Antarctica – February 3, 2018…Half Moon and Deception Islands…The expedition continues…

This has got to be one of our favorite Antarctic photos, a Chinstrap Penguin lying on the rocks for a short rest with what looks like a winsome smile on his face.

Due to Wi-Fi issues, we’re unable to format line spacing.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

Most days, we board the Zodiac boats twice, once in the early morning and another in the afternoon between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm since it stays light until after 10:00 pm in the Antarctic this time of year. It’s not easy undertaking dressing and undressing in many layers of clothing to ensure we stay toasty warm when out on the ten passenger boats.    

Moments later, he stood up and posed for this shot.  Thank you, Penguin.

All of our outer layers are waterproof, a must for an Antarctic expedition, even in these warmer summer months when temperatures can drop well below freezing. Also, as the windiest place in the world, we never felt over-dressed after reaching as far south as the South Shetland Islands in the Antarctic Peninsula.

The rocky terrain was suitable for the penguins but less so for us humans.

After years of relatively warm climates, surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult for either of us to adapt to the cold, windy environment. After Tom spent his first 60 years in Minnesota and my 45 years, both felt right at home in the cold weather.

A group of passengers atop a hill we were climbing.

Each time we venture off the ship, we bundle up in long Lycra workout pants, waterproof ski pants, hats, gloves, and then the huge warm red parkas the ship provides (which we can keep). 

It was highly entertaining seeing these adorable, playful Chinstrap Penguins.

After layering the parka, we add the compact-sized life vest as shown in our photos, stuff our sea pass cards into the see-through window on our sleeves, and haul our heavy rubber boots and backpack with two cameras to deck three.

Our ship, Ponant Le Soleal, was waiting for us while we were on shore.
From there, we wait in line to have our cards swiped, and then we don our waterproof gloves to board the Zodiac boat. Two staff members assist passengers in getting on and off the Zodiac boats. In rough seas, it can take exceptional diligence stepping from the ship onto the Zodiac.
Penguins were combing through the rocky cliff.
But now, for most of us, getting on and off the Zodiacs has become second nature. Even me, with the bad knee, has been able to manage fairly well. Once we reach the shore, we swing our legs around from sitting on the outer edge of the inflatable (although very sturdy) boat and slip down off the edge directly into the icy sea. Our high boots and waterproof pants keep us from getting wet.
Antarctica has many unusual rock formations from millions of years of glacier activity.

Before we embarked on this cruise, we wondered how adept we’d be in handling the rough rocky terrain, the Zodiac boats, and the often steep climbs to viewing points. Had it not been for my knee, I wouldn’t have been hesitant. Tom is more sure-footed than anyone I know and is always a stabilizing force for me when I need help. I’m kind of clumsy. I always have been. But, we do okay. 

Penguins are very social among themselves. Note a few fluffy chicks in this colony.

As for yesterday, we had two landings; one on Half Moon Island and the other on the more commonly recognized, Deception Island.

A fur seal was lounging next to an abandoned half a barrel on Deception Island.
First, here’s some information on Half Moon from this site:

“Half Moon Island is a minor Antarctic island, lying 1.35 km (0.84 mi) north of Burgas Peninsula, Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands of the Antarctic Peninsula region. Its surface area is 171 hectares (420 acres).[ The Argentine Cámara Base is located on the island. It is only accessible by sea and by helicopter; there is no airport of any kind. The naval base is operational occasionally during the summer but is closed during the winter.  Plants found on the island include several lichen and moss species as well as Antarctic Hairgrass.

The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a breeding colony of about 100 pairs of south polar skuas. Other birds nesting on the island include chinstrap penguins (2000 pairs), Antarctic terns (125 pairs), kelp gulls (40 teams), Wilson’s, and black-bellied storm petrels, Cape petrels, brown skuas, snowy sheathbills, and imperial shags.Weddell and Antarctic fur seals regularly haul out on the beaches. Southern elephant seals have been recorded. Whales are often seen patrolling the shores.

The island is used as a stop during Antarctic cruises, with visitation during November–March. There is a 2,000 m (2,200 yd) walking track on the southern part of the Island, which allows tourists to get a close view of the wildlife (mainly chinstrap penguins and skuas), mountainous scenery nearby Livingston and Greenwich Islands. The path begins on the south side of Menguante Cove, runs westwards along the beach to Cámara Base, then turns north along the head of Menguante Cove, and eventually ascends northeastwards to the top of Xenia Hill.”

Our next stop in the late afternoon was Deception Island, directly into the caldera of an active volcano. Here’s information about that island from this site:

“Deception Island is an island in the South Shetland Islands archipelago, with one of the safest harbors in Antarctica. This island is the caldera of an active volcano, which seriously damaged local scientific stations in 1967 and 1969. The island previously held a whaling station; it is now a tourist destination and scientific outpost, with Argentine and Spanish research bases. While various countries have asserted sovereignty, it is still administered under the Antarctic Treaty System.

The first authenticated sighting of Deception Island was by the British sealers William Smith and Edward Bransfield from the brig Williams in January 1820; it was first visited and explored by the American sealer Nathaniel Palmer on the sloop Hero the following summer, on 15 November 1820. He remained for two days, exploring the central bay.

