Stonington Island in Marguerite Bay is the site of two early research stations. East Base, the oldest American Antarctic station, was built starting in 1939 but hasn’t been used since 1948. The British Base, Station E, was used for many historic survey missions in the 1940s and saw use until the mid 1970s.
From Red Rock Ridge, the National Geographic Endurance made a short ten-mile run to Stonington Island where we toured the ice-filled bay by zodiac and later went kayaking on our own. Paddling through the huge pieces of ice was a real thrill. Even more thrilling was a polar plunge later that day, where a platform was setup for guests to leap into the chilly Antarctic water. A surprising number of the guests participated, at least half and possibly more. It was really, really cold, but fun!
Below are highlights from December 23rd, 2022 at Stonington Island. Click any image for a larger view.
Enjoying the spectacular scenery as we cruise the short disctance from Red Rock Ridge to Stonington Island, underlined in red on the map.
The British research station on Stoningtion Island, left, and a memorial to two British researchers who died in a blizzard here in 1966.
Looking back to the Endurance from the zodiac. Notice that no anchor is down. The Endurance is a DP1 (dynamic position) boat, meaning it can be stopped anywhere and the DP system will maintain position with high accuracy. During the entire trip, the ship was never anchored. Instead the ship is put in the desired position for the day’s activities and then the DP system uses the bow thrusters and the aft azipods to hold position. This allows “anchoring” very close to shore since no swing room is required.
The Leopard seal is one of the major Antarctic predators with a diet that include penguins, seals and fish. We were lucky to sight one of the solitary animals.
Fantastic ice formations
After the zodiac tour, we had a fabulous time out kayaking through the ice.
The kayaks, and 8 of the 12 zodiacs, are stowed in the garage near the waterline. The garage makes for much faster launching and retrieval compared to craning them all from the upper deck as most other ships do.
After our tour through the waters around Stonington Island, the crew setup a polar plunge platform where guest can leap into the chilly Antarctic water under careful supervision. It was really, really cold, but fun!
Onlookers at deck eight, left, and the polar plunge badge awarded to those who braved the chilly waters.
Warming up in the hot tub after the polar plunge, followed by another great meal at our favorite table with its wonderful view.