Antarctica – 12/23 – Paulet Island & Joinville Island

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Today we made our way further into the Weddell sea to our morning destination of Paulet Island.  Paulet Island has an huge colony of Adelie penguins.  Over 100,000… penguins as far as the eye can see… and the smell to go with it.

Massive Colony of Adelie Penguins on Paulet Island

Paulet Island Panoramic Landscape

As with most days they split us up so some went on a Zodiac tour while the others went on land.  We went on the Zodiac tour first and got some great penguin shots.

It’s very hard to get a picture of a penguin jumping into the water…

Adelie penguins lining up to jump into the water

…but its darn near impossible to get one jumping out of the water.

Adelie penguin jumping out of the water onto an iceberg

Another one of the many nice touches that Lindblad does is the Hot Choco Zodiac.  We were out and about enjoying the scenery and taking pictures of penguins when our Zodiac driver asked if anyone wanted hot chocolate.  We turned around and saw this.  A very nice treat on a cold antarctic day.

Hot choco zodiac

The Brown Skua is a nasty little bird.  It is especially fond of young penguin chics and is really very skillful when working in pairs to catch one of the young chics.  One Skua usually distracts the parent while the other one goes in for the kill.  This Skua was just finishing off a penguin.

Skua eating a penguin

The penguins are obviously very wary of Skuas as you can see here.  He quickly ran away after seeing this guy even though the penguin was way to big for him to eat I don’t think he wanted to take any chances.

Penguin scared of Skua

One of my favorite birds is the Sheathbill.  This bird really does eat everything including invertebrates, dead seals, chics, eggs, and even feces.  The last of which has earned this bird the nickname of “shitbill”.

Sheathbill aka "shitbill"

We spotted a lot of different birds today.  Another beautiful bird is the Northern Giant Petrel.

Northern Giant Petrel

Wildlife photography isn’t the only reason to visit antarctica.  The landscapes are amazing.  You need to be careful not to get what people call “penguin tunnel vision”.  Take the time to look up and take in the surroundings.  Even put the camera down… at least for a minute because you don’t want to miss panos like this.

Weddell Sea Panoramic

But dont forget about the details.  Some of the most amazing shots can be found when you get up close.

Icicles

Below is the remains of the Nordenskjold Swedish Expedition from 1901 – 1904.  This is quite an amazing story.  You can get a brief  synopsis of their story on wikipedia.  It’s amazing that we are now able to travel to Antarctica without any of the hardship these explorers faced just 100 years ago.

Remains of the 1901-1904 Swedish Antarctic Expedition

After our visit to Paulet island we headed toward Joinville Island.  We had a choice to go ashore and do some hiking on Joinville island or go kayaking.  We choose kayaking.  It’s an amazing feeling to be kayaking so close to icebergs, penguins and seals and then to realize that you are actually in Antarctica.  A very peaceful afternoon.

Kayaking at Tay Head

After we finished kayaking at Tay Head we had to start heading back through the Antarctic sound and towards the western side of the Antarctica Peninsula.

On the way back we had another spotting of Orcas.

Pod of Killer Whales in the Weddell Sea

Orca bubbles

It’s hard to understand the scale of the things in Antarctica.  Even being there doesn’t really help you understand.  This tabular iceberg was probably taller than a 30 story building.  Even having the two Killer Whale fins in the foreground can’t show the true size of the iceberg.  The real amazing thing is the over 70% of the iceberg is still underwater.

Tabular Iceberg with Killer Whales

Daily Expedition Report by Karen Copeland and a few more pics after the break.

Today’s Daily Expedition Report by Karen Copeland.

Paulet Island & Joinville Island, Antarctica

Early morning and the clouds sat low on the horizon truncating the world around us, creating a panoramic view. Dundee Island blended with the sky except for the fractured face of its ice cap that formed a frill at the base of the misty white curtain above. The whole scene seemed two dimensional, like a painting with a band of dark water and splashes of white ice. It is hard to say at what point we became incorporated into this tranquil scene. Maybe it was when the dark ovoid shapes scattered about became rafts of snorkeling Adélie penguins. Can they really peer into the depths and know just when to dive in pursuit of food? Or maybe it was when the water took on a cross-hatched texture like a basket weave and the penguins became white torpedoes beneath the surface. Paulet Island, patterned in black and white as checkered as a pintado’s back, drew us forward. Ice floes bearing penguins by the dozens embraced our hull and we became participants in this new world.

Penguins on ice had to be the theme of the morning. Although we strolled the rocky shores of Paulet’s volcanic cone and stood to watch Adélie chicks snuggle beneath their parents, the blue and fanciful shapes of icebergs large and small were really the draw. Well, that might be an exaggeration for it was the cargo they bore that we couldn’t stop watching. Gangs of penguins raced in panic as their personal floe broke apart. But they were skilled and found a hold just as the ice readjusted to its new center of gravity. One could almost hear the words “busy, busy” as a hundred thousand penguin parents commuted to and from the sea toting food for growing chicks and sharing responsibility. A few found themselves delayed. Sadly we found their plight quite humorous. How does one get down from a very tall berg when it is stranded on the shore with no water lapping at its side to safely break the fall? The architecture of their ever changing icy world was as variable as the most modern city although all was decorated solely in shades of blue and white. Flat floes were the means of transport bearing these urban dwellers. Borne on fast moving currents the black and white riders became as blurred as faces in a subway window. Blue-eyed shags flew low like jumbo jets coming in for a landing. Hungry chicks and waiting mates greeted them boisterously.

Not far away Joinville Island could be found, another icy mound but with an inviting prominence and a sheltering bay. Here on Tay Head there was quietude. On land, Weddell seals by the dozens slumbered, singing in their sleep. Open empty spaces pulled us inland to climb a rocky headland or to simply meander about. Adélie penguins dwelt here as well but in hamlet sized numbers only and life somehow seemed just a little mellower. Between the scattered floes and bergs, rafts of yellow kayaks drifted seeking solitude.

Tonight we leave the Weddell Sea and the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, a new phase of our adventure begins.
by Karen Copeland

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