After a brief time on shore and a quick visit to Tierra Del Fuego National Park on Thursday morning, I am back at sea – this time not horizontal in my bunk and with all my luggage on board. I have never been so happy to see my own underwear in my life, not to mention the snowshoes.
We are heading south again, but this time even further south than before. We hope to get to Marguerite Bay and a few areas near Rothera, a British Antarctic Survey base. Our Captain feels that this area of the peninsula is now like what the northern part of the peninsula was like 20 years ago. Abundant krill, ice, and wildlife. I hope his prediction comes true.
To get to this part of the peninsula requires two full days at sea and we are now starting our second (12/13/08), just west of the South Shetland Islands. We have been observing numerous Black-browed Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, and Cape Petrels following the ship. Yesterday there were many Blue Petrels scattered across the waves. I got a quick look at one Light-mantled Sooty Albatross yesterday and there were also a few Gray-headed Albatross, presumably Antarctic Prions (I need to consult some additional resources and my photos on that one), Southern Fulmars, and Wilson’s Storm Petrels around. It is a real pleasure to watch the albatross cruising above the waves. They skim over the tops of the waves, pitch up slightly, tip one wingtip towards the water and pivot over the wing to head off in another direction. Occasionally they rise higher above the waves before gliding back down to start all over again. Often they preen or scratch themselves at the apex of their pitch. The Cape Petrels are also fun to watch. They are much more maneuverable and speedy than the albatross, darting over the waves and up alongside the ship, often only feet away, glancing at me, then back to the water, looking for anything near the surface to eat.
The Humpback Whales are also making their way south and this morning we observed a few of them heading across the Drake Passage as well. There were a couple of breaches in the distance and as I was typing this sentence, we found another group of Humpbacks on the horizon.