Antarctica – February 1, 2018…Wow!…Rough night at sea…St. Andrews, South Georgia landing…So

It’s a “sea of penguins” along the strip of beach in Saint Andrews Bay.

We knew the risk of missing many planned landings was high when we booked this cruise. Inclement weather would undoubtedly be the cause. Although I remained optimistic and perhaps a little “overly bubbly” on the topic, Tom was less so in his usual practicality. He was certain we’d miss several planned landings and once again, he was right. 

As we approached Saint Andrews Bay of South Georgia Island.

So far, due to bad weather, we’ve missed five planned “ports of call” so to speak and possibly more is on the horizon. We are amidst a storm at sea and feel fortunate this smaller ship (200 passengers) has managed to avoid damage in the raging seas we’ve encountered these past few days, especially in the past 24 hours.

The King Penguin didn’t like all the attention.

Last evening during happy hour from the bar on deck six, we all took videos, stunned how the waves slammed against the windows and topped over the highest points of the ship. It was astounding, and I must admit, somewhat daunting in this smaller ship. Most cruise ships have the capacity for 2000 to 6000 passengers and crew. We can walk from bow to aft in a minute or two.

Penguins with an Elephant Seal lounging in the background.
Last night the buffet restaurant where we usually dine with all of our friends, closed when they couldn’t keep glasses, plates and various dishes from propelling to the floor when a massive swell sent everything flying.   
The back of the head of a King Penguin.
Instead, we dined with Marg and Steve on deck two in the formal dining room while we frequently peered out the windows at the outrageous swells, often coming up and over the top deck of the ship. Was that ever spectacular?
Penguins will often lay down on the pebbles, like this, to stay cool on a warm day.
Do we worry during rough seas, primarily when we’ve heard stories from several passengers regarding incidents on these smaller ships? Many momentarily when we hear a loud crash that sounds as if the ship is breaking apart.  But, other than those situations, we don’t give it much thought.
Penguins frequently preen to ensure the oil they get from their oil glands is evenly distributed to ensure they’re waterproof.

Fortunately, as we’ve mentioned in the past neither of us suffers from seasickness and have never used any medication or worn any type of a patch to prevent the awful malady.

The little dots are King Penguins.  It’s hard to believe there are so many.
Today is my last day on the antibiotics for my knee (much better now), and I’ve yet to have a glass of red wine as suggested by the ship’s doctor…no alcohol during the treatment. Had I imbibe, I think I would have abstained last night, knowing alcohol could contribute to a bout of seasickness. Why take the risk?
Two large Petrol Birds spreading their wings on the beach.
After a fitful night of intermittent sleep, awakened numerous times by uproarious swells, banging everything around in the cabin, we both feeling relatively chipper and excited for what is yet to come…hopefully, not more bad weather.
Penguins and seals seem to cohabitate well together.
The captain decided we’d have to forgo a landing at Elephant Island due to the weather and we’ve continued on to other stopping points, two of which we are scheduled to visit today, two small islands in the Antarctic Peninsula.
However, neither are optimistic that such a landing will be possible based on the rocking and rolling we’re doing at present. 
This massive King Penguin colony is at the base of a glacier.

Taking passengers out on the Zodiac boats in highs seas is definitely out of the question. Gee…we haven’t even done the Drake Passage yet, which we’ll sail through on our return route to Ushuaia toward the end of the cruise. 

Supposedly, this area where the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans meet in Antarctica are the roughest waters in the world. If it’s as rough as it can be, at least all of us passengers have “got our sea legs” and are mentally and physically prepared for this eventuality. 

A pup seal sleeping while sitting up.

We’ve made a few videos of the rough seas but won’t be able to upload them until we return to Buenos Aires next week which we hope to do. The Wi-Fi signal isn’t good enough to upload videos. So stay tuned for them in a week or so.

Also, we’ve made a big decision these past few days. We aren’t going to keep the parkas and the waterproof clothing we purchased and ship them back to the US. My pants were too big and although the parkas the ship gave us, are of great quality, it makes no sense to pay hundreds of dollars to have them sent to the US. 
Standing among the King Penguins was an experience we’ll never forget.
We may never decide to embark on a cold-weather journey in the future and most likely, if we did, we’d purchase what we’d need for that expedition. As a result, we’ll leave here considerably “lighter” and won’t have to pay for excess baggage when we head from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, as we did on the flight to Ushuaia from Buenos Aires. 
Leaving these items behind will also save us considerable time while in Buenos Aires when we have to repack all the things they’ve stored for us at the hotel.
With warmer temperatures, penguins congregate in the shallow water to stay calm.
We’ll be keeping a few sweatshirts and sweaters and each of the under layers similar to workout pants, since they’ll be days it will be very cool in South Africa during their winter months (opposite from US summer) over the next year. We’ll undoubtedly be able to wear those items there, disposing of them once we are done in Africa.
There are several Elephant Seals in Saint Andrews Bay, primarily females, since the males, after breeding, head back out to sea. The males aren’t involved in the care of the pups.
Today’s photos are from Saint Andrews Bay, South Georgia Island, one of the most exciting landings we made. Here’s some information about Saint Andrews from this site:
“Saint Andrews Bay is a bight 2 miles (3.2 km) wide, indenting the north coast of South Georgia immediately south of Mount Skittle. Probably first sighted by the British expedition under Cook which explored the north coast of South Georgia in 1775. The name dates back to at least 1920 and is now well established. On charts where abbreviations are used, the name may be abbreviated to St. Andrews Bay.
King penguins from huge breeding colonies – and the one at St Andrews Bay has 200,000 birds. Because of the long breeding cycle, territories are continuously occupied. Ross Glacier which is nearby is retreating and leaving a gravel beach in its wake. Heaney Glacier and Cook Glacier also are in the vicinity.”
Once again, me and lots of penguins.
Initially, the above site listed the bay as having about 175,000 King Penguins, but the naturalists onboard the ship have informed us its now over 200,000 as the colonies continue to grow.
It took our breath away to see the vast expanse of King Penguins on this narrow strip of beach. This is precisely what we’d hoped to see when we booked this cruise so many moons ago.
Female Elephant Seal was lounging in the warmth of the sun.
As I attempt to finish today’s post while Tom is at a seminar, we’re supposed to arrive at our next landing in less than three hours. With the rockin’ and rollin’, we’re amid now, it doesn’t seem possible, we’ll be able to get off the ship.
Tomorrow, we’ll be back with what has transpired during this massive storm.
Have a warm and safe day, wherever you may be! 

Photo from one year ago today, February 1, 2017:

Sunny day scene overlooking the Huon River in Tasmania.  For more details, please click here.