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Day 5 - January 11, 2010 - Half Moon Island–Bransfield Strait

By Marylou Blakeslee, General Naturalist

Co-ordinates: 62 36’S – 59 55’W (Brown Bluff)
Weather: partly sunny

Quietly the day began. It was an unexpected quiet after days of wind and waves. This morning the sea was calm and barely a breeze could be felt. We landed at Half Moon Island on a cobble beach that rose to eroded rock pillars surrounded by Chinstrap penguins. That is where the quiet ended. Chinstraps squeak as they land on shore, they make noise at the rookery and the head-shaking squealing of their mating calls gets the entire rookery going. The 6,000 or so pairs sounded more like 60,000. Their little black strap makes them appear to be wearing a uniform. Because of this uniform, we bestow on them a certain purpose to their activity that we don’t assign to the other penguin species. They seem busier. They seem deliberate, and they are definitely more feisty.

One noticeable difference from yesterday’s rookery was the lack of guano. The trails were only occasionally pinkish-red from the remains of digested krill. I was left to ponder the abundance of that keystone species, krill, and its effect on the colony this summer. The rookery seemed busy enough with the coming and going of the penguins up the slippery slope to their pebble nests, and we did see some chicks.

The sun came and went, by the end of lunch it was out to stay. We hauled anchor and headed toward our next day’s landing sight while looking for whales. Rich Kirchner, our Expedition Leader, quickly found some humpbacks. Out on deck, I stood in the sun with everyone else as the whales surfaced and dove in the clear water with the glacier-clad mountains behind them. Cameras clicked, videos were taken and as we were about to leave, the humpback whale’s calf dove right off of our bow. I could see the green-blue color in the water from its white pectoral flippers as it dove. No one could resist the opportunity to watch the calf roll and wave its flippers, so our whale watching was extended a little bit longer.

Then we went into The Theatre for a lecture on whales in Antarctica by Fritz. The rest of the afternoon the whales came and went as we moved along toward our next destination. My lecture on ice was well received and shortly afterward it was time for tomorrow’s briefing. The days go by so quickly, it is hard to believe all that we have been so fortunate to see.

There wasn’t much time left in the late afternoon and early evening before I ‘freshened up’ to attend Captain Stahlberg’s Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party. With a British Antarctic Survey pin adorning my dress jacket I had a chance to again chat with both our new guests as well as members of Silversea’s Venetian Society of returning Silversea guests as we watched the Southern Ocean wash by, now that over half of our passage to the Antarctic Peninsula is complete.

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