While I was at Northern Voice, Pam’s final email came in:
There won’t be many photos from the Zodiac cruise through Pleneau Island, also known as ‘The glacier graveyard’. Getting from iceberg to iceberg for observation proved to be a wild ride. Wind, waves, and snow hindered picture-taking for all but those being paid to do it. The rest of us clung to the side robes with heads turned into sleeves. I suppose we learned that form of protection from the penguins.
When icebergs become grounded, it’s erosion that shakes them apart, eventually becoming ‘burger bits’. It might take an iceberg 10 years to rot. They look snowy from a distance but up close you see accumulated rocks frozen in the solid ice. We cruised through icy chunks where a leopard seal hid out and taunted Zodiacs trying to land.
The next day opposite weather in quiet, sunny Cuverville Island. We observed more gentoo penguins in a big smelly rookery. One of the guides noted that in the past 3 years, snow cover has retreated from the shore exposing sharp rocks and producing new mosses. We could hear the penguins squish as they stepped across the tour trail.
In the evening a British base commander lectured on ‘A Year in Antarctica’. He described how a particular scientific group physically and mentally handled a 12-month rotation. In addition to working in pairs, they also had to deal with personal annoyances such as soup slurping. If a coworker got the better of you, they were asked to ‘repair a meter’ in the outermost hut. (It was equipped with essential overnight gear.) When the base supply vessel returned the following year, the commander explained that, naturally, outgoing crew went through withdrawal and grief. Replacements were to allow them a few days for introspection before they left.
Our stops over the last 5 days have included Deception Island, Petermann Island, Halfmoon Bay, Paradise Bay, and Neku Harbour. We crossed 66-degrees south latitude, a joyous moment for the captain, within spitting distance of the Antarctic Circle, the furtherest south this vessel and this captain have ever been.
We’re now thinking about home. Tonight at the Captain’s farewell party ‘Las Penguinas’ my picture-taking buddies and I will reminisce about this incredible journey to the awesome Antarctic.
Pam will be back on Tuesday, and I’m hoping that her photos will be up shortly after that.