I stocked up eating breakfast this morning as we headed off in the Zodiacs. The Zodiacs are amazingly stable raft/pontoon boats that are used to take trips off the ship. The tour crew (versus the Russian Crew) promptly got us all (100+) onto the zodiacs and we were off. The sea ice was everywhere and Wolfgang (the resident geologist) loved talking about the granite, the icebergs, and the erosion from the glaciers. He has an excitement in his voice that is not only for the rocks, but also for trying to get us excited about the topic. All around the Zodiac there were Penguins swimming in flocks along with an occasional seal. Wolfgang seemed to enjoy ramming the Zodiac through the Sea Ice and I dare say we all enjoyed it as well.
We were approaching the chicks and of this there was no doubt-how did I know this you ask? Well because of the smell that preceded the penguin colony by at least 100 yards. In addition to the smell, the number of flocks around all of the zodiacs grew dramatically.
We spent at least a half an hour boating around this little island, we saw penguins of all ages; not yet hatched, just hatched, a few days old, and those wandering to the water for what appeared to be for their first time, penguins just seem to not understand what they are doing sometimes! The penguins were Gentoos but there was one mature Adele penguin that was apparently standing guard over the island and also very curious about us. He finally went in the water after about 20 minutes. It is important to remember this is summertime in Antarctic and because of this the crystal desert seems to turn into a crystal beach. On the next beach after the penguins a Weddell Seal was sunning itself and from time to time would roll over to either say hi to us or work on his tan.
From this point we saw some leopard seals and penguins and birds. We were all very cold but did not no one wanted to come back in as we were having the time of our lives. But the ship had to pull the zodiacs in and head for the Ukrainian science station.
Now for those of you that know about my previous unfortunate experience, a 767 had lost one of its engines and forced a return to DC on one engine. Now it appears I have another chance to step on pseudo Ukrainian soil.
After all the zodiacs were back onboard the ship started up the engines and we started pulling out of the little bay to head back down the Lemaire. I do not kid you when I say that the next thing that happened shocked me! On an ice float, glacier ice according to Wolfgang, off the starboard side of the ship, sat a solitary Gentoo Penguin (aka Chester) he was looking directly at the ship and me – I swear I made eye contact, he seemed to be asking “where is everyone going we were having fun?”
OK – Off to buy a post card as we can leave them at the Ukrainian station for an Antarctic Post and they also stamp our passports.
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