Antarctica – 12/22 – Brown Bluff: Weddell Sea

Panoramic photo from Brown Bluff

Everyday in Antarctica keeps getting better and better.  Penguins, icebergs and the most amazing sunset (at 11:30pm).

Up close with an Adelie

The light during our landing at Brown Bluff wasn’t the greatest for photographing penguins.  It was high in the sky with no cloud cover to soften it.  Just like portraits of people, penguins need nice soft light for a good portrait photo.  However, even a bad day of light in Antarctica is a better day of light anywhere else in the world.

Gentoo penguin and chic

Two Adelie penguin chics

Adelie penguin with some beady little eyes!

On most days we are treated to time on land as well as a zodiac ride.  Zodiac rides are some of the best photographic opportunities because its very easy to get eye level with wildlife hanging out on icebergs.  I took this series of shots from a zodiac and then merged them together into one photo to show action.

Adelie penguin jumping into the water

After we left Brown Bluff we continued into the Weddell Sea.  As Jen wrote in the daily expedition report below, not many ships go this far south because they can’t handle the ice and they are not fast enough to make the journey there worth while.

Reflection of the bow on pancake ice in front of the ship

We were in our cabin taking a nap when all of the sudden the entire ship shook like we just collided with something.  We quickly put our cold weather gear on, grabbed the camera and headed for the bow.  I guess our captain never watched Titanic and learned you are supposed to steer clear of icebergs.  He seemed to have fun crashing right into them.  This was going to be a common occurrence for the rest of the trip and eventually we just slept through it.

NatGeo Explorer crashing into icebergs

For us, it was definitely worth while to make the trip this far into the Weddell Sea because we saw a juvenile emperor penguin which are very hard to find out on the pack ice.

Emperor Penguin

The daily expedition report for 12/22 is by Jen Labrecque,

Brown Bluff in the Weddell Sea

The Weddell Sea, Antarctic Sound, and beyond. This morning our expedition continued in an area of the Antarctic Peninsula where many ships do not go. The eastern side of the peninsula often sees more days of sunshine and blue skies, but the sea ice and strong winds keep many ships from venturing to this side. The lure of tabular icebergs and the less explored is something many of us, however, cannot ignore, so enter the Weddell Sea we did.

The towering cliffs of Brown Bluff were the first view many had this morning. Adelie penguins and some gentoo penguins have colonized the narrow strip of cobble and beach before the steep cliffs begin to rise. Walking to the edge of the first colony of Adelie penguins, many were thrilled to see that most adults sitting in a nest had a small chick sitting underneath them. While we watched and waited patiently, the adult would eventually stand up and adjust themselves, allowing a glimpse of the small new bird keeping warm under them.

The special and rare snow petrel soared above our heads, for this is a place they like to nest. The stunning white bird is the most southerly breeding bird in the world. They tend to stay near areas of pack ice, so the chance to see so many around was exciting. The cape petrels were in abundance as well. Large flocks of them gathered in a few areas around the landing. They were feeding in groups, looking for fish, squid and the ever-popular krill.

A scenic route back to the ship brought views of deep blue icebergs, tunnels passing through them, penguins perched on top and even some collapsing and rolling. It was good preparation for the afternoon spent cruising through the icebergs and sea ice as we headed deeper into the Weddell Sea. The ship crashed its way through the ice of the far south; it rocked and shook and people delighted in hanging over the bow and watching ice floes fracture and crack into pieces. The colossal tabular icebergs could be seen in all directions as well, with sides and a top so straight that they seemed man-made.

An evening spent cruising through the ice of the Weddell Sea—who would have ever imagined they would spend such a glorious, sunlit evening doing such a thing?
by Jen Labrecque

And the night was finished off by an amazing sunset at 11:30 pm.

Sunset in the Weddell Sea

and a few more from the day.

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