Argentina and Antarctica 2008/2009:
Day 8 - Antarctic Sound


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Antarctica 2008: [Day 1 - Buenos Aires] [Day 2 - Uruguay] [Day 3 - Ushuaia] [Day 4 - Drake Passage] [Day 5 - South Shetland Islands] [Day 6 - Antarctica] [Day 7 - Antarctic Peninsula] [Day 8 - Antarctic Sound] [Day 9 - Drake Passage] [Day 10 - Cape Horn] [Day 11 - Ushuaia] [Day 12 - Iguaçu] [Day 13 - Iguazú]

Sunday, January 4: Our morning landing was scheduled to be at Brown Bluff in the Antarctic Sound. Upon arrival, the expedition staff found that the landing site was completely blocked due to floating icebergs. We knew this was a risk, but we were disappointed to miss our final landing in Antarctica. However, this turned out to be a very fortunate turn of events. The alternative plan called for sailing into the Weddell Sea and off we went.
Brown Bluff promised Adélie penguins, which we hadn't yet seen, so we thought that this photo of Adélie penguins leaping through the water would be the best one we'd get. We were very wrong.
Part of the reason for visiting the Antarctic Sound is to view tabular icebergs -- flat-topped icebergs caused by breaking off of an ice shelf instead of a glacier. True enough, they were everywhere.
A crowd gathered on deck to get a better look at these beauties.
Now, you can too.
The constant watch for whales never ended, and we followed this group of Minke whales as they moved nearly as quickly as the ship past this iceberg.
Here's another pair of monster icebergs.
Here's Dundee Island. Tom called it the island with the snow beanie.
Here is a strange little island whose name we can't recall in the distance.
More icebergs with Dundee Island in the background.
Still more icebergs. Seriously, these things were larger than ships.
This one, for example. Here it is at a slight distance.
Here it is a little closer with some people in front of it for perspective.
Here it is much closer. It was probably 30 feet tall.
More icebergs stretching out on the horizon.
We popped inside to warm up with hot chocolate and delicious desserts in the café. We made hot chocolate an important part of each day's activities.
While in the café/lounge area, huge icebergs continued to drift by.
You guessed it - more icebergs. We're trying to make a point here. Point taken? OK, we'll move on.
As we had headed to the Weddell Sea earlier, visibility was not what the captain had hoped, so plan B was also scrapped. Plan C called for mooring off of Paulet Island and taking Polar Cirkel boat cruises along the shore. That sounded pleasant enough, but we had no idea that it would turn into the best excursion of the cruise.
Paulet Island is home to over 100,000 Adélie penguin pairs. We'll wait while you do the math on that. It also turned out to be a popular sunning spot for Weddell and crabeater seals. We watched as the first boat group went out ...
... and we were consumed with jealousy. Through our binoculars, we could spot nearly a dozen seals on the icebergs, ...
... and we could see how close the Polar Cirkel boats were getting to each one.
We were in the last boat group to go out that day, so we passed the time on deck enjoying the sunshine and the local wildlife, like this friendly bird.
While we were on deck, we got this photo of the very official looking stuff at the top of the ship. Know what we didn't see up there? Smoke. Unlike every other cruise ship we've been on, M/S Fram didn't leave a trail of smoke in her wake. We don't care if the ship is powered by baby seals; we were just glad to be on a ship that didn't belch smoke into the clear Antarctic sky.
Adélie penguins were everywhere, including swimming all around the ship. The water is so clear that from several decks up you can easily see the penguins underwater before coming up for their next leap.
Each boat group got a half hour tour, and finally it was our turn. Paulet Island is covered in penguins. Most of the pale areas on the island in this shot are penguin territory, with a few sections taken by birds.
So, get ready for an endless parade of penguin photos, folks, ...
... and icebergs. Always with the icebergs.
We visited several icebergs topped with sleepy seals. Several of these were crabeater seals, but we're not very good at telling them apart from the Weddell seals.
We failed and failed and still we tried to get a good shot of the leaping penguins.
Of course that crafty ship's photographer was able to get one.
The penguins also frolicked, which was almost as difficult to capture on camera.
Speaking of penguins, we could not believe how close we were to the penguins. Some were very curious and would walk right up to the edge of the iceberg for a better look at us.
