Tao 23: Antarctica (3)

(2016-05-30 15:41:08) 下一个

It is our 3rd day in the Antarctic region.  We woke to a chilly morning with overcast sky. The water was exceptionally calm.  This is Paradise Harbor.  The land encircling the harbor is (finally!) the Continent of Antarctica.

Crews getting the kayaks ready

Every kayaker will be paddling here.  The surface of the harbor was flat as a mirror. No one wanted to miss one of the best kayaking conditions we had on this trip.

All the kayaks were tethered to our zodiac

All of us kayakers were put in this one zodiac. We were seriously overloaded

There's a very thin crust of ice on the surface of the water, last night must have been cold

The non-kayakers were already on the ground and climbing the hill

This is as good as it gets

So tranquil it's unreal

Warmed up from all that paddling, we were ready to finally set foot on Antarctica proper.  The zodiacs collected all the kayakers and ferried us to the beach.  While getting off the zodiac, I slipped and landed on my butt.  Luckily the dry suit kept me dry.  What an ingenious way to meet the continent of your dreams! Not too many people could rightfully claim “I landed in Antarctica on my butt”.

Half way up the slope, the view is spectacular

Yoshi making a dramatic decent

The lady with small feet

View from the top is breathtaking.

Looking toward another direction from the top

...and yet another direction

The Akademik Ioffe anchored amongst the ice

Carina and Chris

A closer look at the small bay

Shawn is the ship’s expedition guide for mountain and snow hiking.  He’s a Kiwi from the Mt Cook region on the south island of New Zealand.  We happened to have visited his home town Twizel when we were touring New Zealand a few months ago. See our NZ pages for more details about the Mt Cook National Park.

Shawn’s mostly quiet around people.  But on the trails he exude an air of confidence. I had a feeling the little hills we were climbing around here is child’s play for him.

Tracy and our expedition guide, Shawn

Hurry up!

Getting down is much easier.  It could be made even easier by getting on your back and slide. Too bad Tracy and I were wearing the dry suits for kayaking. We didn’t want to risk damaging the expensive gear.

These two have the good sense of changing out of their dry suits before climbing the hill. Now they are having all the fun.

It's early summer, the snow close to the beach started to melt

Kayaks ready to be shipped back

We had some time to make a little snow man before our taxi's here

Tracy Junior with the fancy hat

Here is a picture of our cozy little cabin.  The bunk beds were to the left and not shown here. The room was only about 6×10 or so. With our dry suits taking up some space, there wasn’t much room between the cabinets and the beds.  The window cover was solid metal and heavy as hell.  It’s secured to the rim with three thick screws.  We kept it closed most of the time to guard against sprays. We were on deck 3.  The water could get up here when the sea’s rough.

After lunch the ship had repositioned to Danco Island. This was to be my favorite spot for watching penguins. The top of the hill was occupied by hundreds of Gentoo penguins, most of which were juveniles. These were newly matured birds that didn’t stand much of a chance of successfully raising a chick.  That didn’t stop them from trying.

Many of them were nesting in snow where they couldn't find enough pebbles to build nests

At the top of the hill, a group of us sat down in the snow to watch and photograph the penguins. As usual, the curious ones came over to have a look at us newcomers.

The epitome of cuteness

Sitting quietly in the snow gave us a great opportunity to observe what happens in this small community.  That is, same thing you see around a group of humans.




Taking a stroll...

Catching an offender...

Teaching a lesson...

Standing around looking silly...

And...taking care of business

The inexperienced parents were prime targets of scavengers like this brown skua, one of the main food source of whom were eggs and chicks from penguin colonies.  We were quite unhappy to witness a few of the egg snatching incidents.  All we could do was to remind ourselves that not-so-cute creatures had to live too.  Best let nature ran its course.

Poppy and another smoothing the "penguin holes" on the snow

After a while it started to snow.  Good thing I carried a lens hood with me.  Tracy’s little point-and-shoot camera quickly became blurry from all the snowflakes dropping on the lens.

