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Vacation Day 10
Sunday , February 1st
Antarctica Day 1

At the start of this section I must say that Antarctica is an amazing place. A person has to experience it to be able to make that statement. If you want to see wildlife (whales, penguins, and some birds, there is not much else), then you can almost guarantee you will see them here. This is mother nature at her undisturbed best. Since the predominant colour scheme here tends to be white with greys, blacks and some blues I decided not to give these pages any background colour.

The ships visit to Antarctica took us to the only part where you can see land. This is the Antarctic Peninsula during the Antarctic summer. The rest of Antarctica is covered with snow or glaciers year round and land is never seen. At the South Pole the ice is 2 miles (about 3K) deep. Interestingly, this is a very dry place. The average snowfall here is only 6 inches a year. The only difference here is that most of the snow that falls here never melts and has been accumulating for millions of years. That last comment was made by the Ice Pilot at a recent review we had of what we did here.

I have a map that shows the route we took but I have no way of putting on this web page at present. The map I have been using does not have enough detail, so I will briefly describe where the ship is. I hope to be able to add a better map once I return. The ships route was to Dallmann Bay, which is on the north side of the peninsula. The major land mass here is Anvers Island. This area is known as the Palmer Archipelago. If you look at a map of the Antarctic Peninsula and find where the Antarctic circle crosses the peninsula, look about 1/3rd of the way up the north (may be northwest) side and that is roughly where the ship is for today and tomorrow. We go further northeast after that.

Here is the map promised after my return. There are several more below showing the route as the day progressed.

The first sighting of the land mass of Antarctica was around 6:00AM. The weather was low clouds but fairly good visibility with the temperatures in the low 30s F or approximately 1 or 2 C. Sunrise times were approximately 4:30AM and sunset was approximately 10:30PM. It was only totally dark for an hour or two. There was a cool wind that created some wind chill especially on the bow of the ship and was worse the faster the ship moved in just about any direction but mainly forward. Here are some of the pictures of the first I saw of Antarctica.

1st Picture of Antarctica
My first view of Antarctica.
There were a few people out on the bow to witness the event.
These two pictures were taken just after 6:00AM.
Scenery 1
Scenery 2
A couple more early views of Antarctica.
 

There is much scenery to view and abundant wildlife to see. The next group of pictures will show these things. I will try to keep them in chronological order so you can see the sights in much the same order as I did.

Scenery 3
Penguins Swimming 1
Some of the glacier like scenery that is all around you here.
This is the first of several of this type of image you will see. I have tried to pick the best examples of the many of these I have. Penguins swim like this mainly because they are air breathing and need to take breaths. This is one of the ways they do it.
Penguins Swimming 2
Penguins Swimming 3
More penguins swimming. These ones are just sticking there beaks up out of the water. Some jumped but most just dived down after this was taken. Here is another group. Some are going up, some are up, and some are on their way back down. Not bad for birds that cannot fly.
Whale & Penguins 1
Scenery 4
Here is an interesting one. A humpback whale in the foreground and a school of penguins in the background. The penguins have nothing to fear. Humpback whales do not eat penguins. It would be different if it had been a killer or orca whale.
More of that incredible scenery.
Scenery 5
Scenery 7
More of that almost surreal looking scenery off the back of the ship.
Some more scenery with some of the early icebergs. These are just pipsqueaks compared to what is to come.
Whale 1
Iceberg 1
A humpback whale doing one of the things it is known for.
Here is an iceberg framed in one of the decks of the ship.

Our first major point of interest (or stop if you like) was at Cuverville Island (see map below) where there is a huge, and I mean HUGE penguin rookery (or nesting site).

If I remember correctly the scientists think that there are close to 5000 nesting pairs here. It should be noted that penguin numbers are always expressed in "nesting pairs" which means that there are usually double the number of adult penguins stated. Mind you, at this time of year usually only one of the adults is there. The other one is out catching krill to bring back to feed the young. As most of you probably know, this is done by regurgitating the food from the adult penguin to the youngster. Apparently the adult processes it in some way to make it easy to transfer to the youngster.

One other thing of note about Penguin Rookeries. If you are down wind from one you can easily find it. The smell is very powerful. It is a combination of the penguins guano ( if you do not know what this this, think of the end result, the by products maybe, of the digestive process) and spilled regurgitation. From the smell I would suggest mostly guano.

That is enough of that. It was necessary to explain those things to help you understand what you will see in this next group of pictures. I believe the type of penguins here are Adelie (accent over the first "e"). Here are some of the pictures of this.

Cuverville Island
Cuverville Island Penguins 1
Part of Cuverville Island. The penguins are mainly on the slightly sloping area in the foreground. Hard to see in these smaller pictures but most of the black and white specks on the rocks are penguins. They are white if they are facing us and black if their backs are to us.
Cuverville Island Penguins 2
Cuverville Island Penguins 3
Here is a bit closer view. The slight red colouring around the concentrations of the birds is the guano that creates the somewhat unpleasant odour mentioned earlier. The red colouring comes from the krill that they eat.
More, just to the right of the previous picture.
They were up on the top of the hill to the right as well.
See the picture directly above.
Cuverville Island 4
Couverville Penguins 5
This is where the majority of the penguins are. This is a wider view including both of the picture above.
There are more here, further along the island.

Cuverville Island 6

The people on the bow watching the penguins.
There was a fairly major snow shower going on during the time we were here which is why some of the pictures may have spots in them.

After leaving the penguins and their odour behind we entered the Errera Channel which ends in the Gerlache Strait which we crossed heading for the Neumayer Channel.

Here are some pictures in this area. I do not think that most of these require descriptions (captions). If I think one requires one I will add it.