Here are more penguins, with just a tiny fraction of the massive penguin population pictured in the background.
Paulet Island plays an important role in the story of the wreck of the "Antarctic" in the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901 - 1904, which we had learned about in a lecture onboard the day before. This photo shows the stone hut built by the sailors shipwrecked nearby (left), with a monument to the right.
You can see the outline of the stone hut in this photo, again, with just a small fraction of the island's penguin population.
Back to the penguin antics. These guys are about to go for a dip.
More penguins ready to swim.
Here's another cool iceberg. Sometimes, it's hard to believe someone didn't deliberately sculpt these.
This guy posed patiently on the iceberg for us as everyone on our boat stood up in turn to get a photo.
Here's an area of the island owned by the birds; blue-eyed shags. Since they are black and white, and similar in size to the penguins, the only way we could be certain is if we were told or if we saw them fly.
More penguins.
This is one of about 50 pictures we took of what icebergs look like under water. Gaze on it and thank us for not publishing all 50 of them.
More penguins.
More penguins. This couldn't be much more scenic.
Tom agrees.
We spent several minutes here watching the penguins slowly make their way up and then down this steep slope. Somewhere near the bottom on their way back down, they'd start to lose their footing and just dive into the water like that's what they intended to do, which of course, they did not.
Another view of Paulet Island, keeping in mind that every single black pixel represents a penguin, ...
... then imagine it stretching out on a long flat beach covered with even more penguins. Once you're done trying to grasp the sheer number of penguins that involves, check out this seal with his little penguin friend.
Yes, she's a gorgeous girl. Or boy. We can't tell.
She had a few words to say to us when we departed, though.
We were off to the next iceberg, where there were at least six laying about, but we were so close we could only capture three at a time in our viewfinder.
Here's another one.
Around on the other side of this particular iceberg, these three were waiting for us, but one decided he wanted to get away from us and flopped his way to the other side where his other friends were.
There's our ship in the distance. Again.
Our tour came to a close, and since we were in the last group, we got to see how they load the Polar Cirkel boats into the ship. It involves big cranes, as you could probably guess.
Back indoors to warm up again, we passed more icebergs in the café, ...
... and the strange little unknown island in our room. It's quite disconcerting to see this thing drift into view in one's cabin.
After dinner, the expedition/lecture staff spoke about their impressions of our cruise, including the places we visited and wildlife we saw, then took questions from the passengers. Every thing was spoken in both English and German for the large number of German-speaking passengers (over 100).
In the middle of Q&A, everything stopped as we watched a group of humpback whales next to the ship. One by one, they raised their tails in the air and dove deep as the passengers cheered each one.
After the expedition talk, it was time for the Filipino crew talent show. In this entertaining segment, champion juggler/bartender Elmer gave a bottle juggling show while creating drinks.
Audience members were recruited to try their hand at the Filipino dance that involves stepping into and out of bamboo sticks. We sat at a safe distance with Don, Chuck, and Noren.
This intriguing little routine turned into an amazing show of pineapple-slicing prowess. Who knew that could be a talent? We do now.
Braver members of the restaurant staff performed a highly popular number, the likes of which we've never seen in a Filipino crew show before.
Our master of ceremonies serenaded us a second time and three couples braved the dance floor.

The Chocolate Boys finished out the evening with a performance to the song "Chocolate" (Cho-co-la-tay) which we hope to someday find in glorious digital form.

Day 9 >


Antarctica 2008: [Day 1 - Buenos Aires] [Day 2 - Uruguay] [Day 3 - Ushuaia] [Day 4 - Drake Passage] [Day 5 - South Shetland Islands] [Day 6 - Antarctica] [Day 7 - Antarctic Peninsula] [Day 8 - Antarctic Sound] [Day 9 - Drake Passage] [Day 10 - Cape Horn] [Day 11 - Ushuaia] [Day 12 - Iguaçu] [Day 13 - Iguazú]

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