Thursday 17 February 2011

And now: Antarctic Peninsula!

Another day packed with excitement and new experiences!

When we woke up this morning, our ship had already reached the Antarctic Peninsula and we found ourselves surrounded by beautiful icebergs in all shapes and different shades of white and light blue. Most of them stranded in the shallow bay in front of Cuverville Island, our first landing for today.

As soon as we set foot on the island, we were greeted by hundreds of gentoo penguins with their characteristic call (some say it resembles the cry of a donkey!). Over 4000 pairs come together during this time of year to lay their eggs and raise their chicks. They are spread in different small rookeries and we had the chance to visit several of them.

Unfortunately, there had been much more snow than usual this season, meaning that the penguins started extremely late with the breeding process. We could observe different ages of offspring: there were the tiny newborns, the small fluffy ones who still needs protection from their parents and bigger ones already in Kindergarten.

So much to see! We could watch adults feeding their young, parents changing their duty on the nest, skua-penguin interactions and snowy sheathbills trying to steal the regurgitated krill meals from the penguin chicks.

After the landing, we went with Fram through the scenic Errera Channel and later into Paradise Bay. There we had our afternoon landing: on the continent itself!

We came ashore at the Argentinean station Almirante Brown, where more gentoos were waiting. However, the main attraction of this landing was to go up a 288ft (ca 90m) high hill and then slide back down on the snow. Much laughter and screaming was heard from the sliders (and those watching, too)!

Now we are continuing our voyage down south. MV Fram went through another scenic channel: the Neumayer, and later we plan to go through the famous Lemaire.

The weather has been snowy and foggy all day, but we know that this is Antarctica and even the grey colors, together with the ice and snow, create a very special atmosphere.