A Beautiful Day…Don’t Let It Slip Away…

A Beautiful Day…Don’t Let It Slip Away…

Brown Bluff, Antarctic Sound, Continental Landing.

Lat: 63° 30’ S, Long: 56° 52’ W

Wind: 8 Knt S, Temp: -1° C (8 AM)

You know that feeling when you wake up and say to yourself, it’s going to be a great day?  Well, today was incredible.  Blue sky, vivid sunshine, no wind, and gorgeous scenery had arrived all at once.  While we had been freezing cold yesterday and had high winds and snow, today was the polar (pun intended) opposite.  Our destination today…Brown Bluff.  It was our first landing on the actual continent of Antarctica.  All of our previous landings had been on islands in the Antarctic Peninsula region.

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This was the scene when I woke up today!  AMAZING!  Penguins were popping out of the water on both sides of our ship.  It was as if they heralded our arrival at Brown Bluff and were sent out as a welcome committee!

Homeward Bounders were dressed and ready for the zodiacs to depart about 9:00 am and the ride to land was smooth and entertaining…penguins in the water, penguins on the shore, penguins farther up the beach, icebergs and bergy bits as far as the eye could see.  And, glaciers spilling down from the ice sheet, meeting the Weddell Sea at the edge of the continent, forming ice shelves.

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I can NEVER get tired of penguins and I hope you aren’t getting tired of them either.  Each day is a different landing and view.  Each day I see the beauty of nature and know we must work to protect it.  I am in awe of the wildlife, the giant icebergs, and the weather…we have had really awesome weather!

I walked up and down the beach, stopping often to sit on the rocks and just observe the Gentoo and Adelie penguins.  A bonus today…chicks already hatched and growing rapidly!  We have to keep our distance and be mindful that we are the visitors.  I was able to snap these photos while using my telephoto lens.

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Please look carefully at the photo below, because the adult penguin (both mom and dad sit on the nest) is feeding the chick.

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This is a good shot of the brood patch on the penguin below.  Remember, that’s how they keep the egg and the chicks warm…with their body heat.

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Compare the profile of a Gentoo and an Adelie; Adelies have the white ring around their eye, and are pure black and white. The Gentoo has the orange coloring on its beak.  Check out their feet, too…pink for the Adelie and orange on the Gentoo.  Always look for those identifying features when out watching wildlife!

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One of the funniest things penguins do is hang out in big groups near the water, and try to decide whether or not to dive in.  It looks like no one wants to go first…which I can certainly understand.  A leopard seal could be waiting for its next meal…a penguin. Our guide did spot a leopard seal today, swimming around near the shore at Brown Bluff.

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And in a flourish of squawking and flapping wings, they begin to enter the water as shown in this video below.

This Weddell seal was lounging on the warm rocks today.  Mary-Anne, from our science faculty, informed us that it was a pup from last year, so a younger adult.

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I like to zoom in on body parts, so check out the face/head and the whiskers!

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The flippers are really interesting to me…look at the way they’re designed to help this creature be an efficient swimmer in the ocean.  They often use their short side flippers to scratch themselves.

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A crabeater seal was lounging on an ice floe…that makes three species of seal in one area today, and two species of penguins co-existing on this rocky beach.  It was amazing to be sitting down and have penguins all around me.  They are curious and excitable little birds.

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Snowmelt is happening fast right now, during the quick “summer” months in Antarctica.  Days like today, warm and sunny for nearly 24 hours, increase the melting.

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The gray rock (basalt) is embedded in the tuff, which is the orange-tanish rock.  That’s from a volcanic ash flow that picked up bits of the earlier basalt as its been flowing.

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The rock formations were beautiful today, and I could easily see how Brown Bluff got its name!

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On the far end of the rocky beach, we were in close proximity to a huge glacier.  It’s bits from this glacier that had calved off (broken off) and fallen into the sea.  Enormous in both height and width, the penguins looked like tiny specks in comparison.  Can you find the penguin in the photo below?

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Noon departure time arrived and everyone agreed…we didn’t want to go back to the ship!  Saying good-bye to Brown Bluff was really hard!  That’s getting to be a pattern…shore landings are an inspirational part of each day and everyone wants to linger on.

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As we left in our zodiac, we passed one last iceberg with penguins peeking out from the top.  There were also heaps of them swimming nearby.

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Arriving back on the Ushuaia, our afternoon was packed with leadership training and our Science Symposium at Sea…quick talks from each Homeward Bound participant (not all today…spreading them out).  It’s fascinating to hear more about what each of the women in our group researches, teaches, or is passionate about, and how we can all work together.  The women on this voyage range in age and science discipline or interest, and each one brings a unique perspective to the table.  Hearing 76 Science Symposium at Sea presentations in the next two weeks will be an incredible learning experience.

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The crew fixed us a barbecue dinner tonight, and it was fun to watch them grill out on deck.  Icebergs in the background, penguins and whales spotted off both sides of the ship, and everyone just chilling out… I sometimes have to pinch myself that this scene around us is real.

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The last activity of the evening was watching a video interview with famed marine biologist, Sylvia Earle.  She’s been a positive female role model for not only me, but for women and girls all over the world. She is inspirational and her interview was filmed specifically to share with us on this voyage.  It was a great way to end an exciting day.  Here are a couple of photos of Sylvia from a few years ago…I had met her on a National Geographic weekend trip to the Channel Islands in California.

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I took time today to record a short video for Polar Educators International.  Our organization promotes polar education and connections between educators and scientists around the world.  There are webinars linking science topics and educational activities, events happening in the polar learning community, and resources for both scientists and educators.  Check out the website at:  www.polareducator.org

I’ll leave you with a great quote from Roald Amundsen from Norway…he and his men were first to reach the South Pole over a hundred years ago.  It really describes what we are seeing and also makes me realize that we are looking at places where perhaps no person has ever stepped before.

“Glittering white, shining blue, raven black, in the light of the sun the land looks like a fairy tale.  Pinnacle after pinnacle, peak after peak crevassed and wild as any land on our globe.  It lies unseen and untrodden.”  Roald Amundsen

 

2 responses to “A Beautiful Day…Don’t Let It Slip Away…

    • Thanks, Mal! There are many inspiring quotes from those early polar explorers. Imagine how difficult their journeys were a hundred years ago. The Southern Ocean is an vast, unrelenting place…filled with mysteries and beauty. I can’t imagine what their polar voyages and experiences were like back then! Have a great day! Betty 🙂

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