Sunday, February 14, 2010

Antarctica Cruise Day 3 Drake Passage second day and Elephant Island

The seas, though rough enough to make some people sick and all to use Dramamine or a patch, were better than average, so we made good time. We arrived on the north shore of Elephant Island at Point Wild where Shakelton's crew waited months for his trip to South Georgia Island and back to rescue them; we had time for a landing. It is to the northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula, the last spot before hundreds of miles of ocean to the north.

We approached in fog, then it suddenly opened up after we were close. The first view of penguins for most of us (a few saw them swimming - porpoising) was 100 or so of them lined up on an ice berg.

There is not enough room to land 100 people, so we did a zodiac ride. Rough entry from ship to the boats. There are lots of penguins - chinstraps - and a few Antarctic fur seals. Pale-faced sheathbills are standing among the penguins waiting for something to steal, like pieces of fish dropped in feeding the chick from the mother's mouth (and stomach). A monument to the Chilean captain who commanded the ship rescuing Shakelton's men is easily seen.

Our favorite: a lone chinstrap penguin on a 50-foot long ice berg - king of his ice mountain.

Our ship's crew tell us that they don't get to stop at Elephant Island, but about one trip out of three or four.

Earlier in the day staff Ken Wright, the bird guy, spoke on penguins and Prof. Ed Spencer of Washington and Lee University spoke on Wind and Waves.

Photos by Corinthian II staff and me. Our first view of Antarctica, through the fog! That ice berg is packed with penguins, the first seen out of the water. And note the much larger iceberg in the fog in the background. Note the red parkas - a zodiac packed with ten travelers and one boat driver. The monument on Point Wild to the Chilean who captained the rescue ship, surrounded by chinstrap penguins. Click to enlarge.


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