Land Ho

Trip Start Jan 24, 2010
Trip End Feb 15, 2010

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Where I stayed
Quark's Lyubov Orlova

Flag of Falkland Islands  , West Falkland,
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

6AM wakeup call for breakfast and a mandatory briefing of the IAATO code of Conduct in Antarctica.  We are told to prepare to overnight at any landing, sleeping outside, as weather conditions change rapidly and without warning.  HMMMMM!  Zodiac safety was also covered, given zodiacs were our vehicles to our "wet landings".  We missed our first anticipated landing, due to 36 hours of rough seas.  Instead, we had 4 hours at Saunders Island, pop. 7 people, 11,000 breeding pair of black-browed albatross, cormorants and 4 species of penguins (the only time we would see the rockhopper and magellanic penguins).  The landing procedure is organized and arduous.  The 125 pax are divided into 4 groups (the krills, penguins, fur seals and whales), which are rotated so as to allow everyone first to be on shore every 4th landing.  After doning layers, waterproof outerwear, water activated life vest, knee-high Wellington rubber boots (provided by Quark), then packing gloves, camera, batteries, etc into backpack, and grabbing my cane chair, I am ready to shuffle up two decks to rinse my boots to prevent island contamination to rare and endangered flora and fauna.  Waddeling like a fully fed penguin, I got in line to walk down the gangway on the outside of the ship, to step into the waiting Zodiac on this sunny, calm and clear day.  We land on a sandy beach, barely getting wet, greeted by gentoo penquins.  Awesome!  No problem - today.

I can't believe I am here!!!!!  I am so excited!!!!!  Salisbury Plain is touted as the jewel of the Falklands, I am one of the lucky few thousand a year that every get here!!!!!   We will enjoy the experience of a lifetime at this unique place and time.  It is beautiful, sunny and warm today, and I remove my coat.

The chicks of the albatross are nesting and being fed by parents, who, if not breeding would not be on land, instead coasting in the updrafts for up to seven years as steward of the oceans.  Rockhopper penguins share the rocky cliffs, and provide hours of squaking and waddling entertainment.  The Magellanic penguins (jackass is the local term) burrow underground in the soft peaty soil, so we have to be careful not to stand on the burrows.  The wildlife don't know the rule not to approach within 5', so we are blessed with the approach of curious penguins to the still pax, allowing for exciting close encounters and moving observations and incredible photos. 

It is an unbelievable experience and feeling to live this moment.  No matter how the rest of the voyage is, this day was more than you could dream of for a perfect day in the Antarctic region.
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