Friday, March 18, 2011


9 March 2011


More people surfaced today as the seas were somewhat calmer overall.

The day was overcast but not that cold – 3C. A heavy mist hung over the water and visibility was poor as we crossed the Antarctic Convergence area. Here the warm saline water currents coming south from the tropics meet cold denser less saline currents moving north from Antarctica. This caused the heavy mist/fog over the waters.

As we traveled south mountains emerged trough the mists.

As we had made good time we had our first and unexpected landing in Zodiacs today at Barrientos on the Aitcho Islands.

Before going out we had a briefing about how to get in and out of the zodiacs and were issued with our wellington boots. We were also advised about what to wear for landings. When we gathered for our adventure we all felt like penguins as we had so many layers on and felt cumbersome.  Most of the party had uniform parkas and we often referred to them as the green penguins.

Before getting on the zodiacs we had to walk through trays of water with disinfectant. We were also asked to make sure our parkas had no seeds or other material stuck to the Velcro and to shake out pockets out. This was to ensure that we do not contaminate the continent with seeds or bacteria from other places.

We are in the South Sheltand area. We stopped at a tiny island. It was a wet landing at Barrientos. That meant we had to step out into the water on landing. Barrienots was not covered in snow or ice. It was muddy and rocky terrain with some ice patches. I felt like an intruder as there were thousands of penguins on the island.  What a barren wilderness.

There were two species here – the gentoo penguins

and chinstrap penguins.

They were everywhere!

A big brown bird – the Arctic Skua arrived noisily amongst the penguins.

The adult penguins very quickly moved into position to protect the young.

Many of the penguins were molting - loosing their feathers. They looked a sight.

It was like visiting a playground of children. Some were chasing each other, others were feeding their chicks, some were creating cacophony of sounds. Reminded me of the film ‘Happy Feet’.

It was extremely slippery walking up the slope due to penguin poo. The island also had a very strong and distinct penguin odour.

It is a very barren land with interesting rocks formations due to the harsh winds.

We spent two hours here before returning to the ship.

Getting in and out of the zodiacs is quite an art. Hopefully it will get easier not harder as time goes by. On return we again went through the process of disinfecting the boots and washing all the mud of our clothes.

A lovely day!

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