Here’s the truth–when you’ve seen the first 10,000 penguins, you’ve seen them all.
But Antarctica is a lot more than birds that fly underwater. The scenery is mind boggling. We’ve had the good fortune to travel quite a bit, and there is simply nothing like this place anywhere else.
The mountains here are the tail end of the Andes, often thrusting straight up from the sea floor and covered in eons of snow that is slowly moving forward, breaking off and making ice bergs.
One morning we got dressed and piled into the Zodiacs just to ride around–no landing, no penguins, just icebergs and scenery.
There is lots of scenery.
There is drama in the lighting in every direction.
A mini-Matterhorn rising from the ocean.
And some wildlife–the is a leopard seal.
More of the magnificent ice bergs, and a chance for me to get creative with the processing. Take the time to click on the smaller images and look at them full size, they deserve to be seen big.
You might be wondering about the Zodiacs–where do they go when the ship is moving. It turns out there’s a fascinating ballet performed 4 time a day as they are launched and recovered each time the passengers go ashore. The boats are stored on the top deck of the ship, raised and lowered by crane as the ship is steaming ahead. The drivers jump off into the ship as they pass the 2nd deck.
The small bits of ice floating in the water are known as “brash”. They are immaterial to the ship, but the Zodiacs have to pay attention. Here is a flotilla of the small boats, with all their passengers in bright red company-issued parkas, maneuvering through as they go wandering about.
This piece of ice could be thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of years old. It contains air bubbles that were formed as snow flakes and tiny air spaces were compressed over the centuries, and now scientists are able to test that tiny time capsule to see how the concentrations of CO2 have changed over time.
Another seal, and a hint as to the origins of mermaid myths—if you had been on a tiny ship with only men for 14 months or so, this could look quite a bit like a woman lying on her side.
This is a real woman, Elsa, one of our expedition guides. Very beautiful, very French, and she knows just everything about the seals and the ice, the birds and the rocks and the climate.
The wildlife doesn’t much care if it’s land or berg. Here some gulls have taken up residence atop a large berg, and one is swooping out to go look for lunch.
Guides in yellow parkas, guests in red. Motoring through a gap between the rocks, heading towards a large iceberg with a center gap. This is the reason for going here–you can see penguins in zoos, but there is no scenery like this anywhere else.
And here’s that berg, the stone is behind it, not embedded.
There are grottoes and caverns along the sea.
This is just a small outcropping, yet it dwarfs the Zodiac. Kind of what I have been thinking about the entire trip. This place makes you feel insignificant. The rookeries with hundreds of thousands of birds, who will walk right up to you and not notice you at all. The unyielding cold. The massive glaciers, with millions of years of snowfall slowly moving towards the eternal sea. The unending winds and tides shaping the rocks, bouncing even the largest ships like they were toys in the bathtub. All conspire to make you realize that man doesn’t really matter much.