As we departed for Devil Island, I was still amazed by all of the icebergs we encountered in the ocean – big and small. I had no idea how the captain was going to get the ship around them, but he did it and did so masterfully. We were told he was one of the best in the Antarctic and I was really glad to know that he was in command.
Sailing to Devil Island was beautiful: the Weddell Sea has many small islands and combining that with the ice just made for a really scenic voyage.
As we sailed along, I started noticing little black and white specks on the icebergs moving. I pulled out my Nikon D3 with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G zoom lens and Nikon TC-20E III Teleconverter – and saw this little guy in my viewfinder:
Lo and behold, this was our first Adélie Penguin. There are only two Antarctic species of penguins and the Adélie is one of them (the other is the Emperor Penguin). They need the ice and of course, Antarctica has plenty of it.
I noticed as the ship passed by the icebergs, the penguins would run around frantically. It must be frightening seeing a massive ship come close to you when you are only 50 to 75cm tall!
As we got closer to Devil Island, the light started getting quite dramatic. It was beautiful and I was hoping that the incoming storm was not going to prevent us from landing. I just took it all in and captured a few more images.
Devil Island was named by the Scandinvian explorer, Nordenskjold, for the two “horns” (hills) at either end and it is the nesting grounds for about 8,000 Adélie Penguins.
Speaking of penguins, just after landing on the narrow beach (filled with ice), this little guy in the next image came tearing past me:
The Adélie’s were quite skittish and kept their distance from us, so I did not expect to have any close encounters with them. They are quite playful, especially with each other and it was great to observe them.
Unfortunately, when a penguin leaves their nest, one of the scavengers (like a Skua) will often try to steal the egg (or sometimes, kill a young chick). It is for that reason we needed to stay at least 10m from the nesting penguins as we did not want to scare away the parents – thus leaving their young vulnerable to any predator.
The following egg illustrates this well:
We prematurely headed back to the ship as the weather (and tide) was coming in quickly so the captain wanted to set sail for calmer waters. Here is the Ocean Nova waiting patiently for us in the bay.
After we sailed for a few hours, we anchored in calm water. Tonight, we were going to have the “Polar Plunge” – meaning exactly that. If you were
crazy brave enough to jump into the ice cold ocean water, you were rewarded with a shot of vodka (to warm you up) and you could tell all of your friends you went swimming in Antarctica. You had to wear a life jacket and were tethered so you were perfectly safe – you would just freeze your butt behind off.
Salt water freezes at -1.9C (because of the salt) and this water was very close to that. Makes taking a cold shower seem so much easier.
About a third of the passengers (plus a few crew members) took the plunge. There was no way
in hell I was going to do that – I just contently watched from the deck (in my parka – and I was still cold) as I sipped my Heineken…
We are expecting some “typical” Antarctic weather tomorrow which should make our next landing at Paulet Island really interesting!
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