Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Antarctica, Half Moon Bay


The day begins with an early get up, however from being outside I can already tell it is going to be rewarding. The seas are as calm as can be while the air is cool and fresh.

Isolated white clouds move against a rich deep blue sky as the morning sun shines a blinding reflection on the surrounding white landscape. As if absorbing the scenery is not consolation enough, we are soon about to embark on our second Antarctic landing.

Although the first zodiac will be leaving around 6am, I am in no hurry to be first in line. I am more comfortable getting to the Mud Room after the second wave of passengers have cleared out.


Leaving On Zodiac Boarding one of the last zodiacs, we are soon crossing the open waters traveling around 20-25 miles per hour.




The cool wind whips the unzipped flaps of my parka but otherwise I am cozy for the boat ride. The zodiac produces an occasional spray as it is maneuvered, racing away from the Akademik Ioffe.

Yellow spots are spread over a bright white background as we approach our landing spot on Half Moon Bay.


HM Welcoming Here we are welcomed by Lynn our Expedition Leader and told to have a good morning while being free to enjoy the island.

I set off to join up with a few yellow spots.





HM TrekkersSnow Trekking On Half Moon Bay


For the most part,  I am fortunate that a trail has already been made in the fresh and mostly untouched snow. An occasional misstep and I find myself sinking up to my knees in fresh powder.



Knee Deep At first, this is fun then it becomes exhausting. I quickly learn to stay on the beaten path as much as possible.

A bright sun warms the clear air and ironically I am almost beginning to break out in a sweat on Antarctica.




As if to keep my expectations in line, gray clouds in the distance are producing snow showers on a nearby island. The winds are kind enough to send a few flakes our way.



Hiking To Camara Our walk this morning will take us on a semi circle tour of Half Moon Bay.

At the midpoint we will make a brief stop at an abandoned Argentina Research Center.





HM Curios Seal Along the way we pass seals basking in the sun and groups of  penguins wearing helmets.








Serious Chin Strap Chin Strap Penguin



On the waterway next to the island, kayakers from the Ioffe are taking in another view of the stunning scenery.



At Camara With Stuffed Friend By the time I reach the Argentina Research at 62 South, 59 West, I am exhausted.

I can’t seem to avoid frequently sinking up to my knees in snow.



However, there is a reward in climbing up a snow hill, I get to go down it, sliding on my butt. Now, that was fun!



HM Beach Pebbles A short trek across more snow and I am listening to the sounds of gentle crashing waves on a pebble covered beach.




I can feel the beach pebbles beneath my insulated feet as I walk along the water's edge.  An iceberg or two drifts slowly in the nearby bay.




HM Blue Ice Berg Iceberg In Half Moon Bay



A quick commotion and a few tails break the water surface then a black and white body emerges a couple of feet from me. Standing still, I watch.


HM Emerging Penguin Not finding too much of interest, it's a brief visit then the cute black and white creature makes a graceful return to the sea.







Singing Chin Straps Chin Strap Tabernacle Choir




Penguins On The Rocks Enough of walking, I spend the last of my time on Half Moon Bay sitting on the snow half way between the waterfront and a colony of penguins on a hill above me.




I watch as a few of them take a ritual walk up and down the hill. Sometimes solo, sometimes in pairs.



Dirty Chin strap Going downhill, most of them are dirty from standing in penguin orange-red poop which comes from eating krill.






HM reflecting Chin Strap Returning they smell like roses.

A  few of them come back carrying pebbles from the beach below.

These are used for nest building.



I know there is more of Antarctica for us to experience but it is so comforting here that our 9:30am last zodiac departure seem to come too quickly.




HM LandscapeHillside View from Half Moon Bay




Representing Gator NationI reluctantly make my way down to the zodiacs while looking forward to our next landing.

I am told this will be on Deception Island later this afternoon.





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