20 November 2009

Towards conclusion

Today is our final day in Antarctica. As advertised in the previous
post, we got up at 05:00 and went ashore to yet another Gentoo penguin
colony. I had my doubts about going this time. There are limits to how
many ways one can photograph a penguin. Or more penguins. We got the
full reportoire a long time ago already; fighting Gentoo penguins,
courting Gentoo penguins, mating Gentoo penguins, swimming Gentoo
Penguins... Closeups, group shots, animal-in-environment shots, you name
it. The Gentoos are ubiquitous; we have encountered them at nearly every
landing site on the Falklands, South Georgia and around the Peninsula.

Yet, Neko Harbour turned out to offer some unique possibilities. The
rookery is situated right beside a glacier, on a moraine ridge that has
quite deep snow all the way down to the beach. There are only a few
places where the penguins can actually get in and out of the water, and
at times there is a lot of bird traffic coming past. It was a treat to
just sit down and watch them transit from one element to another. I even
remembered that my camera has video capabilities, and did some
recordings. Not fit for public scrutiny, though. Don't expect to see any
videos posted on this blog.

Breakfast was waiting when we got back to the ship. Then we sailed
through another narrow stretch called Gerlache Strait, to make the final
landing at Cuverville Island. Access to the beach was blocked by ice,
however, so the guides made an ad hoc decision to go for another zodiac
cruise among the intensely blue icebergs. As we cruised along the stony
shore of Cuverville Island, past yet another Gentoo penguin rookery, we
noticed that there were unusually many birds in the water, swimming
together like a swarm. When at the surface they made the water boil. As
if on cue, they would all disappear, and resurface some distance away.
We paused to look at this for a while, and suddenly the cause of their
behaviour emerged. A leopard seal was hunting along the beach. The seal
got curious about the zodiacs and checked us out.

By fortunate accident, my 77mm polafilter is stuck in the thread of my
14mm lens at the moment. I had decided I wanted to use a polariser for
pictures of underwater ice, and so the 14mm was mounted on one camera
instead of the more general-purpose DA* 16-50mm. For the Leopard seal
encounter the 14mm was a better deal. That's how close we got.

Fantastic experience.

At the moment we're leaving Antarctica for the Drake passage. We have
been told to pack away all loose items and apply remedies for
seasickness as needed; it seems we're in for some rough weather towards

Indeed, I had to enter the bridge to post this, that's where the
satellite connected computer is, and I don't wish to do that again in a

Unless I get some idle time in either Ushuaia or Buenos Aires, this will
probably be my last blogpost until getting back to Norway. It's been
three amazing weeks. So many amazing places, and so many nice people.

Truly a fantastic experience.


Boris said...

Wonderful story about wonderful journey, my friend. I am looking forward to seeing pictures and reading of your writing. You're actually very good at it, if you did not know that already ;-).

Anonymous said...

You’ve really managed to describe it all well. One of the best Antarctica expedition explanations that I’ve come across.
Looking forward to your pictures using the polarisation filter.

I was on a cruise in Caribbean, when was hit by category 5 hurricane Wilma. Having been on the boat for some time, one had gotten used to the rocking about, so that really helps when it comes to seasickness. Just important to have some calmer days to start out with

Alunfoto said...

Boris and Sune,
Thanks for the compliments on my writing! That was very much unexpected, and all the more warming.

You endured a cat-5 hurricane without getting seasick?!? You have my deepest respect! Our crossing the Drake passage without any symptoms probably proves your point about adaptation in calm seas, but you still have my respect! :-)

Anonymous said...

I would not say that I felt particularly brave when it was taking place.
Being on a ship, you can sail away from the direction a hurricane is taking, so you feel more of the outer areas. Hurricanes aren’t moving that fast, they are just big. Moving maybe 5 miles pr. hour, but locally when they hit of course their winds are very strong. (Don’t know if it makes sense).

A lot of the crew got sick, and they closed the swimming pools, since the water was moving a lot around. But it was a big ship, so all in all it didn’t feel that bad. I wouldn’t consider myself strong at sea. My father on the other hand, felt that it was comfortable with the rolling, it made him fall fast asleep :-0

I like the term that you mentioned : “skogsmatros" :-)

You wrote :
“Tomorrow we will rise at 05:00 for another landing on the Peninsula, so
I better get this posted and hit the pillow. It's 21:15 ship time, and
I'm just about finished taking backup of the afternoon's 700 images.”

How many images did you on average take a day; 1.000 ?

Alunfoto said...

It's a bit unfair to average across all days since there was much less activity while at sea. I think I took about 10.000 exposures in total. Bit difficult to say, actually, because I've deleted a fair amount already. I think I might have shot up to a thousand on the most productive days.