Argentina and Antarctica 2008/2009:
Day 5 - South Shetland Islands [Main] [Contact Us] [Events] [Family] [Fun] [Garden] [Misc.] [Photos] [Search] [Site Index] [Travel]

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]

Thursday, January 1: Officially in Antarctic waters, having crossed into the Antarctic convergence, the ship's staff spotted fin whales. We spent a half hour at a stand still as the five whales continually surfaced nearby. Fin whales are the second-largest species of whale in the world, growing up to nearly 90 feet. In this shot, you can see the mouth of one underwater (the pale aqua line at the bottom of the photo), the spout and back of another on the right, and the back fin of the third on the left.
This whale diagram posted in the ship shows the grey whale (world's largest) on the bottom, with the fin whale second from the top. Big, huh? The white markings on the mouth were what we could see underwater.
Tom used one of two telescopes in the observation lounge to view the South Shetland Islands as they started to appear in the distance.
We attended a briefing on our first landing: Half Moon Island in the South Shetland Islands, denoted by the red arrow in this photo. Expedition Leader Anja is pointing to Deception Island, where we'd be cruising later in the evening.
This is a diagram of Half Moon Island, indicating where we'd be landing, where we could walk, where the wildlife would be found, and where we needed to avoid. We also learned about the Antarctic rules to follow to avoid disturbing the wildlife and preserve the environment.
Penguins! Penguins! Penguins! Our first view of penguins was watching them leap over the waves as they scurried out of the way of our ship. These are chinstrap penguins, we think.
We approached the South Shetland Islands, and they sure looked like Antarctica to us, but they aren't. They're a British territory. We sailed through the opening between islands on the left.
Through the break in the islands, we were now on the south side.
On deck, Debbie saw two humpback whales leap out of the ocean. After that, all we were able to photograph were their blowholes blowing water. We got about a thousand pictures of blowspouts but we'll only show you one for now.
Petrels followed the ship the first two days of our journey. They are black birds with intriguing white markings who swoop like bats up and down the length of the ship.
We entered the bay where tiny Half Moon Island is located.
The snow-covered mountains are dramatic. Look for that sentence to be copied-and-pasted repeatedly on the next few pages.
The crowd in the observation lounge watched the approach to our first landing site.
Here's Tom on the telescope. It looks remarkably similar to our Swedish cousin David's scope.
This black silhouette here is Half Moon Island, or part of it at least. It doesn't look like much here, but it was filled with fun things to see.
This is the very end of the island, home to the largest known chinstrap penguin rookery.
The other side of the island is home to several abandoned buildings, but we did not visit there.
Right on time, the first Polar Cirkel boat took the first lucky passengers ashore. The 234 passengers were split into 7 groups of roughly 33 people each, with Group One going first at the first landing, then Group Two going first next time, and so on. We did a total of five boat excursions and the wait was never a problem.
Each boat group is loaded onto boats eight people at a time. Don and Chuck were in the first group and we waved enviously from deck.
The first three groups were transported to shore within 20 - 30 minutes. Since no more than 100 people can be onshore at once, the fourth group waits until group one returns, and so on, so there's a 40-minute wait, then the next three groups head ashore in order. It's fast, efficient, and very easy.
We entertained ourselves briefly in our room by watching the camera view from the bridge, which was embellished slightly with Happy New Year graphics.
Soon enough, it was our turn. We were called down as a group, then we went into the boat room to exchange our shoes for boots. Once booted up, we stood in line for the next boat, then were counted off in groups of eight to enter the boat.
The Polar Cirkel boats are sturdy and very, very fast, and it takes no time at all to get to shore.
Yay! We're almost there!
We exited the boat one person at a time, alternating one person per side of the boat to maintain balance. The end of the boat has a step down and the crew usually has additional steps set up so exiting the boat is extremely easy.
As one group arrives and is briefed on the landing site, another group loads up to go back to the ship.
Anja, the German expedition leader, told us where to go and what to see during our hour onshore, then we were off.
