Saturday, February 02, 2008

Antarctica By Boat
Four days after leaving Buenos Aires, we passed through the Antarctic Convergence Zone. South from this point, the sea temperature falls rapidly as the continuous melting of ice from the Antarctic Continent cools the water. We had arrived in Antarctica. I'll admit I was a bit disappointed that I was not able to actually set foot on Antarctica. I'll also apologize upfront for the endless pictures of icebergs and windswept mountains. I just couldn't stop taking pictures, and once I saw them I couldn't stop picking ones I had to show you. You'll be comforted to know I'm showing only about 10% of those I took. And maybe it can be justified by the stark beauty, or by the knowledge that Jon and I are two of only 300,000 people on the planet to have seen Antarctica.
Trips to Antarctica are always subject to weather, and generally speaking we had the best. Experts on board indicated that our weather was better than 95% of passengers get. We had fog a few times on the trip, but it was almost always limited to times when there was nothing to see. For most of the scenic areas, we had clear and calm conditions. We did bypass Esperanza Station, and back out of an entrance into Antarctic Sound, otherwise known as Iceberg Alley. We apparently had Force 8 winds and heavier than usual ice flows which forced a detour. I missed all that, since it occurred between 1:00 and 8:00am and I slept through it.

There were, of course, a few things to see, besides icebergs and mountains. For instance, in Admiralty Bay we saw Artowski, a Polish research station. A scientist came out by Zodiac and gave a brief talk about their work.

Penguins, of course, are the highlight of Antarctica and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere, the only place on the planet where they exist naturally. Here is a view of the colony studied by Artowski, where several hundred thousand penguins live. You can just make them out at the bottom left and right, the top, and marching single file up and down the mountain.

Whales are another highlight. Sightings were numerous, but most were similar to the first picture below...just a spec and a wisp of warm breath as they surfaced and spouted near the horizon. We were fortunate, though, to have 3 Orcas swim for several minutes alongside, less than 50 feet off the starboard side. The second photo was the best we could get, since they are much harder to catch on the surface than you would think. Besides, there was a near riot on deck as we fought for position.

Sometimes penguins showed up in the oddest places. In the first picture below, a few dozen lazily floated by on an iceberg staring at us as intently as we stared at them. In the second picture, I caught several penguins just before they slipped single file over the side of the iceberg into the water.

We were there too, of course.

Ok, time for icebergs and mountains. I'll let them speak for themselves.

Oh, and the sunsets. Our southern most point was about latitude 64 degrees, 57.7 minutes. Our permit was limited to travel north of 65 degrees. This photo of a sunset was probably taken about 1:00am, and lasted probably an hour, just beating the sunrise. At this latitude we had 24 hours of daylight.

There you have it...Antarctica in 30 photos or less. Despite the fact that this is the most photos I've put in a blog, I see in looking back that I've failed miserably in communicating the nature of the continent. Maybe you'll be number 300,001 to see it. If so, I'd like to see your story.

1 comment:

nemattox said...

I think the pictures are lovely - they can never communicate as well as being there, but it is something for us poor schlubs who haven't had that chance (yet).