Jan. 19: Mikkelsen Harbour, Trinity Island
Trip Start Jan 13, 2014
22Trip End Jan 25, 2014
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Overnight we sailed from the King George Island in the South Shetland Islands across the Bransfield Straight. It is rough open sea. We will be more sheltered for the next few days.
We awakened around 5:30 to find it foggy, overcast, 37 degrees (slight breeze gave a wind chill of 28 degrees), snow flurries, visibility of about 3 miles. MD was fighting motions sickness but conquered it with ginger tea and sweet rolls. The ship's PA system wakeup call rang at 7:00: "Good Morning Antarctic Travellers". Breakfast was served at 7:30.
At 8:00 the ship dropped anchor near Trinity Island. We were to be dressed and ready to disembark at 9:00; dressed takes on a whole new meaning here. Because of the wind, wind chill and ocean spray the proper attire consists of long johns, jeans, shirt, a couple of coats and then water resistant outerwear. High top boots are worn over liner socks and insulated socks. Most people wear a scarf, hat, wicking gloves over warm gloves, or mittens, and the waterproof gloves for the time in the Zodiac. The order is important so you don’t have to redo anything.
We took the zodiacs to Mikkelsen Harbour, about a mile in. It took us about 10 minutes to make the trip. The weather was grey, foggy, and raining snow. We wore our yellow lenses in our sunglasses instead of the dark ones. Our cameras had on their “raincoats” (ziplock bags).
There is a procedure for getting in and out of the zodiacs. The driver is the boss (Captain) and tells you what to do (get up, get out, sit, etc.). There is someone at the front to help you in and out of the rubber boat, and you sit on the side backwards, and swing your feet across to the inside and slide toward the back so others can get in. Reverse to get out. The ocean can be wavy and splash salt water inside, and you can get wet! Your feet usually land in 6-10” of ocean water.
We arrived on the “beach” or rocky shoreline, and were greeted by colonies of Gentoo penguins!! These penguins are about 2 feet tall weighing about 10 to 13 pounds. They have a small tail that gives balance when walking and serves as a rudder when swimming. There are about 80 feathers per square inch which increases the bulk look and provided excellent insulation.
There were numerous colonies in the area with approximately 100 penguins in each
The guides made a path by stomping down the snow and ice marking a trail with red flags showing the way. Crossed red flags ( X ) meant you were not to pass. The trail wound up a two hundred foot hill, and then down to the other shoreline. At the bottom was a boat wreck, whale bones, and a dozen huge Weddell seals! We had to observe them from afar, so as not to bother them.
The trail over the hill was very treacherous. Those at the first stepped in very deep snow, and those at the end met with icy conditions. We had walking sticks (thanks Joanie), which saved us from falling several times. The walk up and back was probably a mile.
Lunch is at 12:30 and we are starving! We returned to the ship by Zodiak. The weather is improving, no snow now, sun peeking through the clouds.
The afternoon event at 3:00 pm was a two hour "harbor cruise" on the zodiacs, looking for wildlife. We were totally entertained with Minke whales, which dove around and beside and under our their own cameras clicking. They said this was very unusual! We saw heads, backs, breaching, flopping tails… one head was right at my eye level!!!! Cape Petrols followed us. We crashed through a harbor full of icebergs, and our zodiak broke the path through the ice. WE watched crabeater seals and Weddell seals sunning on the icebergs. What a beautiful afternoon!!! (see video)
We learned ice bergs with scoopy texture have "turned over." This can be dangerous for zodiaks because they create a huge wave when then flop over. Very intense blue ice bergs are hundreds of years old..
A drink at the lounge with presentation of what we saw today (the "wrap up") and plans for tomorrow…. followed by a great dinner. There are three entre choices, meat, fish, vegetarian. There is a salad bar, lots of bread choices, and dessert. Wine, beer, drinks are included. The table setting is for 5 or 6. Usually a member of the staff joins a table. We have enjoyed the communication and learning about their lives. This evening we met Filipe, age 27, from Chile. His bachelor's degree is in tourism. He spent a year in Canada learning English. In the winter season, he works in the Chilean ski resorts.
We went to bed early because we were exhausted. (9:30 pm)