63 31.09 degrees South, 58 52.65 degrees West

Sunrise 0416, Sunset 2145

Adelie penguins chilling out on an ice berg

This morning I woke to the sight of icebergs outside my cabin window. We were entering the Weddell Sea, and seeing for the first time the great white continent of Antarctica. The quote on our day’s itinerary was apposite – Frank Worsley, captain of the Endurance, describing icebergs:

“Swans of weird shape pecked at our planks, a gondola steered by a giraffe ran foul of us, which much amused a duck sitting on a crocodile’s head…. All the strange fantastic shapes rose and fell in stately cadence with a rustling, whispering sound and hollow echoes to the thudding seas.”

You might justifiably wonder what Frank Worsley had been smoking in the captain’s quarters, but take it from me – anything you ever heard about icebergs can’t even begin to do them justice. This morning in the fitness room, as I laboured on the cross-trainer, I was pleasantly distracted from my exercise by the sight of a cluster of penguins perched atop a slanted iceberg, like a picture straight out of a National Geographic magazine. I looked across at the man on the treadmill, and he was looking and smiling too.

Penguins taking the plunge - National Geographic Explorer in the distance

Shortly after breakfast we arrived at Brown Bluff, a volcano at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, and took a walk to the top of the glacier. Shortly thereafter, I was standing on the black rocky beach near Mike Nolan, one of the resident photographers, when an announcement came over his radio that we had the option to take an iceberg tour by Zodiac inflatable boat. I didn’t need asking twice.

The tour was amazing. I never would have known ice came in so many different colours. We saw leopard seals and crabeater seals lazing languidly on flat bergs, and penguins porpoising elegantly through the water around our boat, very different from the ungainly waddling (or should that be Weddelling?) creatures we had seen on dry land. These were adelie penguins, different from the chinstraps, macaronis and gentoos that we saw yesterday, but equally cute.

Leopard seal

Just as we pulled up alongside our mother ship, the National Geographic Explorer, a huge section of ice calved from a nearby berg. The main berg, unstabilised by the loss of weight on one side, rolled with majestic slowness. The ten of us in the Zodiac gasped in awe. It was the perfect finale.

The aftermath of the breaking berg - a spreading ring of fractured ice

Other Stuff:

A slightly sombre P.S.: our tour guide in the Zodiac told us that the creatures here that feed on Antarctic krill may be at risk. Climate change has had a greater impact on the Antarctic than in other areas of the world, leading to a rise in the water temperature of one degree Celsius. It is expected that this will adversely affect the krill, with a knock-on effect on the penguins, whales, seals and fish that depend on them for their primary food source. This wonderful Antarctic world that I am only just discovering may not exist in its present form for much longer. It is changing already.

Snug as a bug in my new Explorer parka
And another gratuitous iceberg shot - just because they're pretty.

6 Comments

  • Roz, great pix! Half a lifetime ago, I read Ernest Shackleton’s “Endurance” but don’t recall the Worsley description — love it! Is that in another book, or is it in “Endurance”? Learned a new word today: “apposite.” More on the decline of Antarctic penguins, krill and other marine life at the end of this paper http://bit.ly/gn3p0N

    Best

    UncaDoug

  • Apposite was new to me too…Wonderful photos Roz, glad you are there having so much fun! Wish I were with you!! JohnH

  • the photos are breathtaking, especially the last one! 😀 I wanna go on a tour like that as well! I wanna see some penguins and especially leopard seals (because their teeth look awesome 😛 ) 

    It’s sad that just a change of one degree Celsius can affect krill so drastically. I’ve read here : http://krilloil.mercola.com/krill-oil.html that they’re the largest biomass in earth, but still, does that affect the animals that feed on them? I mean, people use them too as supplements (like I do) but they say they fish only a very small percentage to not affect the krill’s population. Maybe they should have an updated statistics on the krill’s status that also factor the climate change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.