King penguins

Farthest south!


Day 17 - Sabrina Islet at Balleny Islands


     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.

     I thought I might sleep through breakfast today, but the ship was rolling quite a bit and I couldn't sleep (it would get much worse in later days).  It was a very gray day, with poor visibility and little chunks of ice scattered about.  The ice  on the rolling ocean looked cool as the swells would pass by.  We have seen some new birds - Cape Petrels and Fulmars.  We do continue to see the Snow Petrels often.

     Early on, we got sight of Sturge, the southernmost of the Balleny Islands.  At first, I had thought that the cliffs were dark clouds!  We passed by Cape Smyth and had a good view of it before the clouds thickened.  A bit later, the clouds lifted a bit and we got a great panoramic view of the coast of Sturge.

     Because of the weather, it was a lazy day.  We did have a couple of very interesting talks in the afternoon.  Rod and Marg talked about Mawson's hut.  Rod was in a party that visited in the 1970s, as best I recall.  Marg had sailed down to the Antarctic coast, some years ago, in a small boat, with two others, and visited the site of Mawson's hut.  Both had some slides to show us.  We won't get anywhere close to Mawson's Antarctica campsite, but his is a fascinating story.  Later, our resident doctor, Steve, gave a talk on how vitamin deficiencies contributed to the death of Mertz, in Mawson's party, as well as Evans, in Scott's party.

     At about 6 p.m., local time, we got an announcement that there would be some zodiac cruises over to Sabrina Islet, where there is a mixed colony of Adelie and Chinstrap penguins, the latter which we have not yet seen.  The visibility was low, but the ocean was calm.  Not everyone decided to take this opportunity, but it turned out to be yet another highlight of this trip.

     We went out in six boats at a time (more than usual), and in two waves.  David and I were in the second wave, which left at about 7 p.m.  That turned out well, because we weren't pressed for getting back, so our touring lasted longer.  Also, we got into Tim's boat.  Tim has a lot of experience and is a first-rate driver - he got in very close to the ice, and even took the opportunity to circumnavigate all the way around Sabrina (a first for him, and, of course, for all of us).  What fun.

     There were penguins everywhere here.  The are lined up along the high ridge here, giving the islet something of a hairy look to it!  We saw a few of the Chinstrap penguins, but mostly there are Adelies here.  There was a rumor of at least one Macaroni penguin here, but we didn't see it.

Penguin Rock at Sabrina Islet. Penguins climbing up the hillside. Foster of the Antarctic!

A Chinstrap penguin. Icy cliff at Sabrina A Chinstrap among Adelies.
Zodiacs cruising at Sabrina Islet. Adelies on a berg. Penguin colony at Sabrina Islet.

The back side of Sabrina Islet, near
an archway.  We had the time to circumnavigate Sabrina ... well, it
only took about twenty minutes.

A seal lounges on the ice at Sabrina.

Adelies thinking about a dive. 

Adelies hanging out. 

The blue ice. 

     It was a fascinating place, and made all the more so by the heavy overcast.  It really was quite otherworldly.  We got to get in very close to the floating bergs here and see the penguins up close.  And, I still don't understand the physics of the blue colored ice.  Since it is cloudy, with no sun shining through, how is this possible?  Well, I will have find out some day.

     Because of the late tour of Sabrina, we got a very late start on dinner - excellent, as usual.  And, then, we began to watch the Shackleton series, with Kenneth Branagh, that was on A&E a year, or so, ago.  Great stuff.

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