They were not bother by snow at all

They might look miserable, but they were much better off in snow than us

After an hour or so on the hill top, Tracy and I started down the slope, only to be stopped by this guy loitering right in the middle of the track.  He’s not willing to yield, and we did not want to create more penguin holes by stepping outside of the track.  Fortunately he apparently had other businesses to attend to, and so ended this game of patience.

On the way back to the mother-ship, we were again given a tour on the Zodiac. With the snow and wind it was bitter cold.

Front face of a large iceshelf

Front center is the only Adelie Penguin we had spotted on this trip

Clear blue

An ice cave

Abother ice cave on the far side

December 5th is our last day here in Antarctica.  In the dim morning light, we have arrived at Orne Harbor.  The two of us were on the first boat.  We were also the first ones to reach the top, right after Shawn.

It's another one of those overcast day, typical in Antarctica

Paula, a member of the science team on board, is counting penguin nests

BBC crew filming the floating ice

The chinstrap penguin colony here had a lucky break.  They had plenty of rocks to build nests on.  Still, that didn’t stop them from stealing from other nests.

Nice spot for a nest

This view belongs in the Lord of the Rings

Rockhopper penguins are not the only ones that can hop

Now came the highlight of the day.  Shawn and Chad managed to find a long and unspoiled slope for our favorite sport – snow sliding!  The powder was phenomenal. The only downside?  There were no lift and you had to climb all the way back up.  That didn’t stop any of us from having a blast. I must have done it a dozen times.

Tracy is airbourne! She shoot down those slopes so fast I could never hope to catch her.

My own not-so-graceful decent:

The snow sliding fest was the perfect wrap of our last landing here in Antarctica.  While we were all exhausted, everybody’s in a good mood. This made the prospect of leaving a bit more bearable.

Afternoon brought us to Fournier Bay.  Landing was canceled due to bad weather.  Instead, the ship sailed slowly through the waters so all of us could have a last look at the magnificent landscape of this truly enchanting land.

So started our two-day journey back across the dreaded Drake Passage.  The ship pitched and rolled like crazy at times.  It was nearly impossible to have a meal without a cup or plate flying off the table, or a person flying off the chair. By the end of the two days, almost half the people were missing from the dinner tables. According to the staff, that was “a little worse than usual”.  Hear! Hear!

Somehow I fared better than Tracy this time.  While she stayed in bed most of the time, I was able to walk around the ship a bit, even managed to get a great shot of a humpback whale before our over zealous captain ran it over.  Don’t worry, the whale was unharmed, it promptly emerged on the other side of the ship.  I heard our marine biologist was not so thrilled about the incident though :).

After more than two days in a drug-induced semi-conscious state, we were finally back in Ushuaia on the 8th of December.

Beautiful morning on the docks

The ship's anchored and tethered

Deck 2 were quarters for the Russian crew. One guy had a pot plant next to the window.

After 18 days on the ship, many of us had become good friends with the staff and each other. This was one trip that I wished could last longer.

Luggage for passengers who were going to stay in Ushuaia. We belonged to this group as our flight was for next morning.

Dave the historian was one of our favorite staff members

People saying goodbyes to each other

This was the best trip the two of us had so far.  We were lucky to have a lively and interesting mix of crew and fellow passengers.  The scenery was as good as it gets. The wildlife experience was simply unbeatable.  If we are lucky, we’ll be back again sometime in the future.

After saying goodbyes to everyone, the bus took us back to La Casa, Silvia’s nice little B&B.  We went out for a really nice meal, then came back to get some much needed rest. Being able to sleep on a bed set on solid ground is priceless.

Deep fried tiny fish, crunchy and delicious

King crab, yummy!!

We will be flying out to Buenos Aires again tomorrow, then head on to a small town over 200km south of the city.  We’ll be there for a week.  Time for a change of pace.


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