Saturday, February 8, 2014

S America/Antarctica - 12/29/2013 - Antarctic Sound - King George Island

Sorry about the time gaps between posts.  We took a ton of photos that had to be sorted through and run through Photo Shop before posting.

We are finally in Antarctica and it is amazing.  Even though it has snow, ice, mountains, and glaciers, it still looks like no other place on earth.  We had the same feelings about Alaska when we visited there.  Part of the difference is most likely mental since you know that you at one of the most remote parts of the world and you know that not many people have ever been here before you.  You also know that besides for a few scientific stations, you and your fellow passengers are more alone than at any time in your lives.  As you look out onto the mountains and glaciers, especially when away from the scientific stations, you know that it is very unlikely that any other human has ever set foot on the land you are viewing.

We arrived early in the morning at King George Island and will spend several hours cruising slowly into the coves to see the glaciers, penguins and whales.  Due to the large number of photos taken, I plan to break this day into two posts....morning and afternoon.

This map shows where we cruised while in Antarctica.  Near the top, you can see the notation "From: Stanley...".  This is where the map starts at King George Island.  We then jump in and out of several bays on the island and finally end the day at Deception Island.  This post will cover the first half of today's cruising.
There will be many photos of King George Island and the bays all have names, but I confess that I can not tell you exactly where we are in each photo.  I really don't think it matters since the scenery is the important part of the post.

It was about 20 degrees in the morning so we were bundled up well for the day.  We will spend most of the day out on the deck viewing the beauty of Antarctica.  The entire time we were in Antarctica, it was colder in Kansas City than it was here. Late December is mid summer for Antarctica.

We saw quite a few whales as we cruised.  The Naturalists on board were giving us running commentary over the ship's PA system.  They helped locate the whales, birds, and penguins so we could take photos.  There were 75 whales spotted in the morning today.  We never saw one breach (jump out of the water) but there were lots of mothers with calves spouting as they swam.  Most of the whales were Humpbacks.

Sea birds were constant companions as we cruised.  Except for nesting, these birds live their entire lives at sea.  By soaring on the air currents, they travel without expending much energy....about the same amount as sitting on the nest.

The blue color to the glacial ices is the result of the high compression that the snow undergoes through thousands of years.  The trapped air bubbles in the ice are compressed until they can't be seen and the ice starts to look more like the highly dense water of the ocean, which is also blue.

The ships railing were loaded with photographers and sight seeing all day.

Sigrid is taking a photo of me on the lower deck at the same time I am photoing her.  See the next photo.

You can see penguins riding this iceberg....a very common sight.

These are Chinstrap Penguins swimming near the ship.  It is really hard photoing these little guys because they are only out of the water for a fraction of a second as the swim like a porpoise. 

We cruised by several scientific stations this day.  This one is a Polish station.  Many of the stations are occupied year around.  They receive fuel oil, food, and other supplies during the summer months and often not more then once or twice each year.  Small stations like this have to be reached by ship.  The American Palmer Station has a runway for air cargo.

Scientists travel by small boat to local sites when the weather is acceptable.

This is an Argentinian research station.

Note the crosses on the hill.  There was a fire at this station a few years ago and the crosses are memorials for those who were killed in the fire.

Our ship was able to get very close to shore in spots.  The ship's draft is 24 feet which is fairly shallow for a large ship.

Slush floating on the water.

I like to catch a piece of the ship in some of the photos just to remind the viewers that we are on board and not on land.

The next post will pick up from here as we continue towards Deception Island.

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