31 January and 1 February 2021: Between Marion and Prince Edward Islands

In a pink and blue dawn, the snowy peaks of Marion Island are at the North-West. Cheerful smiles light up the faces of our South African colleagues. It is much calmer than the previous days.

We are right at the foot of the very steep slope that surrounds the island. The programme of the day: 3 stations at depths of 3000 m, 1500 m then 300 m.  In other words, we get closer to the island by “climbing” the underwater slope. On board, rosettes are sent (alternating between “clean” and “standard”), samples are taken, filtered, analysed… the different stations are only a few miles of distance from each other, enough to impose a sustained rhythm. Later, in a rather drizzly sunset, we seek to follow the plume of chlorophyll which testifies of the fertilization of the phytoplankton by the eroded products of the islands…this brings us just behind Prince Edward Island. The work continues at night, under a heavy and cold rain-snow.

Flocks of birds surround us, sea lions and penguins roam around the vessel, and in the early morning, Prince Edward Island reveals itself under a less and less timid sun. 

The captain decides to sail alongside it. Emotion in front of these austere cliffs, nuanced with brown, ochre and red colors and a few green spots that testify of a tough vegetation in these windy latitudes. We all think about it: we will not come back, or not for a long time. These small islands lost in the southern waters exude a particular magnetism and a desire for wild hikes that will feed our dreams for a long time.

The Marion Island from the RV Marion Dufresne ©Corentin Clerc
The cliffs and meadows of Prince Edward Island © Corentin Clerc 

Waking up by Prince Edward Island © Guillaume Barut

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