Vote Now! Video on Antarctica

https://premium.easypromosapp.com/entries/810299

I’ve entered Quark Expeditions video contest and am a finalist. Today is June 22 + you only have until June 26th to vote! Please and Thank-you! The prize is a trip to the Arctic where I will blog and post more pictures to my adventurequest site!

Keeping fingers and toes crossed for Good Luck!

Sincerely,

Dawn

 

 

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Half Moon Island, South Shetlands

This Quark Expedition is sailing back north, heading toward the Drake Passage and Ushuaia, Argentina. This is our last landing for Antarctica. Tomorrow we will be reluctant tourists, leaving this unique, beautiful place.

But for now we will enjoy Half Moon, a 1.2 mile long island  between Livingston  and Greenwich Islands in the South Shetlands.

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beautiful lichen

The Argentine Camara station is located at one end

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Argentine Camara Station

and a Chinstrap penguin nesting area at the other.

Blue-eyed Shags nest on top of orange lichen pinnacles against glaciated mountains beyond. IMG_3040 (2)

Before landing, we bounced in the zodiacs over choppy waters, checking out seals, shags, and this very cheeky skua who landed right next to me.

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not sure if he wanted to be friends

On land, amongst the rocks, broken penguin shells led to a mother skua snuggling with her chick.

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A single Adele penguin approached me with a tilt of the head and a confused look in its eyes. “How do I get back home?” The poor thing was obviously lost, speaking in penguin before wandering off in search of a more appropriate friend. IMG_3104

An old whaling craft remains on the beach, another testament of history in this part of the world. IMG_5698

Half Moon Island is the breeding site of approximately 3,300 Chinstrap Penguins. Since this is our last landing, I spent time enjoying their antics and reflecting on all I’ve seen and learned.

I must admit to wiping a tear away, thinking about how much more there is to experience in this vast land.  This little penguin expressed my emotions back at me. IMG_3074

Before I left home, my friends asked strange questions . “WHY do you want to go there?” or “Where is that place….North or South pole?”

I hope my words and pictures have explained the wonders to be found here. More important, I hope I’ve inspired YOU to experience this adventure.

Good-bye from Antarctica.

This leaves a great big question—“Where shall I go next?” —trust me, I have a long list! Stay tuned. IMG_3068 (2)

 

 

DECEPTION ISLAND

Put yourself on a ship that navigates through a narrow opening called Neptune’s Bellows,

into the sunken caldera of an active volcano. A submerged rock lies about eight feet below the surface, smack-dab in the very middle of the channel. Bite your nails. The current is wild, and a shipwreck lies just inside the entrance as a reminder how quickly life can go bad. Red ash looks like folded curtains along the cliffs and you may see wisps of steam.

This isn’t the opening of a Hollywood thriller, this is  every day drama at Deception Island, in the South Shetland chain.IMG_2965

The sea floor is rising as magma pushes up. and some water temperatures have been recorded at 158 degrees Fahrenheit. During eruptions in the 1960’s the water was so hot, paint melted off of ships.

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hike up here and you can look down and out a “window” to the sea far below

There are so many cool reasons to experience this closely monitored site. The volcano has changed the micro-climate, allowing over 18 species of moss and lichens not found ANYWHERE else in Antarctica.Check out what it’s like to dive below the surface  with the Lindbald expedition : http://www.deceptionisland.aq/flora.php

IMG_2994 (3)If you were a bird, would you want to hang out where it’s warm? Of course. The world’s largest chinstrap penguin colony with over 100,000 breeding pairs are here. We also saw blue-eyed shags (cormorants) with juveniles as big as the adults, nesting high above on the cliffs. (Thank goodness for that 600mm lens!)

Inside the caldera is the historic site at Whaler’s Bay where ruins of oil tanks, buildings and boats from the early 1900’s sit upon a black ash beach.

