Friday, December 20, 2019

Antarctica - Day 7

At 4:00 am we crossed what's known as the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic Convergence or
Antarctic Polar Front is a circular current continuously encircling Antarctica, varying in
latitude seasonally, where cold, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet the relatively
warmer waters of the sub Antarctic. Antarctic waters predominantly sink beneath the
warmer Sub Antarctic waters, while associated zones of mixing and up-welling create a
zone very high in marine productivity, especially for Antarctic krill.  Were were told this area is usually pretty heavy with marine life, especially whales because of the high concentration of krill here.

The Antarctic Convergence is a zone approximately 20 – 30 mi wide, 
extending across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans between the 48th and 61st
parallels of south latitude. This line is a natural boundary rather than an artificial one. It
separates not only two hydro-logical regions, but also areas of distinctive marine life and
climates. Now we were officially in Antarctica!

The morning wake up call went out at 7:30 am this morning, with breakfast being served at 8:00 am.  We are supposed to finally see land at some point this afternoon and then have our first landing of the trip at Barrientos Island in the Aitcho Islands Group/South Shetland Islands. This volcanic island is home to Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins.

Before the landings start, there is going to be a safety briefing on IAATO regulations and on Zodiac operations, going over the process of getting on and off the Zodiacs and then the decontamination process before and after each landing as well.

The safety talks lasted almost 2 hours but it was nice in that it helped pass the time while we wait to get to shore and off the ship for a bit.  There was lunch at noon and then one more talk about the best ways to carry gear on each landing and what you should and shouldn't do.  I think everyone is just anxious to get off the ship for a while now and to finally get to see some wildlife.  Feels like we've been on the ship for days even though it's only been about 45 hours ... 

It was finally time to make our first landing of the trip so I headed off to my room to put on a few more layers of clothes.  Not knowing what to expect, I figured I'd play it safe and put on two base layers under a thicker top layer and then my windbreaker / rain coat.  I also put on a smart wool bottom layer under my jeans, followed by a waterproof top layer.  I was instantly too warm on the ship so headed out on to the deck to try to keep cool while waiting to board the Zodiac. 

The water in the bay was pretty rough and we got hit with a few really big sprays of water on the way too shore. Now I understand the need for a dry bag for the camera gear and the waterproof top layers for out clothing.  It wasn't cold at all on the ride, but when the water hit me in the fact, that was a wee bit chilly. LOL

As soon as we landed, you could see Penguins on the beach and some had already wandered over just to see all the weird big Penguins on the beach.  LOL  I was surprised to see how little snow there is here and how muddy the ground is. As bad as it smells right now, I'm sure hoping this island isn't made of pure Penguin poo. LOL  This is the nesting season and I can already see Penguins on nests all around.  I think I shot way too many shots on this first stop... just being excited to see all the Penguins so close up.  We got here a bit late so only have an hour to spend taking photos, but it's good to finally be shooting some and to be on solid ground again.  The time went by so fast, but I think I got a few okay shots for my first attempts.

Chinstrap Penguin

Gentoo Penguin
Gentoo Penguin looking over its shoulder

Chinstrap Penguin coming right at me to check me out

Pebble Thieves Get an Earful

Another Penguin gives up a pebble theft attempt LOL

Overview of the Penguin Colony

Another curious Penguin heading my way

Penguin just getting ready to turn the eggs
Another pebble stand-off

I wasn't sure what this squabble was about but the Chinstrap Penguin seems to be enjoying the show

We headed back to the ship at our assigned time and then had dinner at 7:30.  After dinner there was an Advanced Lightroom class and most people were looking through all their photos from the island. Everyone seemed really happy and excited by the experience.

The rest of the night was just spent sharing pictures with each other and talking about the whole experience of watching Penguins building their nests and stealing pebbles from each other. It was a very funny sight to see for sure.

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