Penguins, Icebergs, and Leopard Seals
07 January 2015 | 65 15'S:64 16'W, Antarctic Peninsual
We have moved south to the Vernadsky research station (Ukraine) at latitude 65d 15m south, about 75 miles short of the Antarctic circle. The sea ice conditions are becoming more concentrated, and we often maneuver and plow through ice fields pushing small and occasional large blocks out of the way, especially in the Lemaire Channel, a narrow passage that funnels and traps large bergs. A fiberglass boat here would be flotsam in minutes! This will likely be our most southerly point of the journey, the ice conditions preventing much more southing. The sculpture and colors of the ice is incredible. We have seen perhaps 20 leopard seals, a sleek and spotted large seal with a toothy jaw that holds the top spot of the food chain short of the orca whale, usually napping on a small ice floe. We have walked through dense gentoo penguin colonies, where couples tend to their rock nests and incubate their one or two eggs, taking turns jumping into the sea to feed. Yesterday the win d moderated enough to launch the kayaks, which allowed us the opportunity to get even closer to the wildlife. The water is so clear we saw penguins swimming and diving deep in search of the small krill, the primary food source of the Antarctic. This morning we sat in the dinghy still strapped to the top deck and watched groups of twenty gentoo penguins feeding, their playful arcs sploshing and rippling the water's mirror surface, while the sun warmed our backs. Tonight we expect to anchor in a place suitable for camping. The temperatures hover around freezing, and it can be very cold on deck while underway, but that's where the action is. We're having a blast!