Thursday, June 21, 2012

South America and Antarctica 26: Back to Ushuaia

"If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it wold be Shakespeare. And yet is it something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it!" - Andrew Denton

The days at sea went quickly. Before I was ready we were back in the Beagle Channel, which links the Drake Passage with Ushuaia.

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South America and Antarctica 25 - Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay

Neko Harbour is the first place we've landed that was on the actual continent of Antarctica.

A crew member was nice enough to take our photograph together, there, with penguins in the background to serve as photographic proof of our travels here.

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South America and Antarctica 24 - Palmer Station

Palmer Station is situated on the shoreline of Anvers Island, across the bay from Torgersen Island. As mentioned before, it is one of only three U.S. research stations manned year around in Antarctica.

Further evidence of global warming can be seen here. The glacier behind Palmer station used to extend all the way down to the ocean here. The glacier has gradually been receding during the last several decades. Now it is a significant walk from the station to the glacier.

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South America and Antarctica 23 - Torgersen Island

Torgersen Island, is a small rocky island near Palmer Station, one of the three U.S. research stations maned all year round. Here we saw actual proof, if anyone needs it, of the reality of global warming.

Home to 10,000 pairs of nesting Adelie Penguins thirty years ago, it is now home to only 2,000 pairs of nesting penguins.

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South America and Antarctica 22 - More Cuverville Island

While there weren't as many penguins on Cuverville Island as on Paulet, the actual nesting areas were just as crowded.

Notice here, how pink the snow is from Penguin guano. The smell was pretty ripe. Notice also how much ice is floating in the bay. This is summer down there.

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South America and Antarctica 21 - Cuverville Island

Weather in Antarctica changed from minute to minute.

I snapped this frame of snow blowing off the top of an island from our balcony window as we sailed. Our expedition leader encouraged us to keep looking out the windows. "You can sleep when you get home," he admonished. That was easier said than done. Especially down here in the summertime, where it is daylight for nearly 23 hours a day.

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South America and Antarctica 20 - Enterprise Island

Enterprise Island is covered in snow, so we got a Zodiac tour of the area, which was a major center of the whaling industry from 1916 -1930.

Once again, the Zodiacs organized themselves in preparation for taking on passengers.

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South America and Antarctica 19 - More Paulet Island

As mentioned before, we were asked to keep a distance of at least 15 feet from the penguins. That turned out to be easier said than done with all those birds confined to such a small space.

Everywhere we looked were penguins.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

South America and Antarctica 18 - Paulet Island

Paulet Island, our next shore excursion, is home to 100,000 pairs of breeding Adelie penguins. But, first we had to get there.

We assembled one level above the loading deck. Jannie Cloete, our cruise director, seen above in the yellow jacket, ushered us down the stairs in groups of ten for the Zodiac boats.

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