Hitting the Penguin Highway


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January 25th 2019
Published: February 3rd 2019
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Friday morning, we woke to find ourselves in a bay surrounded by stunning mountains and icy glaciers, having crossed the Gerlache Straight overnight. I’d felt some movement from the sea overnight, but nothing in the morning. Breakfast was called at 7:30 and the first excursion was leaving later, so I had a chance to explore the ship and take some photos of the surrounding vista.

While out on the bow, I ran into the onboard photographer, a Canadian name Jonathan Brown. I had introduced myself the night before after the lifeboat drill, but as we were the only two out taking photographs on Friday morning, I got a couple of pointers from him. He seems like a good bloke and is more than happy to share his knowledge. It was a lovely, sunny day and not even that cold yet… very different from the Antarctica I was expecting!

It was soon time to get ready to go ashore. Dad had come down with a bad cold, so he was opting out of the first day’s activities so he could rest and hopefully shake it. To get ready, we had to put on layers for warmth and then the final, outer layer was made up of the gear they lend us for the voyage. For our feet, we had gumboots; for legs we had waders that go up to your chest; for upper body there was a water and wind proof jacket. Underneath I just wore trousers, singlet and a t-shirt. I had a hoodie in my dry-bag in case it got cold. I also wore a beanie on my head, and sunglasses. I was also careful to put plenty of sunscreen over exposed parts of my face because the sun reflecting off the ice could be brutal.

I was up and running pretty quickly, for what was probably the only time during the trip. I’m not saying that Dad slowed me down, but we never got on the first zodiac again during the trip. However, on this landing at George’s Point I may have been on the zodiac that left first but we weren’t the zodiac that arrived first. Our zodiac driver actually went in the wrong direction! She apologised profusely but we didn’t care… it was nice to have a scenic tour along the way.

Once we arrived at the landing spot, we disembarked and removed
Crabeater SealCrabeater SealCrabeater Seal

Paradise Harbour
our life jackets. They had walking poles and as I hadn’t walked on ice or snow before, I took one. A couple of Swiss ladies, that we had talked to previously, thought it was highly amusing that I got a pink one, but that was just an indication of the size. My masculinity was still intact.

We headed up the hill, carefully avoiding and stepping over the penguin highways. These are the paths that the Penguins follow to and from their rookeries. Disturbing them can greatly agitate the penguins, which obviously was something we didn’t want to do. We also had to stay more than 5 metres away from the penguins. Nobody told the penguins that, however, so sometimes they would get closer. They also sometimes stopped in our path, causing us to stop until they moved on.

The walk up the hill was fairly easy because the trail had been blazed by the One Ocean staff and the people on the zodiac that landed first. A couple of times I broke through the top layer of ice and ended up with ice up to my thigh. Annoying, but it didn’t stop me from reaching the top.
SunsetSunsetSunset

Paradise Harbour

Up at the top, the staff had marked out an area for us to view. Near us were a couple of rookeries of Gentoo penguins. Below that were some Chinstrap penguin rookeries. I was talking to one of the biologists and he said that normally Chinstrap penguins would nest higher than the Gentoos, so it was a bit strange. Also, apparently while most penguin populations are decreasing, the Gentoos are actually increasing because they are less fussy about what they eat. Perhaps that was part of the reason why the two types of penguins were nesting in unusual locations.

Anyway, I stayed up the top taking photos for a long time. I hadn’t realised, but most people had already headed back down to the landing area. So I ended up being on one of the last zodiacs to leave George’s Point. We had a good look at some icebergs on the way back to the ship, but I seemed to be on the wrong side of the zodiac and didn’t get any pictures. I needn’t have worried as there was no shortage of opportunities to photograph icebergs throughout the trip!

Back on board the ship, I checked up
View from the ShipView from the ShipView from the Ship

George's Point
on Dad who had had a relaxing morning and spent some time exploring the ship. We headed down to the dining room for lunch. While we were eating, the ship moved to our next location in Paradise Bay. It was just after lunch when some orcas were spotted. I managed to get a couple of photos, but nothing spectacular.

Our afternoon excursion was a zodiac cruise around Paradise Bay. The zodiacs headed off in pairs for safety reasons, but otherwise we were alone. In Paradise Bay there were some humpback whales feeding so we managed to catch sight of a few flukes when they dived down to find the krill.

There was also a lot of icebergs and I was able to take many photos this time. Of more interest were a pair of crabeater seals, resting on an iceberg. They were mildly curious about us, but not overly bothered even though we were pretty close. That seemed to be the usual reaction from the wildlife here. As they hadn’t evolved with human predators, they did not seem at all scared of us.

We soon headed off, searching for more whales. We came across a few more
View from the ShipView from the ShipView from the Ship

George's Point
and I took some photos of their flukes, but that was about it. I don’t think a zodiac is a great platform for photographing whales unless they are very near the boat. Otherwise, you’re just too low to see much of anything except the tail as it dives.

We headed back to the ship about 7pm and it was pretty cold at this point. I decided for future zodiac cruises, I would need an extra layer of clothing. But it was not too bad as the weather was still perfectly clear. It was just cold when the zodiac was on the move.

Back on the ship we had dinner and afterwards I headed to the bar. I bought a bottle of cabernet sauvignon and sat down to process my photos. At just after 11 as the bar was closing, the bartender said a few of them were heading up to the top observation deck to see the sunset. I grabbed my camera and joined them up there for a breathtaking view. Most of the passengers were asleep so many of them had no idea. As the ship was staying put for the night, there was no wind so
A Penguin HighwayA Penguin HighwayA Penguin Highway

George's Point
I was able to go up there in a t-shirt. Antarctica is positively balmy, I tell you!

I should also mention here, that this was the night where we had the option to camp ashore. Previously, I had been keen to give it a try but in the end, I gave it a miss. During the briefing, they said it would be very cold unless you had long, thermal underwear. As I didn’t, and I really didn’t want to spend the next day exhausted, I opted out. I think about 30 people did give it a go and they said it wasn’t bad at all. If that’s the case, I think it was only because we have been having really good weather.

Having said that, I didn’t get to bed until 12:50am so perhaps the campers had more sleep than I did!


Additional photos below
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View from the ShipView from the Ship
View from the Ship

George's Point
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Viewing Another Ship

George's Point
Viewing Another ShipViewing Another Ship
Viewing Another Ship

George's Point
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Gentoo Penguins

George's Point
Penguin RookeryPenguin Rookery
Penguin Rookery

George's Point
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Gentoo Penguin

George's Point
Gentoo PenguinGentoo Penguin
Gentoo Penguin

George's Point
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Gentoo Penguin

George's Point
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Gentoo Penguin

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George's Point


3rd February 2019

The joys of Penguins
Stunning mountains and icy glaciers is all you had to say to have my attention. It looks like you saw everything you went for..... travel fills the soul. Thanks for taking us along on this trip and sharing your amazing photos. Are the zodiacs hard to get in and out of?
3rd February 2019

Thanks again!
From the ship, we found the zodiacs relatively easy to get in and out of, but we had very calm seas. It's not always that easy, apparently. In the next blog post, there's a more "interesting" zodiac adventure at the Falklands which was definitely harder! But the staff are there to help you and safety is paramount so if there is any safety concern, you don't go.

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