Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Antarctica III

1-18-17 CIERVA COVE, ANTARCTICA: The morning was spent with chores—a life boat drill, assignment of waterproof overalls, Wellington boots and parkas for the expeditions, orientations about the ship, the trip, the planned itinerary, and introduction of the crew and guides. All this while we motored south in Bransfield Strait, headed for the Davis Coast on the west side of the Antarctic peninsula amid many islands, big and small.

The peninsula extends northward from the main Antarctic continent like a frost-bitten finger trying to touch the tip South America. The northern part of the peninsula is the only part of Antarctica north of the Antarctic Circle at 67° South Latitude.

We were watching for whales the whole time. Our group leader said, ‘Bransfield Strait is whale soup.’

After lunch, there were zodiac cruises at our anchorage in Cierva Cove. We saw tons of Chinstrap penguins spread over the hillside, and a dozen leopard seals sleeping on ice floes. It was a warm, sunny day with temps in the low thirties with no wind. There have been far harsher days this winter in Vermont and even New Jersey.

The icebergs, some quite large, almost house-sized, but most truck-sized, showed intense blue color in spots. Swimming and diving penguins were all around us. They may just slowly paddle around or flash through the water like torpedoes. They leap out of the water like dolphins to breathe.

A pair of minke whales went through our area. One chinstrap penguin was taunting a sleeping leopard seal, repeatedly diving back and forth in front of the seal and even setting foot on the seal’s ice floe. Leopard seals eat penguins.

After dinner, a pair of humpback whales swam and dove near the boat as the sun set at about 10 PM.

Birds often followed the ship. These are Cape Petrels.

Chinstrap penguins, aptly named.

Those trails in the snow are penguin highways. They climb up and down long, steep hills to get to the ocean to feed and feed the chicks.

Ice arch, blue below the waterline.

Chinstrap penguin.

Bigger berg. They melt below the waterline, become top heavy and roll over.

Can a Leopard Seal change its spots?

We saw lots of seals, most about as animated as this one.

To the left of the zodiacs, about in the middle, is the back and dorsal fin of a Minke Whale.

'Thar she blows.' The whale's spout is often the first clue to their presence.

You only see bits and pieces of the whales, like this dorsal fin of a Humpback whale.

Another sunset.

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