Two lonely graves still haunt me. This used to be the largest cemetery (35 men buried and 10 memorials to presumed drowned) in all of Antarctica before the last eruptions. I cannot let the memory go, knowing they are so far from home. IMG_2926

There’s an airplane hanger at one end. This is where the first trans-Antarctic flights began in 1928. IMG_2895

During and after WWII, the British destroyed some of the whaling remains, and set up a remote military post. There was great concern that the German’s would use Antarctica for nefarious reasons. After the war, the station returned to scientific study until 1967.

On the internet there are pictures of tourists soaking in pools dug into the warm sand. This isn’t allowed anymore (Hello? Environmental impact?) and there’s discussion about reducing the numbers of ships coming here. Count yourself l-u-c-k-y  if you can visit this unique historic and environmental site.

Cierva Cove

Cierva Cove is a serious glacial area on the Western side of Graham Land, up near the top of the Antarctic Peninsula.  Under a  brilliant blue sky, flat-topped tabular icebergs floated in Hughes bay. IMG_5658We zodiac cruised around them, pressing forward into thick brash ice that popped and crackled as air trapped millennia ago released from the melting pieces. Imagine, what animal exhaled that air last, now being freed into the atmosphere again.

Forging our way, bouncing over and around ice chunks, I easily imagined what it might feel like to get trapped like adventurous explorers a century ago.IMG_2819  Coming around a flat berg, I held my breath passing a sleeping Leopard Seal with a blood-smeared mouth.IMG_2781 With reports of them attacking zodiac boats, I hoped it didn’t decide to wake up and jump at us. Other seals live and breed in colonies. These guys are loners, eating other seals and penguins along with krill and fish. The shape of the head looks rather reptilian rather than the cute seals doing tricks at Sea World.

We laughed with delight when a Minke whale surfaced, blowing a geyser of water sky-high. Minke’s are the second smallest of the baleen whales. (S)he stayed around us, feeding for quite a while. A clue this is a Minke is both the blowhole and fin showing at the same time at the water’s edge.IMG_2859

Immense bergs floated around us, caved off nearby glaciers. Ice jumbled in odd shapes while every surface sparkled under the sun.

Weddell seals laid on ice, sunbathing and lazy on this summer day in Antarctica.

Coming around this amazing iceberg, we were surprised by a swimming Leopard Seal. Although this is the third we’d seen on this trip, this was the first in the water, emphasizing such agility and  speed.  I’m glad no one fell in the water.

The last picture is Primavera, the Argentinian summer station. They waved at us, and probably got a kick out of those brave (?) souls who participated in the polar plunge while chinstrap penguins looked on, shaking their heads in disbelief.

D’Hainaut Island

D’Hainaut is an island inside Mikkelsen Harbor on the south coast of Trinity Island. I’m betting this geography notation makes this location of ‘island inside another’ as clear as mud in a swamp.

For clarity, picture the Antarctic Peninsula which looks like a scorpion tail jutting up from the continent. There’s a scattering of islands along the Northwest side called the Palmer Archipelago and Trinity Island is within this chain.

In the era of whale slaughtering, factory ships moored off D’Hainaut and the remains of casks, ribs of boats, and bleached bones are still evident.IMG_5607 This day we chased through the harbor, following a group of Humpback Whales from a safe distance, shooting with our cameras rather than exploding harpoons.

There’s also a deserted Argentine refuge  from the 1950’s, a red hut a vivid highlight amongst snow-packed chinstrap penguin paths crisscrossing the site. The birds wander about, totally ignoring weaner Elephant seals head-banging and roaring.

Chinstrap and Gentoo babies here are much smaller and born later compared to those in the “warmer” north. In late December, chicks on South Georgia are about as big as their parents. Survivability is directly related to the amount of time the egg and chick remain warm before winter strikes again.  Regardless of the southern latitude, D’Hainaut remains an important breeding site.

This zen-like penguin community also ignored our single file conga line of yellow jackets as we carefully avoided their trails, called the ‘penguin highway’ to the sea Komossa512_DSC05890_Highway.

