A Gentle Snowfall in Andvord Bay and Neko Harbor
Neko Harbour, Andvord Bay, Continental Landing.
Lat: 64° 50’ S, Long: 62° 32’ W
Wind: 2 Knt NE, Temp: 1° C (2 PM)
When I awoke this morning, we were once again at anchor. Moving southward throughout the night, the Ushuaia was now in Andvord Bay. A misty morning fog and low cloud ceiling cast an eerie veil over the mountains, softening the texture of the landscape. While spending the day indoors on Homeward Bound lessons, a gentle snow has blanketed nearby icebergs and certain surfaces of the ship.
I’ve had a great question about the number of daylight hours we are experiencing right now. Below is a link from the Australian Antarctic Division that will give you heaps of information on that topic. The short answer for us right now…we are not far above the Antarctic Circle, which is 66-degrees south latitude (we are currently at 64-degrees south), and we are experiencing twilight for a few hours each night. The sun never quite sets, but sinks below the horizon, and the lower atmosphere is illuminated. One of my favorite science words associated with twilight has always been crepuscular…which is a term often applied mammals, fish, and insects active during this time. We are definitely seeing mammal and bird activity with the whales, seals, and penguins (and other birds) we’re seeing at all hours.
By 3:00 pm everyone was anxious to get outside and explore. The snow wasn’t letting up as we headed to our landing spot in the bay. Visibility was limited, but once we got to shore it didn’t matter quite as much. Gentoo penguins were there as a welcoming committee, and as always they put on a show that didn’t disappoint us.
Penguins on the rocks, penguins in the water, penguins on the snow…penguins everywhere! All Gentoo penguins today! Look at the photo below…it looks like one of the penguins is headless. When they groom themselves and reach around to their back, it looks like they have no head! Crazy!
And, one curious Weddell seal…checking us out as much as we were checking him out.
Monika asked us to move up to the snow and off the beach. There was quite a bit of tidal action today, and there was the possibility of a strong surge of waves on the shore, which was why we moved off the beach. Every step I took was a mission, since I’d sink down in the deep soft snow.
The video below also shows the movement of ice (and a cute penguin).
A pair of Antarctic blue-eyed shags (cormorant) were resting on the rocks. Look carefully at the eye…it really is a nice shade of blue.
The cormorants on the rocks, the beautiful ice-filled bay, and our ship in the background!
As I’ve mentioned before, penguins are very agile in the water but look wobbly and awkward on land. It amazes me that they can climb on rocks, hop up to tall banks of snow, move adeptly over pebbles and jump up (or down) from various heights. I’ve often seen penguins trip and fall over, and when they do…they usually pop right back up again!
What characters! They create small penguin “highways” used by members of the rookery.
Right now, during the austral summer (southern hemisphere) ice is melting and we are often hearing the sound of dripping water. Strange because there is so much ice in the bay, but this can be a land of contradictions.
Some of the Homeward Bound women have been doing the “polar plunge” at various landing spots. Today was no exception. Makes for a pretty dramatic photo if you are taking a dip in the Southern Ocean with lots of ice in the background. This was a first…the first “Stormtrooper” in Antarctica!
The Stormtrooper, who will remain nameless (and has given me permission to post this!)…doing her polar plunge! Note: I am quite happy to be documenting polar plunges and enjoying the exuberance of my fellow Homeward Bounders in this activity, staying warm and dry behind the camera!
A few other brave souls decided to jump in as well.
The ship’s doctor wasn’t doing the polar plunge here…she was standing in the water to help launch zodiacs headed back to the Ushuaia. Brrr…not for me!
I haven’t yet mentioned how great the staff is on the Ushuaia. The Captain and Officers are wonderful. The crew is dedicated to our safety and comfort. They work day and night to make this experience go smoothly and we are fed very well. Snacks magically appear each day, soups are ready for almost every lunch and dinner…warming us after being out in the cold. Desserts are especially delicious. It feels so warm and welcoming here and I would highly recommend Antarpply as a tour company to use should you ever have the opportunity to travel to the Antarctic Peninsula.
During dinner tonight, a totally unexpected and rare event drew me outside to take a look. The Southern Ocean was completely calm. Not a wave in sight and flat water as far as I could see. It was unbelievably beautiful. And, when the water is this calm, reflections of icebergs and/or mountains can be quite clear.
I’ll leave you tonight with this video clip of the peaceful Southern Ocean. Not a ripple in sight, except those created by the movement of our ship. We are still working our way south. As Henry David Thoreau said, “We need the tonic of wilderness. We can never have enough of nature.” That describes how I feel here in the wilderness of Antarctica. This beautiful, serene, vast, incredible natural world surrounds us each day while we navigate the channels and bays of the Antarctic Peninsula. Thanks for continuing to share this journey with me.