Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sea and land

Our day began at sea and ended on land. This was last day of crossing the Drake Passage before we arrive in Antarctica, and the water was nice and smooth. Too bad we had fog most of the day and could not see well the approach to the South Shetland Islands. However, this helped our attention in the educational lectures we had on weather, penguins and other topics.

In the mid-afternoon, we made landfall in the South Shetland Islands, which lie to the northwest of the Antarctic Peninsula. Our first landing of this expedition cruise was to Half Moon Island, and the mist and fog, which remained for most of the late afternoon and evening, provided a perfect atmosphere for our landing. The light was also just right for good wildlife photography- bright but not harsh. The Chinstrap Penguins had begun to lay egg and local predators- the gulls and skuas- were actively stealing a few. However, there are usually so many penguins in a colony that gulls and skuas cannot have a big impact on the production of young.

Seals like to visit Half Moon Island, and we had the pleasure of observing two Weddell Seals and a young male Elephant Seal on our visit. The Weddell Seals lazed away their time but occasionally looked up to check that we were still there. The Elephant Seal landed on the beach at the end of the landing but seemed very interested in our presence on "his" beach.