Here’s a very short video of the sounds penguins make to talk to each other. I filmed this on Neko Harbour.
In the afternoon, we landed at Telefon Bay, named for a salvage vessel that moored in the bay in 1909 awaiting repairs. This is the site of the crater of the most recent volcanic eruption in 1969. It was more ash-covered ice. You could kick through the ash and see the ice, but it was amazing how much ash there was.
There were some muddy streams to contend with.
Looking ahead to where we were going.
Looking back to where we’d come from.
Allen talking to Yvonne, the geologist. I have a separate post on the Quark team coming soon.
Looks like a shark’s tooth.
Hugo the video guy again.
Still pretty foggy.
So this was our last landing. Our last time to step foot on Antarctica. Once we went back on the zodiac to the ship, we would be heading back across the Drake for South America, with this amazing experience behind us. I wasn’t ready for it to be over; I don’t think anyone was.
But as we approached the spot on the beach where the zodiacs had landed…TWO CHINSTRAP PENGUINS SWAM UP AND HOPPED ONTO THE BEACH!
And these were two of the most curious penguins we’d encountered yet. The guides asked us to keep to one side, not to circle around (within the allowed 15 feet) on all sides, but to leave one side completely open. The penguins kept moving closer to us, walking in amongst us. They were watching us as much as we were watching them.
The last zodiac was ready for us, but it was so hard to decide to say goodbye to these curious guys. These were probably the two most photographed penguins on our trip. I was thrilled to get to see chinstraps after all.
This was the most perfect ending to our last landing. And as we finally loaded up into the zodiac and started to pull away from the beach, the penguins watched us leave, and then hopped into the water and swam off.
That night after dinner there was a charity auction. I’ll say a little about that in a separate post, and then it’s back across the Drake.
It’s still day 8. We’ve done the polar plunge, showered, and had some dinner. And now here we were at Neko Harbour, which was located in the incredibly beautiful Andvord Bay.
We’re anchored and about to head out in the zodiacs for our first (and only) landing on the actual continent of Antarctica. All of our other landings were on islands, so this one is particularly exciting. Dinner was at 6 this evening, and then we started loading the zodiacs around 7:30. Here they were getting the kayaks ready for the kayakers.
This site was home to about 250 pairs of breeding gentoo penguins.
The evening light was really beautiful.
Glacier / molting.
On Neko Harbour we hiked up a ridge for an overlook of the whole bay.
You can tell it’s me by the arms.
Allen filming some video from the top of the ridge.
Chatting with Laurie. I have got to do a post soon about the Quark team themselves, because they were half of what made the trip so awesome.
I had to stop and wait for these penguins to cross paths on the penguin highway before I continued on.
We were losing light by the end. Sunset was at 9:21 this evening and this was taken around 9:50pm as we prepared to head back to the ship.
The next day would be our last two landings before we had to head back across the Drake. And they happened to be inside the caldera of a volcano.
This morning we were hoping for an early morning landing at Cape Tuxen before breakfast. This was our first attempt at a continental landing, but it was not to be. It was too stormy and the water too rough to land there. Alex came on the PA for our 6am wake-up call with the news that we couldn’t do that landing after all, so we could all go back to sleep.
Instead, we repositioned to a more protected area where we would be able to land safely. After breakfast, we did a split-landing—half time on land at Port Charcot, half time on a zodiac cruise. Allen, Jeff & I were in the land-first group.
This is probably my favorite photo from the entire trip. (If I had to choose just one.)
Taking photos from the ship as we wait for our zodiac group to be called
Getting some GoPro footage
This was a private French yacht with a team on board who were filming underwater wildlife. Snorkeling in Antarctica is serious bzness.
I did not know until this trip that penguins jump out of the water like this as they swim! We saw this many times, and every time it was just as fun to watch.
It was snowing lightly this morning.
Penguins like to enter the water in groups, in case there’s a predator waiting.
Penguin highway…white means coming, black means going.
And then it was time to hop in a zodiac for a cruise through some spectacular ice.
There’s a waterfall coming off this one…see it?
More of the awesome jumping penguins
And even more penguins.
Look at all the seals swimming together.
Then we came upon this seal chilling on a hunk of ice. We cruised right by him, very slowly.
He was mildly curious about us.
And then it was time to go back on the ship. Next up…humpback whales and the polar plunge!
Seventh day on the ship. We are now halfway through our landing days. We’ve had three days in Antarctica; we’ve got three more to go.
We were coming back north from the circle, with two excursions planned for the day—one in the afternoon and one after dinner. We started the morning with an 8am breakfast, followed by a lecture on ice and the Southern Ocean in the main lounge.
Then we had a short briefing at 11:30, where Alex informed us that because our ship had been slowed down by ice we weren’t going to be able to make our hoped-for afternoon landing in Penola Strait. Instead, the team put together a couple more lectures for us to attend. One was on one team member’s experience living at the South Pole.
This evening they had a BBQ planned, which was supposed to be held outside on the deck. But the weather didn’t cooperate, so we had our BBQ in the dining room where we had all our other meals.
Then after dinner, it was time for our landing on Petermann Island. There was the option for a zodiac cruise only, which they said was the best chance of seeing leopard seals trying to catch penguin chicks. Sounded cool but I chose the landing, as did Jeff & Allen. They started loading the zodiacs at about 7:30pm.
We finally managed to get a photo of the three of us together.
There were tons of gentoo penguins with a few Adelies mixed in.
The ice was pretty slushy in some areas. The green color is algae.
Some of the slush was a few inches deep. Good thing those boots are waterproof!
Penguin parents regurgitate krill for their young.
Another hiker penguin
This was the view from the top of that path. See the seal playing in the water?
More penguin chicks eating from their parents’ beaks.
The red is caused by snow algae. This is also sometimes called watermelon snow.
Circle of life
Penguins are super flexible.
Finally around 9:30pm it was time to head back to the ship, although I could’ve stayed on land for hours more. The next day we were going to try for three landings, with the first being before breakfast at 6am. Time to get some sleep.