We also saw Snowy Sheathbills (nicknamed “Pattys”)

IMG_2649 sitting on the ice with a meal that looked suspiciously like the remains of a penguin chick. They also steal krill from penguins and are quite the scavengers. This is the only land bird native to Antarctica.

A Weddell seal enjoys a nap and a cute weaner peeks at us.

The last picture is of a Salp and is the most important thing I want you to take away from me today! This is a zooplankton related to jellyfish that form long necklace-like chains that float on the water. They eat phytoplankton and krill–just like everybody else in Antarctic waters.

Up to 200,000 tons of krill are harvested from the open ocean annually, even though the population continues to decrease from climate change. If tiny Krill are reduced, effects will devastate the entire cycle of life. Think about that next time you reach for the box of krill in the pharmacy or health food store. Are polar fish, birds, and mammals being sacrificed? Ultimately, the chain ends with us.

Please. Do not. Buy. Krill. Use another sustainable Omega-3.  

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There’s a direct relationship to ocean temperature, krill, and salp populations. When there’s more ice, krill reproduce like mad. When ice melts and water warms, salp numbers increase. This isn’t a good thing, since salps aren’t as nutritious (lower in protein) for higher functioning animals.

 

 

Giant Step Onto The Seventh Continent

In my head, I heard the music from 2010 a space odyssey as I finally stepped onto the Antarctic continent.

Brown’s Bluff is a tuya on the northeast side of the Tabarin  peninsula jutting out of the top of the Antarctic Continent. ‘Tuya’ is today’s fun word for the day. Here from Wiki is the definition: “a distinctive, flat-topped steep-sided volcano formed when lava erupts through a thick glacier or ice sheet. They are somewhat rare worldwide….” Gracias Wikipedia!

When there’s a glacier, the lava bursting through can’t travel far, building up to form tall cliffs. There are all kinds of yummy volcano things happening here: Basalt, volcanic pillows, and rock bombs standing on the beach like sentinels.

We had a wild zodiac cruise (please don’t ask me to repeat this part of the trip) before landing and climbing up to see a couple of precious snow petrels sitting on nests under a huge boulder.IMG_2515

Adele penguins and their babies crowded the lower slope. It’s interesting to see the overall psychology of penguins on each landing. Some groups are fairly quiet with occasional trumpeting and squawking. This crowded beach was one for anger management counselors and perhaps jail. Adult penguins would harass babies with their mothers. Other birds ran around, carelessly pushing and jumping over others. Fights broke out with two or three chasing each other up and down the slopes.

My heart felt sad for one Adele parent. That poor bird tried over, and over again, to pick that big egg up in it’s  small beak. Each time  she tried a rescue attempt, the bloody thing rolled downhill even more. I watched as the adult shifted around, studying the situation, but unable to correct the problem. IMG_2533

Gentoo penguins are also on this beach in large numbers. Big fluffy babies waddled about after their parents, begging for more and more food.

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The Adele babies (below left) are just so darn cute but check out weird penguin tongues on the Gentoo!

That hook with backward barbs is perfect for snagging slippery krill or other fish. In the meantime, on this active beach, penguins continually march to the sea in groups. IMG_2565

Circling overhead the predators fly silent. Waiting. Watching.

Immense Tabular Icebergs, Kinnes Cove

Located on the SW end of Joinville Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula, Kinnes Cove is named for the owner of an 1892 whaling expedition. Look at the beauty of these icebergs the ship had to carefully navigate through:

Our morning zodiac cruise was an exciting look at masses of blue ice in geometric formations.  Curious Adele penguins gathered on the floes, pausing to watch us as we watched them.

We passed what appears to be a rare albino whale. Not quite Moby Dick, which was a sperm whale, and this guy was traveling fast in the opposite direction of the ship. The albino condition can affect any mammal and a tell-tale sign is pink eyes. Albino Right Whales were filmed off the coast of Chile and South Africa last year, which theoretically isn’t far away from here.  We also saw Crabeater and Weddell Seals napping on the ice.

along a steep hill, penguins climbed as far as the eye could see. Nesting here are Gentoo, Chinstrap and Adele penguins.