The Dragon Wagon

The Dragon Wagon
The landscaping changes often.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Antarctic Adventure - Day 18

On November 24th the ship continued down the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula.  Because of how weather circulates around the Antarctic continent, the west side of the peninsula gets more moisture and therefore has a lot more snow and ice covering the landscape.

Our first stop for the day was at Orne Harbor.  Here one group of hardy hikers climbed up a steep ridge to reach a Chinstrap Penguin colony, while the rest of us explored by zodiac.

About midday, the ship started into the spectacular Neumayer Channel.

After passing through the Neumayer Channel, the ship stopped at Port Lockroy.  This is a British station that was closed in 1962 and then renovated and reopened by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust in 1996.  Port Lockroy also has a large Gentoo Penguin colony.

Navigating the zodiacs through the ice near Port Lockroy

The base was restored to look like it was, just before it was closed.

Gentoo Penguin courtship

The end goal

During the evening, the ship cruised through the famous LeMaire Channel, but the weather was overcast and snowing, limiting photographic opportunities.  Here are a couple of other ships that happened to be visiting at the same time.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Antarctic Adventure - Day 17

Because of a medical situation with one of the passengers, on November 23rd the ship headed towards the South Shetland Islands, where there are a number of research stations and an aircraft landing strip.

On the way the ship stopped at tiny Half Moon Island, one of the islands in the South Shetlands.

Argentina's Camara research station on Half Moon Island
It was unoccupied when we passed early in the morning.

The island has a Chinstrap Penguin nesting colony.  The Penguins had recently started to return for this year and much of their nesting ground was still covered by snow.

These penguins build nests out of small stones and pebbles which they bring from the beach (and frequently steal from their neighbors).

This is a short video of penguins climbing the hillside to reach their nesting grounds.

Some colorful lichens at an otherwise black-and-white location.

Later that day we arrived at the Bellingshausen Station on King George Island.  This research station was founded by the USSR and is now operated by Russia.  This is where we dropped off the passenger who would be flying home for medical treatment.

Like all Antarctic stations, this one was a long way from anywhere.

This station is known for having the southernmost Eastern Orthodox Church.

A seal watching us walk by

Right next to Russia's Bellingshausen Station is Chile's Frei Montalva Station.

The Chilean station has a few families.  When they heard we were coming, the children had a baked goods sale waiting for us!

A view of both stations from the Eastern Orthodox church

Friday, December 27, 2013

Antarctic Adventure - Day 16

On November 22, we finally got our first views of the Antarctic continent when we reached the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

In the Antarctic Sound, we passed many icebergs, including some of the large "tabular" bergs.

Some of them even had passengers.

Again conditions caused us to skip our first scheduled event, a landing at a place called Brown Bluff.  So again plans were adjusted and we sailed on past Brown Bluff.

We sailed around the tip of the peninsula and approached Duse Bay.

The captain was excited because Duse Bay was covered with "fast ice" (solid sea ice attached to the land).  The ice appeared to be in appropriate condition to allow the ship to "park" in the ice.

This is a video clip, shot from the bridge, of the ship driving into the ice.

The passengers were then allowed to disembark and walk on the ice.

A seal just "chilling out" on the ice.

This little Adelie Penguin came over to check us out.

Before getting back on ship, they put us to work!

A young newlywed couple on the ship were nearing the end of an extended honeymoon trip.  They had been taking pictures of the bride in her wedding dress at the places they had traveled.  The cold ice of Antarctica did not stop them.

For the afternoon, the ship sailed a few miles south to Devil Island for another attempt to get the passengers on shore.

But winds had pushed ice against the shore, blocking access to the land.   So the afternoon was spent cruising around the ice floes in the zodiacs, hunting for animals and looking at the scenery.

The crew stowing zodiacs in preparation for departure