Jan 21, 2012
Mar 16, 2012
. The bright red buildings stand out against the gravel at the edge of the glaciers and snow-covered mountains and we could see people walking around. Beside the station, there is a large colony of thousands of Adelie Penguins. They were easily spotted because the rocks and glaciers they live on are covered by bright pink poop because their diet is almost entirely krill (tiny lobster-shaped and colored crustaceans).
We left Hope Bay and continued southwest along the Trinity Peninsula where we saw all sorts of sea birds (albatross, petrals, skuas and gulls) as well as occasional sea lions and Gentoo penguins hanging out on little ice bergs. The many small icebergs are gorgeous shades of blue and green just above and below the water line and fantastic shapes carved by wind and waves. Although there were several sightings of breaching whales I missed every one! I did take pictures of petrals, cormorants, and gulls.
After leaving Stanley we headed south toward Antarctica, the coldest, driest, windiest, and highest continent. It is nearly twice the size of Australia, but 98% of it is covered by ice averaging at least one mile in thickness! It has no permanent human inhabitants, language, or government (although sections are claimed by various countries), and all attempts to exploit it seem to have been halted by international agreements. We saw the northern-most island, Elephant Island, early in the morning and continued south through Prince Charles Strait toward Hope Bay. It was bitterly cold with a strong wind so most people watched our progress toward the frozen continent from inside, only braving the decks when the temptation of photo ops became too great. It is hard to remember that this is the peak of their summer! We sailed toward the Weddell Sea where Shackleton's ship, the Endurance was trapped in the ice in 1915. We circled Hope Bay, sailing past Esperanza Station, an Argentine research facility at the foot of Mt Flora