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  • Carol Mckee

Penguins + Seals + Whales Oh My!

Penguin Island #1 of many on this trip was a bonus stop since we crossed the Drake Passage so quickly. When we got there is was windy and we had to wait while waiting to see if the wind would calm down enough to allow us to land. But when it did everyone was pretty darn excited for our first landing. But more on that in a minute, so let's take a penguin break!

While waiting on the wind we went to the observation lounge, and learned more from an expert about what we would see. Including trying to spot the first iceberg over 5 meters contest. Which of course was won bey one of the naturalists on board! No prize just bragging rights!

One of the best things about having these subject matter experts on board was also that several expedition leaders who where Marine Biologists were in the lounge looking to spot whales as well. They could recognize what breed of what we spotted just by looking at the part of the what that was above the water which is usually the fin of the whale. Different whales have slightly different shaped and located fins. Credit for the chart below to the Smithsonian Institution - I found it pretty useful to see the whole whale instead of just the part sticking above the waves.

As a result of this expert knowledge we saw Humpback, Finback whales and Minke whales. Finback whales are the second largest of the species behind only the Blue whale in size. Spotting whales with people that know what they are doing and can tell you about them is really the most excellent way to go. And for those that wanted to indulge (we did not) there was a cocktail waitress in the lounge as well. As we got closer to the island group we spotted feeding penguins. They dive in and out of the water like porpoises and it's a blast to watch them fly through the water all sleek and fast when they are so darn awkward on land. And we spotted them on land as we pulled into the Southern Shetland islands.

Lucky for us the wind died down from 60 knot to about 30 knot which allowed us to land. Still windy though.

On the island we got to see the male penguins grab a rock from the beach and then trudge their way up the cliff to the nesting spots so that their pebble could be added in as part of the nest.

We also saw some fur seals lounging around the beach and in general looking bored with our arrival.

Just across the way we can see lots and lots of glaciers. There are so many glaciers in Antarctica that they do not all have names and are not all of them are even discovered yet.

So we have now officially set foot in Antarctica (well one of her islands actually). Actually not a stop planned for the continent until tomorrow). But we have a whole week down here before we have to head back across the Drake and then eventually home.

Of course our first sight of penguins and all the wildlife on this day was a blast. This picture below makes me think of that thing all parents say to their kids: If your friends jump off a cliff would you do that too? If you are a penguin the answer is yes : )

While this was a Chinstrap penguin colony there were a few other types we spotted. Below a Macaroni penguin seems a little puzzled as to how he is so far from his colony.

And this Chinstrap penguins seems to be telling the Gentoo penguin GET OFF MY LAWN!

I kept saying pinch me! I sometimes feel like the phrase trip of a lifetime sounds like too much of a cliché, but this really is indeed the trip of a life time!

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