Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Antarctica, Officially On The Blue Continent



Ioffe From Neko Harbor After a great zodiac tour of the area,  our landing at Neko Harbor officially places us on The Blue Continent, Antarctica.





On Blue Continent Although I have much more to experience here and else where around the globe, a part of my dream is complete.

I have now traveled to all seven continents.






The Blue ContinentThe Blue Continent



Our landing allows for a bit of snow hill hiking where we can take in elevated views of the surrounding area. The Ioffe sits anchored in the harbor below as a colony of Gentoo Penguins are squawking up a storm while standing around in guano.


Colony Landing Not to be left out a bird circles the area then lands to check out what all the fuss is about.




With warming weather, the snow is beginning to turn soft and walking off the designated path presents some problems. One of which is the creation of large deep footprints.



Walking Penguin In one of our daily meal chats, we learn these can present a dangerous task for our Antarctic friends.

Partially filling them in can significantly reduce their risk of death.





Neko Harbor Hill



Besides another series of spectacular views, this landing provides another reward for those that are a bit adventurous. Fun downhill snow sledding without the sled.



Downhill Dr. Tim leads the charge for some.

He waits half way down the hill to make sure the thrill does not stall out.




Skua Walking down the hill,  a lone skua sits along the path not bothered by a bright yellow spectator.







Leopard Seals Basking Leopard Seals




Sleeping Leo I watch awhile until it takes off in flight then I admire a few seals laying around that always seem happy to see me.






To The Ship As if being a tour guide, a penguin walks along the path ahead of us as we make our way back to the Ioffe.




I am sure it would make an excellent tour guide although we might just have a little language barrier.




Thursday, April 14, 2011

Antarctica, Neko Harbor Plus Special Delivery


Once again, it turns out not to be a bad deal being last in the zodiac queue. With only five of us in a zodiac with Dr. Tim, I have a feeling our tour of Neko Harbor will have a more intimate touch.



Neko Harbor Glacier Leaving the Ioffe, Dr. Tim sets out assigning everyone except me duties for our tour.

One passenger is assigned to look for “Minky Whales”.



Another passenger “Seals On Ice”, another “Snow Petrels” and another “Humpback Whales”. I am left alone to be “Video Man” although as a group we are all responsible for glacier watching.


Video Man Since the weather here can be so unpredictable every outing starts out with us dressing  for cold and wet conditions.




However, it is another afternoon where nature welcomes us with astonishing weather. The sun has warmed the air to the low 40’s and the wind on my face is refreshing as the zodiac accelerates across the harbor.

Although several zodiacs are navigating the harbor, the area is so huge that encounters are only by chance. We are drifting in one area as an oddly crewed zodiac approaches.



Special Delivery With a penguin on it's bow and two red-headed crew members on board we watch a bit surprised as it continues coming towards us.




We are in for a special treat. It's “Hot Chocolate Time”, with a touch of Tia Maria. Hard to believe life in Antarctica can get any better than this.

A quick Russian lesson by Dr. Tim as we sip hot chocolate and continue our tour. I don't think any of us are ready for diplomatic services yet but at least we know one word, “Spice e-ba”.

Thank You!



Curios Look Seal On Ice


One of our duties is filled as a “Seal On Ice” is spotted. This one is sleeping and Dr Tim turns off the zodiac motor and allows the water's current to pull us in for a closer look.

As we are watching, the seal becomes aware of our presence and gives us a curios “nice to see you to” look.


Frozen Obstacle Entering a bay closer to one of the glaciers, we are encompassed by ice.





The surface of the water beneath is barely visible and I have brief thoughts of trying the walking on water routine. I am saved from my idle thoughts by another seal basking on an iceberg.

Navigating from the frozen obstacles around us the next seal we spot reminds us that nature and life down here is not always so kind.


Crab Eater Seal A lone crab-eater seal is on an iceberg spotted with areas of blood.





This seal is having a heck of a time scratching an apparent wound and we are all sympathetic to it's plight.




Neko Harbor Neko Harbor Glacier


Our zodiac tour comes to an end but there is more of Neko Harbor to explore as we'll next make a landing here.





Monday, April 11, 2011

Antarctica, Navigating To Neko Harbor



Ioffe Port Stern With such nice weather it is difficult to remain inside the Ioffe.





Encouraged by the sun's warmth, I brave the occasional cold winds and capture more of the spectacular scenery here.



Glass Reflection



Close Up Reflection We enter areas where the water is smooth as glass and it seems like the Ioffe barely causes a ripple.




We are far enough away from the encompassing landscape that our presence does not disturb it’s  mirrored images on the surface of the water.



Iceberg And Glacier Amazing and colorful icebergs continue to pass us by as small groups of penguins frolic in the frigid waters below.




I am living out a dream as if I am in a National Geographic or Discovery Channel documentary.



Mirrored Mountains


I hope someone will come by soon and pinch me. I need to wake up because another zodiac tour and landing is planned at our next stop.





Saturday, April 9, 2011

Antarctica, Swimming Penguins And More Ice



Bridge And Icebergs Seeking shelter from the cold wind, I briefly enjoy the Antarctica scenery from the comfort of the Ioffe bridge.






Icebergs And Ice Huge Icebergs And Areas Of Sea Ice


The wind has increased and the surface of the water is no longer smooth as glass. Not only has the wind effected the surface of the water but also groups of penguins that are swimming of the left bow of the Ioffe. They seem to be providing us escort as the Ioffe navigates more areas of sea ice.



Swimming Pool Iceberg Passing huge icebergs and glaciers the scenery never becomes boring.





With clear blue skies and a surrounding brilliant white landscape, each distance traveled reveals more of Antarctica's pristine magnificence.



Port Stern Iceberg Ioffe Leaving Icebergs Behind








Friday, April 8, 2011

Antarctica, Smooth As Glass


Back on board the Ioffe, it is as if we are sliding across a piece of glass as we sail to our next destination. The surrounding scenery beautifully reflects off the water surface as small pieces of melting icebergs float by.


Smooth As Glass We are headed southeast and occasionally you can hear pieces of ice being crushed beneath the hull of the Ioffe.




Like the on board Zodiacs, the ship is specifically designed for operations in the polar regions. The Ioffe can easily navigate through the areas of floating ice.

The calmness of the seas is unbelievable and except for the humming of the Ioffe this offers a chance for a tranquil reflection of the beauty here.




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