Day 3 |
Jan 07, 2011

 Drake Passage and South Shetland Islands 

By by Rich Kirchner/ General Naturalist


Co-ordinates: 61˚55”S 60˚04” W
Weather: Overcast with moderate winds
Air Temperature: 34.7˚F (1.5 C)
Sea Temperature: 2 ˚C

As I headed to the Observation Lounge this morning to get some coffee and light breakfast, it was apparent that the winds and seas had dropped considerably from the night before. This was good news for the guests who had felt a little ill the previous day, out in the Drake Passage. Things were looking up!

Right at ten o’clock, the activities for the day started, and it would be a full day. First the mandatory IAATO and Zodiac briefings. Things didn’t slow down from there, the “bio security” check started right after lunch. This is a check to make sure that no one has any seeds or other organic material on their outerwear that might spread invasive plants or disease to this pristine environment in Antarctica.

While the check was going on, our Expedition Leader, Robin West, made an announcement that we had made such good time crossing the Drake Passage that we would be making a bonus landing this afternoon at Barrientos Island, one of islands in the Aitcho group in the South Shetlands. Our first chance to go ashore in Antarctica.

While we were approaching our landing sight, a large group of Humpback whales were spotted, and the Captain decided to take the ship closer and get a better look at these magnificent creatures. They were busy feeding on krill, and continued to dive near the ship and then pop back to the surface to the delight of one and all!

After about a half hour we continued to our anchorage off of Barrientos Island, and operations started immediately. Myself and the rest of the Expedition Team piled into the Zodiacs with the gear needed, and quickly headed for shore. Of course, a greeting committee of both Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins waited for us on the beach; the first penguins of the trip. The staff, including myself, led walks and interpreted what the guests were seeing as we strolled around the edges of the penguin colonies. We witnessed adults feeding their chicks, squabbles between neighbors, rock-picking and much more. Not bad for a first landing!

Soon it was time to return to the ship for the evening’s activities, “Captain’s Welcome Aboard” cocktail party, and then the “Welcome” dinner. A very full and rewarding day for our first in Antarctica!

We will have an early morning tomorrow, so time to get some sleep!