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Antarctica Wanderings VI – Nov 2017, “Land of Ice" part 2
Part VI of "Antarctica Wanderings" is our final chapter of our Antarctica Photo Expedition……
As the Captain gently grounded the ship a few meters from the shoreline we geared up for a very short Zodiac trip to a landing on the ice and snow covered banks of picturesque Neko Harbor. As we shed our life jackets into the bins we noticed the snow was sprinkled with sand, small pebbles and gravel. Little did we know it was sign of what was to come. Even as we moved 10 meters inland there were the signs that the debris may have come from a large wave maybe a tsunami wave from the calving of the nearby tidewater glaciers which seemed to run down every valley into Neko Harbor. We strapped our dry-bags to the bins and started our hike up the snowy trail to an overlook and a Gentoo Penguin Colony. It was sunny blue sky morning with warm temperatures in the mid 30s and no wind. As we hiked higher up the hill we shed our parkas and stashed them in a snow hole along the trail.
After landing at Neko Harbour we began hiking up to the ridge line overlooking the bay
As we hiked up we passed a series of "Penguin Highways", well worn tracks in the snow between the colony and the sea. As we hiked across the snow we needed to be careful of "post-holing" where our weight creates deep circular holes in the snow, which Penguins can fall into getting trapped.
Notice the old whale vertebrae
A few of us stopped partway up the hill to photograph the Gentoo Penguin colony, with a tidewater glacier as a backdrop
Then out of no-where there were booming thunderous explosions echoing between the mountain sides, huge cracking and sliding noises and then we saw a large section of ice was crumbling, breaking off the glacier’s face and crashing down into the bay. We raised our cameras to capture the scene and Linda pulled out her iphone for some video, but the next thing we heard were SHOUTS of “UP”, “UP”, “UP” the naturalists were yelling that we should run higher up the mountain away from the oncoming tsunami waves created by the calving ice. We luckily were fairly high up the slope well away from the crashing waves. The ship was fine, the zodiacs headed out into deeper water away from the waves. But there were a number of people exploring the Penguin colony along the shoreline. As the waves banged along the shoreline it almost seemed to be in slow motion, I looked over to the left at a small group of people down near the shoreline. As the warnings to run rang out I watched them dart and run up the hill with more than one falling down, luckily well beyond the reach of the crashing waves. Luckily no one was hurt but the waves took out over 50 life jacket as the bins got swept into the sea and the jackets started popping as the water set off their CO2 inflators. The waves slowly petered out but the rest of the morning was filled with periodic booms and explosions from avalanches and more glacial calving. Of course we were always at the ready and jumping around hoping to catch “The Shot”.
As the glacial wall collapsed into the bay a series of waves began to build creating a Tsunami or Tidal Wave headed our way on the opposite shoreline.
As the waves crashed on our shoreline our Guides and Naturalists started yelling "UP, UP, UP", instructing us to quickly move uphill away from the waves.
Wave after wave began breaking on our shoreline and washing up towards us and the Penguin colony
While we were fairly high up the slope some of our landing party was down along the water's edge and began running, falling and crawling to safety.
Even the Penguins began running inland and uphill. The zodiacs moved into deeper water away from the waves
Once the Tsunami was over the once clear bay was covered in ice. As we were leaving Neko Harbor later that day there was another large calving and Tsunami although we were all safely aboard the ship
Neko Harbor Glacial Calving and Tsunami. Click above photo for our video:
After all the excitement we continued our hike up the slope, it was a beautiful warm day in the high 30s day, at least for a few hours. Notice the ice floating in the harbor from the calving. Every once and awhile we would hear large cracking sounds as small icebergs cracked flipped and broke apart from the warmer water temperatures.
Hiking up over Neko Harbor
We parked ourselves along one of the Penguin highways to watch their comings and goings
Collecting pebbles for nest building
Click following link for Gentoo Penguin video: Got Pebbles!
Its amazing at what lengths these little Gentoo Penguins go through to find the right collection of pebbles to make a nest. They will routinely pass by piles of pebbles in search for the right one. Then once they are laid out to form a crude circular pebble nest they sometimes seem to rearrange the pebbles on an almost constant basis. And of course one of the big concerns is having a pebble stolen by a Penguin too lazy to collect his own. Fascinating to watch.