Scenery 8
Scenery 9
Scenery 10
Scenery 12
Scenery 13
Penguins on Ice 1
Penguins on an iceberg, probably in the Gerlache Strait.
Penguins on Ice 2
Penguins on Ice 3
More penguins having a free (but slow) ride to somewhere.
Probably hard to see, but there are penguins on the left end, the right end and a lone one right in the middle on top. I wonder if he is the lookout?
Ship & Iceberg 1
Taken through a window. It was cool out there.
One of several types of seals we saw. Do not ask me which type. It has something to do with the size and shape of the head.

Towel Penguins

Just an aside here.
The housekeeping department on the ship was having a towel penguin competition. The goal was to see which cabin steward could create
the best towel penguin. These were in the head housekeepers office ready to be put out for the passengers to vote on which one they (we) liked the best.
The vote was held and there were 3 winners. Unfortunately I do not know which 3 they were.
One of the prizes the winners got was to go on a shore excursion to see real penguins.

The pictures above give you a pretty good idea of what you see here. The variations of shapes and sizes are amazing. The pictures below show various things that I think might be interesting. At this point it is about 10:30 in the morning and we have seen everything above so far.

Here are some more from the Neumayer Channel and beyond.

N Channel Entrance
N Seal 1
The entrance to Neumayer Channel. Looks like a dead end but its not!
A seal in the channel very near the ship.
N Seal 2
N Seal 3
Smile for the camera!
If you new seals this view would instantly tell you what type of seal it is. The shape of the head is usually the most distinguishing factor.
N Channel 2
N Channel 3
PM 1
The view from my cabin window.
We passed the expedition ship Professor Multanovskiy near the end of the Neumayer Channel. This was taken through my cabin window which was fairly dirty at the time.
Port Lockroy
The is Port Lockroy, again taken through my dirty cabin window. This was either Argentinean or Chilean and is typical for the summer manned stations in this area of the Antarctic. There will be some better pictures of other similar stations later. If you are having trouble finding the buildings, they are on the right side of the shore line. There are only a couple visible. Actually there are only a few there so your likely not missing many, if you can see any of them.

The final site visited on the first day in Antarctica is a place called either Paradise Bay or Paradise Harbour. It seems to have both names. The ship traveled via the Bismarck Strait and the Gerlache Strait to get to this from Port Lockroy. We sailed in this area for two and a half hours from 2:00 to 4:30.

Here are some pictures from this area.

Paradise Harbour 2
Some of the scenery from Paradise Harbour.
More from a similar location.
Paradise Harbour 3
Paradise Harbour 4
Further in it looks like this.
A humpback whale blowing. It did not cooperate and raise its tail up.
Paradise Harbour 5
More and more scenery!
There are penguins nesting on the side of this mountain. The white there is the smelly stuff I spoke of earlier. It was not so noticeable here as there were not as many birds. The fact that it is white means these penguins are eating something different than the others which probably means they are a different type of penguin. Apparently there are 11 different types.
The Almirante Brown Argentine Station in Paradise Harbour.
There are penguins nesting in the rocks just below and around the building near the middle of the picture. If you look carefully you can see the telltale white and black spots scattered all around the rocky hill.
This station was thought to be unmanned but guess what. There are four people standing in front of the larger hut. This station is only manned in the summer time. How would you like to step out your front door and have a sight like this to greet you each day?
Across the bay from the Argentine station is the Gonzalez Videla Chilean Station. It was definitely manned as the expedition ship Antarctic Dream was there for a visit. Ship is far left centre in the picture. The Argentines and the Chileans have not been and may still not be on the best of terms with each other so it is almost funny that the two stations are across the bay from each other . You would almost think they are (or were) watching each other. Here is a closer view of the station. The passengers from the ship could be seen walking along that narrow piece of land to the right. There is a penguin rookery there and they were visiting it.
Here is a view of the Chilean Station with one of the Amsterdam's passengers framed in the rear portion of the Promenade decks (3) viewing area. As we headed out of Paradise Harbour heavy snow started to fall and this was one of the last useable pictures taken this day.

From here the ship sailed back out to the Gerlache Strait then made a right turn to go north along the strait. The ship then made a left turn to go back out the way we came in.

One of the difficulties of visiting Antarctica is that there are very strong and complex environmental requirements in place, for what I would think are fairly obvious reasons. The ship makes fresh water from sea water. The process uses exhaust heat from the diesel engines that power the ship to do this. There are other regulations that require the ship to go very slow so as to not harm any wildlife in the water. This means that the ship does need much power so there is not enough heat to create the fresh water. There was another problem which was that the ship usually pumps its treated grey water (only slightly dirty water that is used usually for washing decks and the like) into the ocean every so often. They cannot do that either. We were actually asked to reduce water use during the Antarctic part of the trip to help out with this.

The solution to this problem was to sail out to an area where they could dump the grey water. Tomorrows itinerary requires us to pickup some people from one of the US stations here which was a ways away. So we went back out to Dallmann Bay the way we came in, sailed at full speed overnight south around the ocean (or north) side of Anvers Island to get enough heat to make water, and to legally dump the grey water.

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. So, after much trial and tribulation caused due to problems with the ship being so far south, and many satellite phone calls to ESPN, we got to see the game. So, you could look out the window and experience Antarctica and look at the TV and watch the game. What more could one possibly want? (Probably many things if you are not a football fan.) There are only 1199 other passengers on this ship who can say that they did this.

Thus endith the first day in Antarctica. On to day 2 in Antarctica, Day 11 of the trip.

Started Creation: February 7, 2009 on the MS Amsterdam on the way from the Falkland Islands to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Finished Creation: February 10, 2009 on the MS Amsterdam after Buenos Aries and Montevideo and on the way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Maps added February 19, 2009 after my return home.

Last updated: March 17, 2009 1:58 PM