Archive for November, 2012

Antarctica, early season

Posted in antarctica, penguins, photography, sea kayaking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 25, 2012 by polarguide

I Just flew in from Argentina.  I made it home to Juneau, Alaska around 10 pm November 22nd, thanksgiving evening, after completing the first voyage of the season to Antarctica.  The voyage ended on the 20th of November but Argentina was in the midst of a national strike and all the airports were shut down.  I finally made it to the airport on the afternoon of the 21st. After twenty five hours of flying and over thirty five hours of travel (including layovers) I was blown into Juneau by the seasonal Taku winds at 10 pm, late for thanks giving dinner.

Our Voyage began on November 8th with a two day crossing of the Drake passage. The Drake passage is a five hundred mile wide body of ocean that separates Antarctica from south america, it is famous for foul weather.  The Drake lived up to her name on our two day sail south.  We encounted winds in access of thirty five knots and seas over five meters high. Not the most comfortable of crossings but it does make for some great birding and bird photography as the petrels and albatross love to surf the wind over the swells. Capturing birds in flight over a stormy Drake passage has become one of my photographic obsessions.

Pintado Petrel over the Drake passage

It is early spring in Antarctica and the weather was a dominating factor in deciding our itinerary.  Temperatures remained well below freezing for the entire journey and we had to dig our Zodiacs out from beneath several inches of snow each morning.

Regardless of the weather we were able to complete all but one of our excursions off the ship. In fact it was the perfect weather for skiing and snow shoeing given the amount of fresh snow that fell each day, although it did make kayaking a-lot more challenging. Fortunately we had a hearty group of adventures on board who were ready and willing to face the elements.  They didn’t travel to Antarctica expecting sun and palm trees, after all.

The ocean temperature was so cold that the falling snow failed to melt and accumulated on the surface of the water.  The kayakers were paddling through two inches of slush while snow piled up on the decks of their kayaks.

The continent of antarctica is beutifull this time of year.  The penguins are just retuning and havn’t had time to foul the pure white snow to a muddy shade of guano red.  They are coming home after a long winter at sea and its facinating to watch them exit the ocean and climb the steep snow banks of the beach to return to their nesting sites. Once there mates greet each other with ritual dancing and braying, they squabble over nesting sites and then mating begins.

Copulating Gentoo penguins

The weather conditions didn’t allow much opportunity for photography.  I shot less than five hundred photos on the entire trip, most are not worthy of sharing.

I will be home in Juneau until December 2oth, I will return to Argentina on December 28th to board the ship again for more Antarctic adventure. I will remain on-board the ship until March 27th.