We are officially in Antarctica!!!
Last night we came up to Elephant Island where we saw a huge glacier embedded between two rocky points of the island, and huge colonies of Chinstrap Penguins! We had been warned several times that penguin colonies really smell, but though the scent was strong and pungent it was not that bad at all. The penguins were all calling back and forth to each other with a sound that reminded me of a flock of Mew Gulls calling. There were 3000 for sure, likely many more. We got to explore this area in our first zodiac expedition. Zodiacs are so much fun, and I feel perfectly safe in them. We had a Leopard Seal pop up repeatedly to check us out; it was massive! I can see now why sailors used to refer to them as sea monsters. They move in an almost serpentine manner, and have huge sleek head with jaws that can open really wide. After we saw her, another zodiac full of students had engine troubles and started drifting, so we had to go on a rescue mission. Santi (the Ornithologist and our driver) tied a rope to the other boat and slowly began towing it back. Our expedition leader, Geoff Green, met us with an empty boat so the people stranded could jump into it and they could tow the empty boat back. Quite an adventure!
We continued sailing through the night and this morning we saw our first massive tabular iceberg, and the first signs of Antarctic land on the horizon. The iceberg was guessed to be about 200 feet tall and 1km wide on our side – I can’t imagine how big it must be under the water. We got to see our first Fin Whale and Fur Seals a few hours ago. The Fin Whale is the biggest whale that can be seen aside from the Blue Whale. We went on another zodiac expedition up to the iceberg to check it out. In this area, there are chunks of ice floating everywhere. I got to see my first Adelie penguin, which was sitting on the ice all alone, as well as my first Sheathbill, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, and Southern Fulmar. Yesterday there were Prions and a single Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, but due to violent seasickness I stayed in bed and missed them. Hopefully they will show up again 🙂 Feeling way better this morning though; still really sensitive, but I haven’t gotten sick once which is a huge improvement. The water is also calmer right now. Things are just getting better and better! Also, Me and another Yukon girl will be doing an interview on CBC North (Whitehorse) from here on the ship either sometime today or tomorrow. So if you are interested, please keep an eye out on that website!
Below is a link to a radio interview CBC did with the Yukon Students