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Published: April 16th 2020
Photo credit: Michelle Sole ship's photographer.
With sadness we’ve left the South Georgia Islands behind. We can imagine that many a passenger have felt similar emotions and, in an effort, to buoy our spirits Quark threw a BBQ on the aft deck! What kind of craziness is this? A bit frigid but stimulating and for world adventurers we found it an exquisite idea. So yes, we wanted to embrace all that we could and grabbed an outdoor table rather than a more sensible one inside. Really, how often will we be given an opportunity like this… zero… cool. Wrapped in our yellow jackets we grabbed a cup of hot spiced wine as we socialized in the buffet line headed for the lobsters on the grill. We had lovely salads, fresh fruits, grilled vegetables, fish, chicken, beef and those beautiful lobsters. A BBQ feast well done.
We had such a marvelous experience on South Georgia Island....we were not sure what was next...but how could it top what we had already seen and experienced? The history, the beauty and of course....penguins! It's a good thing that we both are quite fond of these tuxedoed birds, because the abundance of these fine creatures was something to behold.
But not always.
departing South Georgia, we took on some new passengers. They had spent the season working on the island as part of a large ongoing project. They provided us a well-prepared presentation on all they have done to eradicate the rats and other non-native animals and plants. It has taken a decade of hard work and dedication. Our penguin euphoria lingered as we listened. We were happy to hear what they had to say and grateful they could join us for dinner. Bet they were pretty happy as their dining experiences were upgraded! Drygalski Fjord. 54 degrees 47’ S/ 036 degrees 05’W
As the ship’s Captain moved into this glacial area, we knew firsthand we were in polar regions. This was one of the coldest days we had experienced. We were the first ones out of our cabin and on the bow of the ship for at least 45 minutes before our new friend John joined us and then slowly others came out for the experience. As we looked around at our remote location we smiled at the stark beauty. Dave had to run back to the cabin for more socks and another layer of clothing as the air
Soaring at Sea
Photo credit: Michelle Sole ship's photographer
was bitter cold and we didn’t want his toes feeling like he was in an icebox. At this point we were admiring chunks of floating ice and the mountain peaks surrounding us were growing larger the closer we got. The water had changed color and in some spots was more of a Caribbean green rather than the deep blues of late. We slowly entered the bay and sat for a couple of hours admiring the beauty -- somehow the captain turned around and we headed back to sea. It really is amazing what they can do with a ship this size. We were glad to go inside for a while to warm up as the intensity of the wind was penetrating. Whales!... Whales!... and more Whales!
The original itinerary had planned on taking us to a bay where they thought we would have a good chance of seeing whales. Well.....we never got there. On the way the whales found us! Whales and more whales! We are told we saw more than 100 and we would not be surprised if the head count was higher. Some were blowing off in a distance, some were near the ship, some showed
Whale of a Time
Photo credit: unknown passenger
their fins and another breached. Fins whales and humpback whales for the most part but yes, we are told they confirmed at least one illusive Blue Whale. It is amazing to see so many spouts blowing in the wind. People would point, ooh and ahh, click, click, click attempting to capture the perfect shot…. and then, stand quietly absorbing the moment. It is unlikely we will ever see that many whales again unless we repeat this trip.
Over the next few days it seemed as if we saw whales everywhere, we went......Please note six of these photos are given credit to other passengers. Quark creates a drop box for passengers to post some of their photos each day to share. They are available for us to download for one year. We didn’t have a lens that would capture the whale photos that were far away, so we’ve added a few of theirs. Please note photo credit. We always want to give credit where credit is due. Point Wild on Elephant Island.
61 degrees. 05’S 054 degrees 52’ W
Our trip historian and guide had filled our heads with many of the adventures and misadventures of great explorers
to include Shackleton. In 1915, this location because significant as his ship Endurance became trapped in the Weddell sea and eventually sank. After months of being stranded they sailed to Elephant Island where they sheltered. Shackelton left with a few men heading to South Georgia Island with an attempt to rescue. Long story short, 105 days and 4 attempts later Shackleton arrived back at Elephant Island and rescued all 22 men. We cannot imagine what it must have been like for all of these men.
We saw lots of seals and penguins. There is a monument to Shackleton and his men. Amazing stories from times past. One of the great things about this trip is all the education we receive about explorers who have come before us.....and survived in such a harsh environment. The spirit of exploration can bring out the best in some, as they long to go where no one has been before. Iceberg A68A.
61 degrees 56’S / 053 degrees 33’W
We set off on a cloudy day in search of Iceberg A68A, which broke off from the Larsen Ice Shelf in July 2017. We are told that when they break off and are
Hanging out on the Ice.
Photo credit: Michelle Sole ship's photographer
of a certain size, they are named by the U.S. National Ice Center. The names are based on a grid system, so you’ll know which section of ice it came from and given a number, so you’ll know how many have broken off. We can all probably agree that some icebergs are big....and some are not. But this particular one is beyond huge. How big you say? Well...for starters, it has a surface area of 5,800 square kilometers (2239 square miles). Okay...still not impressed? How about this....it is two times the size of Luxembourg....larger than the U.S. state of Delaware. It weighs one...trillion...tons. Now that's big!.
