Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Fitzroy Expedition 2012

This is a repeat of last year’s cruise along the Magellan’s Straits with Patagonia Photo Safaris (  This is an incredible cruise with landings at various islands along the route to photograph the wildlife as well as the landscapes.  It was worthwhile to repeat this trip because a month difference makes a lot of differences as to what is seen.  Last year we sailed in late February and saw Rock Hopper and King Penguins but this year in January, none were seen, we were too early.  However we got to see the black-browed Albatross nesting colony, last year all the young has grown and left the nests.  These birds are pretty amazing in their behavior and do not bother by the presence of humans, so I had a great opportunity of capturing their images as seen below.

Birds such as Magellan Penguins, Carancas (Kelp Goose) and the Skuas were found at the various islands along the Strait; these were also are not afraid of humans; just like being in the Galapagos. 

 The black-browed albatrosses had chicks in the nests and it appeared like the parents were holding long conversations with the siblings, about what?  I do not know but I am sure that it was related to the young ones asking for more food.  The adults also got involved in beak rubbing and feather nipping.

The mammals were the same as last year’s, the elephant seals were molting their skins so they stayed mostly on land throwing stones over their backs for protection against the sun.  The colonies of fur seals were full of young and these were mostly sleeping and sucking the young ones.

The highlight of the cruise this year was the humpback whale watching opportunities.  We would board the 2 Zodiacs and follow the whales during several occasions.  One afternoon we were following a group of about 5 whales and they were always ahead of the Zodiacs maintaining a distance of about 50 feet. They would submerge for about 10-15 minutes and when emerging they will purge their lungs of air creating a mist of water and air with the most pungent smell; like that of rotten sardines.  The worst case of halitosis I ever experienced…so if someone tells you have the breath of a whale, take offense.  When the whales dived, we just stopped the engines and waited for them to surface again at a distance.  In one occasion, while we waited, all of the sudden a whale surfaced just next to each of the Zodiac so close that I could touch it with my hands.  They just paused and looked us over with that dark eye and continued with the most delicate movement as not to cause waves to upset the boats or getting us wet.  This deliberate I am convinced, as if they were telling us:  “Hey, it is time for us to watch you.” This was one of my greatest experiences of a lifetime; as perhaps others in as you can see from their expressions.

And the landscapes are awesome; the mountains, the glaciers the rivers and the skies.  A million sights; which one to grab? The weather was variable but as cold as last year’s and really not too rainy either.  It always great to hear the cracking of the ice in the glaciers, it sounds like rifle shots.  And the blues in the ice, not way a camera can capture the real colors.