks and having the majority of the trip on smooth sea ice with little snow build up. Despite only taking 5.5 hours we did stop to ‘smell the sunflowers’ so to speak, checking out several Weddell seals along the way and an interesting moraine iceberg. On arriving at the hut we set about digging our way in (see story and photos on Colbeck hut), setting up and relaxing the rest of the afternoon away.
On Wednesday we headed off for a day exploring the area. First up we headed to the edge of the Taylor Emperor Penguin Colony. This area is an ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area). Permits are required to enter, which we didn’t have for this trip so we were very pleased to see on arrival that the colony was quite close to the northern edge of the ASPA and we could see 90% of it from the sea ice. There were plenty of chicks walking around by themselves, unaccompanied by parents — a first for this season, but soon to be the norm as all the chicks are getting quite big now. After photographing the penguins we headed around Taylor Glacier to Cape Bruce for a re-enactment of Mawson’s Landing in 1931 (see Cape Bruce story and photos). On our way home we stopped to check out some penguins who were using a Weddell seal hole to jump in and have a swim, and much to our considerable surprise we also saw a young female crabeater seal basking in the sun.
Day 3 brought nice clear weather again with no wind, which fitted perfectly with our plan of exploring the hills and lakes around Chapman Ridge. We headed off first to try and locate the remains of a seal and some whale bones, neither of which we could locate, possibly due to the large amount of snow around. We all ventured for a stroll up to Lake Barkell, enjoying the scenery and the cracks and bubbles in the lake. We then headed around Cape Byrd to Lake Reynolds and checked a couple of jade bergs in iceberg alley before heading back to the hut.
Day 4 saw us heading back to station, but first we had unfinished business. A group of three headed out early for a walk along Chapman Ridge. The remainder slept a little longer before getting up to pack all our gear, dig gas bottles out of the snow and ice, scrape off some flaking paint and clean the inside of the hut. It was also time to return the RMIT van to station, so this had to be secured inside, hooked up to the Green Hagg and, with the assistance of the Yellow Hagg, loosened from its icy grip ready to be towed home. The trip home took some time longer than our journey out due to towing the RMIT and to a large tide crack stretching from Oldham Island to Einstoding Island. It took quite a while to find a crossing point and with the aid of some ropes and gear we eventually crossed safely.
All up we had a very enjoyable trip, were blessed with good weather, company and magnificent scenery.