Thursday 15 January 2015

January 13 - 14 - 15 - Home!

Yesterday I arrived home. It was a long flight, but smooth and uneventful -the best kind!  The company arranged transportation for the four of us who were leaving (another left later in the day), and we drove through the rain soaked streets of Buenos Aries. The day was hot, but with torrential rain. It was good having buddies at the airport, as we watched each other's luggage while taking strolls around to pass the time until we could check in. I was the only one going Air Canada (5:30
PM); Maria was on an American Flight at 11 PM, but had Peter to wait with for most of the rest of the time after I was airborne.  She had finished the book "Gone Girl" on the way down, so I read it on the way back. It helped pass the time away and is definitely worth a read! It has just been released as a motion picture, so that will be on the agenda sometime in the near future.

It was hot in Santiago where we had a short stop, but the landing in Toronto in Wednesday morning reminded me it was winter in Canada! It was snow covered across the prairies, and the Rockies, but closer to home the hills were looking pretty bare. Low fog hung in the valley, but it was bright sunshine above. Fortunately the flog cleared and the afternoon was a sunny one - in Burnaby at least.  Today there was an amazing sunrise just behind Mt. Baker. The mountain cast an shadow on the vivid orange-red sky, then it started raining.  - Hopefully some of the rain is falling as snow on the ski hills and I can get my gear out (something that all the snow in Antarctica made me miss!).

This will be my last post in this series - thanks for following along and may you have happy travels in your future!

Sunrise behind Mt. Baker with its long shadow on the sky (from our apartment in Burnaby).

Monday 12 January 2015

January 10 - 11 - 12 - nearing Montevideo

Well the weather on the decks has taken a remarkable change - it is now hot and humid! The transformation from South Georgia to here is amazing. Did I mention the 78 knot winds we had in South Georgia?? That is 144 km/hr!!  Or over 10 on the Beaufort scale!  The night we were in Grytviken the ship was leaning at a strange angle and lots of banging around. Several of the other members of the team actually got up to see what was going on as the lean was unusual. Anyway, the ships crew struggled to keep the ship in place through several hours of these incredible winds.  The next morning it was one of the nicest days they have had in Grytviken in several weeks!  We have been so lucky with the weather!!

Days at sea are a bit more relaxed, but several lectures are given each day by members of the team, as well as deck duty looking for birds and whales. But no rocks!

Maria has had a workshop and then a champagne reception in the past two days. She is getting a wonderful response to her paintings and has sold several.  Today though is pack-up day as we get ready to disembark tomorrow morning and head to the airport.

Maria explaining with enthusiasm at her workshop!

About 22 people showed up to the workshop!

The last time for parkas (Jan. 10) at the grill - now it is time for bathing suits!

The display of Maria's work at her "meet and greet"

January 11 was the "Galley Lunch" this is where food is served in the galley along with an amazing display of culinary art.

Maria and the chocolate penguin - not sure if it was actually eaten or not!

Friday 9 January 2015

January 8 & 9 - Salisbury Plain and at Sea

Yesterday was a pretty amazing ending to our Antarctica and South Georgia experience.  I think doing the voyage from west to east has been more interesting as the changing landscapes eclipse one another.  Seeing the Chilean fjords first gives them new interest, where as seeing them after Antarctica they are kind of ho hum compared to the dramatic vistas of Antarctica. The same can be said for South Georgia. It is so different than Antarctica. Instead of a landscape dominated by an overwhelming whiteness, you see dramatic rock cliffs dusted by green vegetation - ice is very present but does not dominate the landscape. And then there are the King Penguins!

In Antarctica we saw large masses of penguins. For example, the Adelies at Esperanza number several hundred thousand individuals, but take a back seat to the 250,000 + Kings at Salisbury Plain.  The Kings are much larger birds so 250,000 Kings is a huge biomass! You also see them in a massive congregation that stretches about 2 km from the beach on an uphill slope. Added to that are 1000's of elephant seals and fur seals. The wheeling Giant Petrels and Skuas constantly circling over the rookery. And the din of that many birds!  They all seem to be making a noise. Where I was standing, there were several elephant seals in the tussac grass - their occasional roar gave a decidely "Jurassic Park" feel to the whole place!
Adult with a juvenile (about 10 months old)

King Penguins as far as the eye can see (almost).

Adults returning from fishing with a juvenile.

King Penguins everywhere!

Adults displaying courtship behavior

An almost fully fledged yearling - as soon as the brown down is replaced by adult plumage they will take to the water.

Ten or 11 month old juveniles still in full downy feathers.

Adults courting.

There were hundreds of baby fur seals along the beach and in the tussac grass.

