Saturday, February 04, 2017

Antarctic VI.

1-21-17 DECEPTION ISLAND, ANTARCTICA: The ship was rolling and pitching all night and continued through breakfast. Judy has a cold and stayed in her bunk. Waves were five feet of more, the wind was up to forty knots from the northeast, it was cold and the air was full of snow and fog. When I was out outside, bits of ice were blowing off the superstructure and landing on the deck. We were occasionally escorted by chinstrap penguins and petrels, who both seemed to enjoy things just as they were.

Deception Island is a ring-shaped caldera with a narrow opening on the east side. Like Santorini in the Mediterranean, Deception Island is a massive blown out volcano, and it’s still active with smaller eruptions, most recently in 1969. We motored in and the sea conditions improved a little, but the wind was still very strong.

The plan was to land, hike and explore, but the weather and waves were so bad the zodiacs could not be safely launched, so we exited and headed for Half Moon Island, about 5 hours north in the McFarlane Strait.

The nautical chart showing Deception Island on the lower left and Halfmoon on the upper right, sheltered in a bay on the east of Livingston Island.

Inside Deception I. the waves flattened out, but the wind and snow continued.

The wind had the ship heeled to starboard, the decks were wet and icy.

Penguins can fly. Undaunted by the storm and miles from any rookery, this one comes up for a breath of air.

Cape Petrel also unimpressed by the storm.

Leaving Deception I. That's Neptune's bellows ahead, a narrow gap in the ring of the island with a sub-marine rock in the middle that has caused shipwrecks.

Deception I. land hills outlined by snow.

1-21-17 HALF MOON ISLAND: The storm blew itself out. We had a late hike on this small, half of an inactive basalt caldera. There were chinstrap penguins with one Macaroni penguin interloper, who has been there a long time, long enough for the naturalists to have named him Kenneth. Kenneth was busy grooming himself, with his distinctive head plumage bent too low to be seen, except that about every ten minutes he held up his head for three seconds.

The hike was from the beach, over a low ridge to the other beach. In addition to the penguins, there were kelp gulls, imperial shags, snowy sheathbills, Antarctic terns, and a whaleboat wreck. Those of the passengers who wanted a chance to go swimming in the ocean got it here. None of us got wet. There was no wind, no snow, lots of fog, but it wasn’t very cold.

Half Moon Island. If you look closely all those hairs on the ridge and all those white dots are penguins.

Chinstrap penguin huddled with chick.

The Vavilov in the fog at Half Moon I. The red stuff is kelp.

Whale boat wreck and penguins.

The other beach on Half Moon I. Livingston Island in the distance, penguins in the water.

Kelp Gull.

Immature kelp gulls.

Kenneth the Macaroni penguin in the middle of a Chinstrap rookery. Yellow eyebrows and a prominent beak with orange trim. The name comes from the Eighteenth Century when 'macaroni' was a term used to indicate excessive ornamentation. Think of 'Yankee Doodle Dandy with the feather in his cap...'

Less ostentatious is the Snowy Sheathbill.

Antarctic Tern, I presume.

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