Back to finish up my blogging series about our trip to Antarctica...that I started last year... :)
After spending the entire previous day crossing the Drake Passage, we were a little disappointed to wake up the next morning still seeing only water again. We still had several hours to go before arriving in Antarctica.
But oh, what beautiful water! Such brilliant colors of icy blue. We were surely getting close...
Finally in late afternoon we spotted the beautiful white cliffs we had come to see...
The South Shetland Islands, our first stop in Antarctica.
Rescue/research stations from different countries like this are scattered along the Antarctica shoreline. We never saw any that actually had human beings there at the time.
Those little specks along the seashore were our first real sightings of penguins! Too far away to get a decent photo, but not to worry...we would see PLENTY in just a few hours.
We spent the afternoon sanitizing ourselves and all of our equipment before landing in Antarctica. There are strict protocols that any visitors to the white continent have to follow, one of which is to prevent contamination of this pristine natural environment. The Explorer crew helped us wash down our boots, waterproof pants, and parkas with antiseptic solution. And all velcro closings were inspected for a stray seed or grass or any environmental particle. Nothing that is not native to Antarctica is allowed. It was quite the intensive process and took a couple of hours for all the onboard guests to pass inspection.
It was after dinner, about 9 pm, when we finally got off the Explorer and into the Zodiaks for our first Antarctica excursion. But in Antarctica this time of year, it doesn't get dark until about 11 pm, so even though the light was fading we were eager for adventure.
This was our welcoming committee...
A small group of gentoo penguins...
They were not scared of us in the least and pretty much ignored our presence. Since we were only the second tour ship to sail south since the pandemic started, these particular birds had likely not seen any humans for at least 2 years or perhaps ever.
We walked up the hill to get a closer look.
A huge colony of chinstrap penguins (perfect name, don't you think?)...over 2000 nesting pairs make their home in this spot!
The males were busy making the nests out of rocks for their ladies. This guy was picking up rocks in his mouth, hopping over the rocks to his nesting site several yards away, and coming back for more. A nice cozy place to lay your egg...on a rock nest in freezing temperatures....
All around us, the nest-building was happening. The penguins were oblivious to us, focused on their task at hand.
"Anything for you, my sweet lady!"
Penguins, penguins everywhere!
And where there are thousands of penguins, there is inevitably plenty of penguin poo.
The chinstraps were very comical to watch, but hard to photograph as the light was quickly fading.
But at long last we were so thrilled to be here!