Thursday, January 21, 2010

Breakfast with the Emperesses

20 January 2010
Weddell Sea

What a day! Each new day seems to top the previous day! Our 24 hour
watch for wildlife paid off in spades with four more Emperess Penguins
sighted. However, this was in the wee, wee hours of 2-3 am. No wake up
calls were made, as Morten planned to return to the same spot later in
the morning. It was his hope that we would refind them. So, we proceeded
south to the southernmmost point on our voyage-- along the west coast of
Snow Hill Island. We saw the Nordenskjold hut on the shore of the
island. Finally, the ice stopped us, and we turned around. Two
additional Emperess Penguins were sighted far away on the pack ice.
Then, we sighted the trio of Emperesses from the early morning hours.
Our dear Captain slowed, turned and stopped the ship. Ultimately, we had
the most incredible views of all three penguins on the pack ice edge!
They even vocalized when a lone Adelie tried to approach them. These
three Emperesses were the youngest I have ever seen. I suspect that they
were about 10 months old. Just so sweet. We left them sliding and
gliding on the ice, to eat our breakfast.

Next up, the Captain wedged the ship into the fast ice. A short Zodiac
ride to the ice was made. Morten led us on a hike to see a Weddell Seal
up close! Undisturbed by us, we left this seal and hiked to see a
Crabeater Seal. It yawned, and lazed about on the ice as if we were not
even present. Oh, Morten also introduced us to the "democratic
snowball fight." (We secretly think that this is a Danish
sport). Finally, the Zodiac drivers retrieved us. What a close and
personal experience we had, surrounded by a snowy land of grandeur.

The ship proceeded forward to Fridtjof Sound, with the Tabarin Peninsula
on one side and Andersson and Jonasson Islands on the other, jagged
icebergs, and tabular ice chunks all around. Surrounded by this most
spectacular sight, bathed in sunlight, with thousands of porpoising
penguins-- it all seemed so "other worldly"!

Heading into Antarctic Sound, we passed Brown Bluff. Morten and Debra
had cooked up something for the afternoon, as Brown Bluff had been
erased from the white board schedule. And, there is was --- a beautiful,
snug place called Hope Bay. Here, we visited the Argentine Antarctic
research station of Esperanza. We had a guided tour of the station, the
Adelie and Gentoo Penguin colonies, and the historic Nortenskjold hut.
It was bright, sunny and a warm 42F! This is the "banana belt" of

This was a completely full day-- from breakfast with the Emperesses to
the some of the grandest scenery of Antarctic, to visiting a friendly
and welcoming research station. Tomorrow, is another day. A full "aura
fluffing" was performed at recap this eveing.

Emperesses forever,
Debi Shearwater
At sea on Professor Multanovskiy in the Bransfield Strait, charter

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