Giant Petrel walking among the penguins looking for a meal.

Curious juvenile - they even came and pecked at my pants.

Seabourn physician - Dr. Sandra out among the penguins.

We were the last ones off from the shore - Iggy, Alex and David.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

January 7 - Grytviken

After yesterday's abortive attempt to do a zodiac tour we headed into Grytviken, a deep fiord about half way up the east side of South Georgia. It was a beautiful location with high snowy peaks behind the bedded, and folded cliffs of sedimentary rocks that make up the near walls of the fjord. The location was the site of a Norwegian whaling stations dating from the 1800's, but it became a major commercial operation just before world war I. The reason was the need for whale oil for the war effort. It ceased operation in 1965 and has since fallen into disrepair. There is a British Antarctic Survey Base close by and this was the point that was taken by the Argentinians in the Falklands war.  Since that time the British government has invested significant funds to clean up the old whaling station and establish a museum and gift shop in some of the rehabilitated buildings. It is now a very picturesque spot with lots of elephant and fur seals along the beaches along with King penguins. This is also the site of Shackleton's grave.

I spent the morning fighting with the fur seal harem beach masters  - who were aggressive towards other fur seals as well as humans. I soon learned how stop the charges, but they are a bit intimating.  There as small 2 - 4 week old pups, and the beach masters keep their "own" small group of pups in control in order to breed with the females when they return to nurse the pups. The pups are so cute, but often get squashed by the overly aggressive males as they protect their piece of beach and pups from other seals. Chasing tourists seems to be one of the things they enjoy. However, the much larger elephant seals just loll around the beach and don't seem to care about people at all.  There were groups of molting King penguins as well, just to add some colour to the mix.  The seals sound a bit like dogs, and the pups make whining noises very much like puppies. And they are VERY cute.

Shackelton's grave.

Beautifully folded schists above the station.

Very cute baby fur seal - a couple of weeks old.

Dad - mean and aggressive!

Some more very cute baby seals!

Part of the old whaling station.

A pile of juvenile elephant seals.

A few king penguins standing around. 

Sleeping elephant seal.

Maria and I thought these whalers bunk beds were very much like our own!

The barrel at the top of the mast was where a lookout was posted to spot whale blows.

The Quest as seen through parts of the old whaling station. 

Tuesday 6 January 2015

January 6 - Drygalski Fjord and SE coast of South Georgia

Today we made landfall in South Georgia in the early hours of the morning.  The wind was gusting to 50 knots so we could not do the planned zodiac cruise at Cooper Bay. Instead the ship headed into Drygalski fjord where it was nice and sheltered and we had beautiful views of the glaciers and peaks.  It is interesting seeing green vegetation again!  There are no trees, but there are a few vascular plants including tussock grass close to the shore.  We passed a king penguin rookery and were accompanied by a few swimming penguins as well as fur seals.
I provided commentary from the bridge as we cruised through the Fjord.

Views of the peaks around the fjord with large glaciers, caving to the ocean.

More peaks and glaciers!

Banded gneiss making up the remnant of Gondwana land.

After cruising the fjord, we headed back to Cooper Bay to see if the wind had died down – it has not, in fact it seemed to be fiercer not less! The decision was made to try to see if we operate at Gold Harbour, so off we headed up the coast.  We arrived at a beautiful bay with high peaks and glaciers, but lots of swell.  We made an abortive attempt to get zodiac on tour, but the swell was very severe so it was not safe for the guests.  After dressing up and standing around for a couple of hours, Robin finally called the whole thing off. That was our last attempt as we had run out of time and options, so we then continued to sail to Grytviken where we will anchor for the night and then go ashore in the morning.  

Bedded turbidites 140 - 170 Ma above Gold Harbour.

January 5 - more Scotia Sea

Our calm voyage to South Georgia continues (without internet), but today we focused on the landings in South Georgia and how they are going to be executed.  We also had to do another bio-security check. Passengers have had lots of questions about how we are going to operate in South Georgia.

January 4 - Scotia Sea

The seas have been very calm, but this morning we awoke to lines of ice stretching almost as far as you could see to the south of the ship.  This is sea ice spreading out of the Weddell Sea – along with the ice bergs. We were so lucky to have relatively calm waters, but during the time we were going through the edge of the ice the stabilizers were drawn in, and we were doing a lot of zigzagging, so it was a bit of a bumpy ride.

Sea ice as far as the eye could see.

Marie continues to paint and has sold several painting.  She had a small workshop in the observation deck that attracted over 20 people interested in sketching.  They were all keen for more workshops!

Maria leading the workshop with flourish!

Some of the many people who came out to participate.
You can check out what Maria has been painting on her web page.

Exploring the World through Art