Gentoo Penguin collecting pebbles
The Weddell Seal is the most southerly breeding of all mammals, and one of the best known Antarctic seal species and a favorite meal of Killer Whales
Pano of Neko Harbor, glacier is on right side of frame
The Ship's professional Video Chronicler Eric Wehrmeister did an awesome job capturing the glacial calving at Neko Harbour. Click above photo for the video:
Adelie Penguins on an ice floe
Opps! Adelie Penguins on the run
Penguins on the run time lapse as we cruise the ice of Antarctic Sound: Click above photo for Video:
We had the pleasure of traveling with a few scientists specializing in Cetacean Research with NOAA and it's Canadian equivalent. While sailing through the Gerlache Straits we came across a pod of about 2 dozen Killer Whales.
The Scientist's goal was to get some id photos of each of the Killer Whales, then to get some biopsy samples using a crossbow with special darts. To id the Killer Whale you want a photo of the dorsal fin as well as the white saddle patch.
Male Killer Whales are larger and have very tall dorsal fins
At one point the Killer Whales started chasing a Penguin which jumped into the Zodiac for safety. But once he jumped back into the water he quickly became a Killer Whale snack.
We passed some large icebergs in the Gerlache Straits
As we approached Paradise Harbor it was clear we were in for a treat with dead calm seas, awesome reflections and some huge arched icebergs
Entering Paradise Harbor
The Captain likes to park the ship in strange places. This time he edged right up to the rocks
Zodiacs being deployed for some exploring of Paradise Harbor
The ship's bulbous bow edged up on the rocks
Amazing water clarity and awesome reflections
This iceberg has flipped over revealing a very artistic bottom, now the top
It was a bit sunny
We came across a series of mushroom like icebergs. notice the edge where the icicles are hanging from. This was once the waterline but with constant melting and water erosion they seemed to rise up out of the water. At some point they will become top heavy and will flip over.
Blue Eyed Shag taking off. Similar to Cormorants these excellent divers need along runway to take off.
Blue Eyed Shag diving for fish
Brown Station located in Paradise Harbor is an Argentine Antarctic base and scientific research station named after Admiral William Brown, the father of the Argentine Navy. It has been unoccupied each time we have been here.
Gentoo Penguin on the move
Some Gentoo Penguins popping out of the water
This iceberg has already flipped over, notice how smooth the ice is.
Leopard Seal lounging on an ice floe, these guys are big, tough and nasty
Other than Killer Whales, the Leopard Seal is an apex predator in this ecosystem, with a taste for Penguins
Nice set of teeth
Click above photo for a Paradise Harbor Zodiac cruise thru the ice fields
Cruising through the ice fields
While we were out in the zodiac we came across some friendly Vikings serving up some Hot Toddys
Paradise Harbor and Brown Station
Leaving Paradise Harbor
Leaving Paradise Harbor headed for Gerlache Straits. Click above photo for Time Lapse:
We briefly met up with our sister ship the National Geographic Orion to get some extra CO2 cartridges to recharge the life jackets that got hit by the tsunami
National Geographic Orion
Crashing through the ice of Antarctic Sound: Click above photo for short video:
Entering the very picturesque Lemaire Channel
Click above photo for Lemaire Channel Video, our southernmost point
Approaching the southernmost point of our journey at 65' South Latitude
Cruising the ice of Antarctic Sound: Click above photo for Time Lapse:
Click above photo for short Drakes Passage Video:
We were lucky again with our 6th calm crossing of Drakes Passage, one of the most notoriously rough ocean passages.
Safely back to Ushuaia Argentina the southernmost city on earth after an incredible journey to the bottom of the planet.
If you missed our last "Antarctica Wanderings" Part V visit: Land of Ice-Part 1
For more photos visit Bill & Linda's photo website: http://WildlifePhotos.me
© Bill & Linda Klipp 2017, All Rights Reserved
* Any use of these images requires the prior written permission of Bill & Linda Klipp the photographer, no other uses of any kind including print or electronic are permitted without the prior written permission of the photographer.
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