Our ship cruised along-side of this massive iceberg for a few hours so we could enjoy the beauty and take photos. It has thick with a flat top. At times we could see blue hues dancing off the side. There were lots of whales in the area, so more photos were taken of them also. Whales, whales and more whales. Once we returned home, we investigated and found videos of satellite tracking where this chuck has floated. It is fascinating. It is really hard to get your head around the size of this
A whale of a time.
Photo credit: Ship's passenger
ice berg. 660 feet thick. Danger Islands
63 degrees 22’S/ 054 degrees 35’W
We have a friend in Australia whose moniker on Travel Blog is Dancing Dave. When we vacationed with David and his lovely wife Denise on the Legendary Blues Cruise there was a small group of Dave’s hanging out together, so they all got nick names. Dancing Dave, Dapper Dave, Diesel Dave and my Dave became Dangerous Dave. So, you can imagine the excitement we experienced when we learned we were going to The Danger Islands. Dangerous Dave does the Danger Islands! Very cool. A match made in heaven?
There are seven islands in this group, and we landed on Heronia Island. Normally this island is full of Adelie penguins, this being late in the breeding season most were gone to sea when we arrived but the island has hills and great views so many hiked to the top for the scenery. There were enough Weddell seals and penguins to entertain those of us who didn’t want to go to the top. There were good vantage points for scenery half-way up where we had a nice view of tabular icebergs. We’ve mentioned in past blogs
how bad penguin poo smells. Well this island was particularly pungent, and the ground was covered in the penguin guano. Such is paying the price to be such intrepid explorers! Excitement
We landed first today and that meant our last hours would be on the zodiac in search of sea life from an ocean view. Almost immediately our guide Jen saw humpback whales halfway between our current location and the ship….. and off we went. Yes, we followed all the rules and kept our distance as we zigged and zagged in an effort to keep up. These whales were traveling with purpose. They were not just hanging around. Splash, splash, splash we ducked as the waves hit the zodiac…. Jen apologized and asked if we wanted to continue. We hate to admit that the first few minutes we Binkley’s were looking at each other with eye contact our secret language and communicating that this was a wasted effort. Boy, were we wrong!! We caught up and at the same time the whales slowed a bit and were close. We could see them spouting, surfacing and putting on a show. Fortunately, the whales didn’t know the rules about how
Love the colors
The big part is under the water.
close to get so once our engine was off they could come close. We were about thirty feet away. They were off again. Jen started the motor and we followed. By the end of our time tailing these two whales all of us were varying degrees of wet and getting cold. One poor soul was drenched head to toe and Jen shared her gloves with him because his were soaked. On some days depending on which way the wind is blowing there can be a “bad” seat in the zodiac. We stayed relatively dry....and were quite glad. The Bird Mistress
On our first day aboard the Ocean Endeavor we were in the lounge enjoying the welcome tea with our acquaintance from Travel Blog, Dave Allcorn and he introduced us to Jean Pennycook, the ship’s ornithologist, also affectionately referred to as The Bird Mistress. Jean was a delight! She has a wicked sense of humor and her knowledge about the birds we saw seemed to know no bounds. There is something quite special when you run into someone who is extremely knowledgeable about a subject and also can get you excited about it by how they convey their knowledge.
Happy Dave & MJ
Jean was most definitely that person. Every presentation was funny, stimulating and left us wanting more. Jean introduced us to the world of sea birds and penguins. Each day the list was updated of what saw on this trip, photos were shown and additional details of these soaring or huddling creatures was presented at the wrap up in the evening.
For all you birders who want to take this trip you are likely to see what we did and that includes 7 kinds of penguins, 5 albatrosesses, 14 petrels & shearwaters, 3 storm petrels, 3 kinds of diving petrels, 4 cormorants, the Black crowned night-heron, 7 kinds of swans, geese & ducks, 4 vultures & raptors, plovers, oystercatchers, the Snowy Sheathbill, 4 skuas, 6 gulls & terns, flycatchers, wrens, finches, sparrows and a few others. Goodness....how we've become bird nerds....and loving it!
The penguins, the storm petrels and the South Georgia pipit were some of our favorites. The pipit is only found in South Georgia...and the only songbird in the Antarctic. 6 Degrees of Separation
You’ve heard of the concept that all of us are connected in this world by 6 degrees of separation. On this
The size of Delaware.
trip we proved that may be true. We know Dave Allcorn because we write a blog on Travel Blog, Dave introduced us to Jean the Queen of Birds and as it turns out Jean has worked at McMurdo Base, Antarctica since 1999 on a penguin research project. Well, actually she works in one of the field camps but for the purposes of this story McMurdo is close enough. After Jean and Merry Jo were introduced many conversations about McMurdo ensued and they discovered they knew a couple of people in common. MJ needed to find out all the changes at McMurdo since she worked there in 1989. As you can imagine over the years, we’ve read many Antarctica blogs and have another travel blog acquaintance that lives an hour from us in Florida. Yes, another Dave…. Surfbird surfbird
of Travel blog fame… although he hasn’t published a blog in a long time --we intend to discuss that with him when we get together soon. Dave and Jean know each other… we have walked away from Antarctica knowing the Ice connects many people. Simply amazing........
Farewell for now…. Soon we cross the Antarctic Circle. PenguinScience You can read about
Our recent Antarctic Blogs: Antarctica with Quark Expeditions! Bountiful Birds, The Big Battle and a TravelBlog Reunion Antarctic Expedition Ships and Zodiac Etiquette In Search of King Penguins!.... and we found them!!
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