Weather: In the Drake Passage the swells were down and the voyage very comfortable; cloudy and misty at times, but overall a good day for the first shore excursion.
The relatively calm night gave way to equally calm conditions during our final run to the South Shetland Islands. We had the biosecurity check for landing on the Antarctic Peninsula, and while half were dealing with that, Peter gave his talk on the discovery of Antarctica “Ice Ageless. Search for the Continent” which was enjoyed by everyone. Then the call went out that orcas had been seen in the distance and although they did not reappear, a fin whale came by on the starboard bow and, judging by the circular flat water areas, two of them passed down the starboard side without being seen. The biosecurity check for the other half of us was conducted and Peter repeated his presentation for the first biosecurity group. And about the same time, we saw the first penguins porpoising in the sea, as well as icebergs in the distance. We had made excellent time crossing the Drake Passage, and so we could have an opportunistic shore landing in the afternoon.
Over lunch, land came into view and soon thereafter we came through the narrow channels into English Strait, and turned to anchor off Barrientos Island. With ninety-nine guests on board, we have the magic number that allows all of us to go ashore at any one time thus giving us much more time to enjoy every landing we will make. Barrientos Island has many Gentoo and Adelie penguins and we could observe the differences in nest building habits, Gentoos building bigger and higher stone nests, and behavior, the Adelies being far more raucous. Most of the penguins had chicks that look to be about a month old. A blue-eyed shag greeted us on landing, and white sheathbills and brown skuas were everywhere amongst the rookeries; the occasional Kelp gull and Giant petrel flew overhead. Some of us observed nature ‘in-the-raw’ when a pair of skuas took a penguin chick. Three young elephant seals were lying up on the west end of the beach, occasionally scratching behind the ear, but otherwise just opening an eye to see what was going on.
At Briefing & Recap Robin told us about tomorrow’s landings at Devil Island and Brown Bluff. Claudia took questions that were referred to the staff, and then she gave a brief presentation on the dynamic soaring of albatrosses. Will discussed Cape petrels, and Fritz talked about elephant seals. And then to dinner.