There were penguins right on the beach, and we were transfixed. The crew had placed backpacks indicating that this portion of the beach was off limits so the penguins could rest undisturbed.
Many of them were very busy walking to or from the beach.
This profound photo shows an old boat decaying on the beach and the one-year-old M/S Fram in the bay. We were instructed to leave all historical items undisturbed.
The hill overlooking the landing beach is covered with penguins. They have a distinctive fishy odor and are constantly chirping or trumpeting.
All wildlife has the right-of-way and the rule is to stay 15 feet away from wildlife, so when penguins headed down the path we were walking on, we stopped dead in our tracks until they made their way past us.
Of course, we photographed them as they approached.
We crossed over to the back side of the island to see what we could see.
We ran across this interesting bone. What could it belong to?
Orchy came out of the backpack to get his photo taken with his chinstrap penguin friends.
So did Debbie.
We found a female elephant seal lounging in the sun.
We came around to get a closer look -- but not too close -- and she obliged by rolling over for us.
Here's Tom thoroughly enjoying his first landing.
Here's a bird with its nest to the left in this photo.
Check out these bones. Seal perhaps?
We headed further along the island toward the end where the rookery was.
Penguins everywhere!
At the top of the hill: more penguins!
There were parents with their baby chicks. This busy parent had two adorable mouths to feed.
If you looked very closely (and had been clued in by expedition staff in advance), you could spot one lone macaroni penguin in the group. Word is that he lives here and seems to be happy. He's the penguin with the black face on the right in front of the rock. Click on the photo to get a better look at him and his colorful feathers.
The ship's photographer had a great telephoto lens and got an even better photo.
In a group this size, he really blends in well, wouldn't you agree?
Even mean old skuas have to eat, and we watched one feast on a baby penguin. It's the food chain at work, folks.
We got one glance at the back of the bay behind the island before heading back to the beach.
Back on the beach, we watched this lone gentoo penguin hanging out with his chinstrap brethren. Chinstraps have white faces with thin black lines under their chins while gentoos have black faces.
On our cruise summary CD, we found this fun photo of the expedition staff posing in their New Year's Eve party hats.
After our landing, Tom got his shoes from their place on the boot racks, and replaced them with his freshly cleaned boots.
With most other people either resting after their landing or still ashore, we were the first ones in the dining room for the dinner buffet. Dinner consisted of cold meats and seafoods on one side, ...
... breads, rolls, and toppings along the side, ...
... salads and desserts on the far left of this photo, ...
... and hot foods on the end. The food was not particularly to our taste, but the many Germans and Scandinavians on board must have been thrilled by the many forms of pickled foods to choose from.
Immediately following our return from the landing, we did two loads of laundry, since everyone else was too preoccupied with the landing to be concerned about laundry. A single token cost 10 NOK (about $1.50), and included detergent automatically pumped into the washing machine. Dryers are free to use. There are four washing machines and eight dryers. The laundry service prices were higher than other cruise lines so we were glad that the self-service laundry was so easy to use.
Back out on deck, stunning views continued.
The staff announced another whale spotting so we went on deck to watch the whale spouts.
It was very cold on deck most of the time when we were traveling, but we had lots of winter gear so it wasn't a problem.
Our TV showed us where we had traveled.
In the observation lounge, the crew put on a fashion show of garments for sale in the tiny onboard shop. The Dale of Norway sweaters were particularly tempting, but we already knew about the Dale of Norway hefty price tags that go with them so we resisted.
They're a handsome bunch, even from the back.

Our final activity of the evening was cruising Deception Island, which is a partially submerged caldera similar to Santorini Island in Greece. We didn't realize that the ship would actually go into the caldera and we foolishly went to bed because we were exhausted. Our GPS later told us what we had missed.

Day 6 >

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] [Main] [Contact Us] [Events] [Family] [Fun] [Garden] [Misc.] [Photos] [Search] [Site Index] [Travel]

Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy