Saturday, January 23, 2021

Antarctica 2020

For about 10 years I planned to go to Antarctica with my friends and there was always an itinerary conflict or someone cancelled resulting in a trip failure.  The delay had consequences since recently trips to this continent are strictly regulated and you only allow to land twice a day for an about 1.5 hours; in the past there were no such limitations among others. This year one of the previous travelers decided to go regardless and I initially declined but got a good tour package and went.  I flew into Punta Arenas in Argentina a place I visited in 1999.  As all over the world the tourist boom had more than double the size of the city and the port was full of large cruise boats ready to depart for the southern continent…see image below

Departed on the cruise on the day of arrival in Punta Arenas and was lucky to have good weather during most of the navigation to include the stormy Drake Passage; no problems with seasickness of or rough seas. Below are images of the strait of Darwin in route to Antarctica and first views of the icy continent. 

Lots  of maritime traffic in Antarctic mostly of tour ships and few military ones.  First below is the Aurora Mortimer famous for its COV-19 controversies.  The ship was back in route to port when I photographed and when returning back in the next tour infection emerged that led to an international fiasco--refer to this  link for more details:  Next is the rear view image of a Russian Ice Breaker leased by Argentina to supply their Antarctic bases (notice the smoke coming from the stacks while all other ships show no emission).  The camo patterned ship that does not match the environment is the Magellan Explorer. And finally is my cruise ship that navigated without incident followed by a view of the Quark prowl entering one of the many straits.

There were two landings per day that required donning winter gear provided by the ship and transfer to the Zodiacs that delivered the passengers to the shoreline; sometimes easy to a sandy beach or difficult to a rocky shore with wave action.  Upon landing you were given free time to roam around in a limited zone. 

The penguins will approach you without hesitation, look and peck at your shoes.  Humans were not permitted to approach the wildlife but they were unhesitant to approach you.  Gentoo penguin colonies were the most abundant with feeding chicks.  The following 4 images show them in action but notice in the 4th one a white bird; it is a Snowy Sheathbill and it is there because it steals the food that the Gentoo is feeding to the chick. At the moment the parent penguin regurgitates, it flies in and steals the morsels from the chick.  And the 5th image is that of the chinstrap penguin that was not that numerous

I did not see many different species of flying birds but among seen in descending order are the giant petrel, the blue eyed cormorant and the skuas, both very common.

Saw a few mammals with the crab eating seal, a new species for my list. In reality it mostly feeds in krill but then in the food chain is the mostly predated by the leopard seals.  As krill is been harvested in large quantities for making as Omega/fish oil pills, it is been depleted affecting not only these seals but also the penguins, meaning that they have to stay at sea and traveling longer distances.  Sometimes the penguins return with no food to feed the chicks reducing the size of their populations.  Also seen were humpback whales and occasional orcas but these were far away.

Antarctic landscapes are magnificent and could bore you to death so I am just posting a few.  Notice the deep blues of the ice. In the second image below notice the pink and green colors in the snow due algae growth; I was not aware of this.  Antarctic is a treeless continent but no of all vegetation.

This trip was in February 2020; about the same time the pandemic hit the world so I was lucky to have gone being the last trip for that year. And 2021 does not look to promising. Another delay for posting was that my 10 years old computer died and took me a while to get one put together due to the scarcity of parts and particularly Video Cards.  Stay tuned



SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Stunning pictures Jose and a magnificent trip in all. How sad that people are so destructive of our natural environment and care more about money than preserving wildlife. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience.

Jose's World said...

U are my only commenter in my blog mostly. Appreciate the long time loyalty.