King penguins

Farthest south!


Day 15 - Along the Ice & Emperor Penguins


     This journal is constructed as one web page for each day of my journey, including the arrival day in Auckland, and the final two days, which I spent in Hobart.  I have tried to keep the picture images of a reasonable size for easy web page loading.  To see a much larger view of (practically) any image, just left-click on the photo.

     The morning is beautiful and sunny, with only a few clouds around.  We cruise by Cape Williams in the morning and I am mesmerized by the ship crunching through the ice, and by the vivid colors that surround us.  In the mid afternoon, helicopter tours of the ice were begun, but just as my group took off, the cloud cover dropped and we had to return to the ship having only been aloft for a couple of minutes.  We waited on the flight deck for a bit, but the visibility continued to decline, and all further flights were postponed.

     The afternoon turned out to sunny and bright.  We got to travel through an extensive area of "grease ice."  This kind of ice is very thin, and looks like glass.  Fascinating stuff.

     Every afternoon, at 4 p.m., we have "tea time."  Since the lounge is always stocked with the fixings for some hot tea, or cocoa, or coffee, I hadn't paid any attention to this daily event.  But, my cabin-mate, David, was always quite keen to make a visit to the lounge during tea time.  After some many days, I came to find out that what it really means is "cakes and cookies" time.  Aha, I have cultural awareness.  And, as a general rule, I tried to avoid tea time, like I need an excuse to eat up sweets!

     But, today was different.  At tea time, we had an auction of items whose proceeds were to be used to benefit the Antarctic Historic Trust.  These items included old maps, books and t-shirts.  I had my eye on a post card set signed by Sir Edmund Hillary.  These were reproductions of a set issued fifty years ago, following the 1955-1958 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, led by Vivian Fuchs, which crossed over the entire continent for the first time.  This expedition accomplished what Shackleton tried to do in 1914-1916.  Hillary's role in the the 1958 feat is interesting.  He was responsible for laying in supplies, and fixing a route toward the south pole, from his base near McMurdo.  He used tractors for this (as was Fuchs in the crossing), and took the opportunity to travel all the way to the south pole, the first to do so overland since Scott in 1912.  Although the bidding was quite active on a number of items, I was able to snare this special catch.

     For dinner, we have a special treat.  Because it is so pleasant, we are having a BBQ on the deck, and the ship has moored itself into the fast ice (ice that is anchored to land).  The zodiacs are cleared away and picnic tables set up for us to enjoy our Octoberfest fare.

Captain on the bridge.  Through the pack ice (sepia tone). A seal lounges.

Flying bridge shadow.  Helicopter tours of the ice. The ice.
Grease ice.  The Antarctic coast and grease ice. A BBQ on the deck.
     I made sure to go to dinner when it opened up, so that I could wander around on the ice.  A good plan, as just after finishing, someone spotted some emperor penguins walking across the ice.  What a treat.  The emperors breed at the end of the season, and chicks hatch after winter.  With the timing of this particular cruise, we were well past the time when emperor colonies would be populated, although we were near to a couple.  We saw one on Inexpressible Island, in a molting phase, but were unlikely to see any once we headed away from the continent.

     So, this was a pleasant surprise.  Many of us rushed down to take some pictures, and the birds obliged us by hanging around for quite a while.  Our Orca specialist, Ingrid, led a small group of us, crawling on our bellies, to within about ten yards of one of the emperors.  But, even folks on the ship were able to get really good views from the stern area.

     About an hour after the penguins went on their way, the helicopter tours of the ice started up, and my group got a chance to make up for the afternoon cancellation.  It was quite spectacular flying over the ice and enjoying this bird's eye view of the world below us.

Emperors show up for dinner. Hanging out  Ingrid gets good shots. 
Looking under the stern of the KK.  Emperor in repose Dennis on the ice.
Helicopter flyover of the ice.  The ship in the fast ice (B&W). Rifts in the fast ice.
     The trip has been quite fantastic.  Every day there is some new and interesting adventure for us.  We should have a sunset tonight - the first for some time.  But, there is going to be another landing tomorrow, so I opt to turn in by 11:30 p.m.

     Follow the "Next" and "Back" links to go from page to page.  Or, return to the "Antarctica Home Page" and link to any day from the "Daily Logs" shown there.  If you have any comments, e-mail me to me at:  dfoster<at>kaibabjournal<dot>com.  Please put “Antarctica” in the subject category.

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