The whaling equipment and housing were destroyed by a volcano eruption in 1969, and operations ceased.
Palmer named it “Deception Island” on account of its outward deceptive appearance as a normal island, when Neptune’s Bellows revealed it instead to be a ring around a flooded caldera.  
Over the next few years, Deception became a focal point of the short-lived fur sealing industry in the South Shetlands; the industry had begun with a handful of ships in the 1819–20 summer season, rising to nearly a hundred in 1821–22. While the island did not have a large seal population, it was a perfect natural harbour, mostly free from ice and winds, and a convenient rendezvous point. Likely, some men lived ashore in tents or shacks for short periods during the summer, though no archaeological or documentary evidence survives to confirm this. Massive overhunting meant that the fur seals became almost extinct in the South Shetlands within a few years. The sealing industry collapsed as quickly as it had begun; by around 1825, Deception was again abandoned.
In 1829, the British Naval Expedition to the South Atlantic under the command of Captain Henry Foster in HMS Chanticleer stopped at Deception. The expedition conducted a topographic survey and scientific experiments, particularly pendulum and magnetic observations.  A watercolor made by Lieutenant Kendall of the Chanticleer during the visit may be the first image made of the island. A subsequent visit by the American elephant-sealer Ohio in 1842 reported the first recorded volcanic activity, with the southern shore “in flames.” 
Please click this link to continue the above story.
A resting Gentoo Penguin.

After returning yesterday afternoon, we met with all of our new friends for happy hour and then later for dinner. After dinner ended, we headed to deck three for the live band in the lounge and a night of Karaoke. We pulled chairs together and had another spectacular evening of entertainment, lively chatter, and endless travel stories.

Tom spotted this military ship while we were on land at Deception Island.

This morning was quite an experience when we toured a portion of Paradise Island, a stunning experience, which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.  We need to work on the photos and get this post uploaded in time to board a Zodiac for another outing today. We’re the “blue” group, and we need to be dressed and ready to go by 2:15 pm.

Alternate view of a military vessel at Deception Island.

With only five days remaining until the cruise ends, we’re savoring every moment and hoping you are doing the same!                          

      Photo from one year ago today, February 3, 2017:

Expansive views of the Huon River in Tasmania, Australia. For more photos, please click here.

Antarctica – February 2, 2018…A sighting like none other…

One of the first icebergs we saw since arriving near the Antarctic Peninsula. We zoomed in to spot the penguins on board.
The captain maneuvered the ship so we could see this in more detail. This was an incredible sighting. Chinstrap Penguins were living on an iceberg!

This barren, frozen part of the world in its forbidden nature and mystery provides us with ample opportunities to fuss over its majesty. It’s accessible to ooh and aah over what we see in Antarctica. But, it’s much more than that. It’s a step in a world we knew existed and never imagined we’d see in our lifetimes.

This was one of the first icebergs we spotted in the Antarctic Peninsula. How beautiful is this structure?
Imagine a mere 37,000 visitors come to Antarctica each year.  This number astounded us when we’d expected it was many more. This number made us further realize the opportunity to visit this frozen continent, 99% of which is covered in ice, rich in wildlife, history, and spectacular scenery.
We weren’t sure as to the source of this item. Could it be the feathers of some seabird?

Antarctica’s geology is highly varied and in a state of constant flux, considering the size of the continent, the changing tectonic landscape, the environment, and the constantly changing climate. 

A solitary fur seal was gazing out at sea.
Add the unique wildlife, most of which is seldom, if ever, found in other parts of the world, this vast area of pure white leaves most of us, including scientists, mystified and curious as it to what we have to anticipate in centuries to come.
A courting male and female fur seal?

The answers aren’t clear and definitive, perpetually swirling around a political arena that really shouldn’t have any influence on the outcome. Do we see massive icebergs melting, glaciers melting into the sea, and changes wrought by human intervention? Not necessarily.

Could this be whalebone on the rocky beach?

The scientists aboard ship whom we listen to during daily seminars don’t espouse any political references of what is yet to come. Instead, they speak of the literal ebb and flow naturally occurring in this part of the world. We certainly haven’t heard any doomsday predictions of what we should anticipate in the future.

It was tricky walking over these large rocks on Penguin Island. We walked carefully and gingerly.

Instead, we hear conscientious discussion of us, visitors, keeping our clothing and equipment free of any potential contaminants that may affect the delicate ecological balance vital to the survival of the precious wildlife and minimal vegetation growing in this stark environment.

Whalebones on the rocky beach.

By no means do I write this as a political stance. I write this from the eyes of two world travelers who cherish the “wild,” which we’ve made a priority in our lives as we migrate from country to country, continent to continent, on a perpetual search for the most awe-inspiring scene, breathtaking landscape, and heart-pounding wildlife. 

Bones of a fur seal.

We do this with love and a passion for embracing those magical moments when Mother Nature bestows a morsel of Her infinite beauty our way, for our eyes to behold, and when possible, for our camera to capture. What matters to us may pale in comparison to what appeals to others. 

Then again, perhaps our expectations aren’t too high when the simplest of images can propel us into a tizzy of squealing with delight. 

Penguin bones.
Such was the case yesterday, shortly after returning for our late afternoon visit to Penguin Island located in the area of the Antarctic Peninsula, when we beheld a vision, one that we’ll never forget as shown in today’s main photo…an iceberg floating in the sea with a colony of penguins on board for the ride.
Elephant seals hanging out together by the sea.

There wasn’t a passenger on this ship (of a total of 194) who didn’t have a camera in hand as their hearts raced over the pure delight of seeing this unique situation (unique to us anyway). This sighting would remain at the top of their list of notable sightings on this 16-night expedition cruise.

Tom, outdoors in short sleeves on a cold day in Antarctica with an iceberg in the background.

For me, it became a highlight of this adventure, a symbol of how vast is the world we inhabit and how magnificent it is, compared to the seemingly small world surrounding our states of being. 

We feel lucky. We feel blessed, and above all, we feel humbled to be entrenched in it now and live entrenched in the memories of having been here.

Stay tuned, folks. More is yet to come.

Photo from one year ago today, February 2, 2017:

Sailing is a popular activity in Tasmania. For more details, please click here.