Some of you may be aware that I really like whales. Like a lot. So a highlight of this trip to the Antarctic was definitely the opportunity to see lots of whales in an insanely productive feeding habitat, like this pair of humpbacks. We were awoken by the announcement that the ship was surrounded by them as we cruised through the Gerlache Strait, gliding slowly over what was clearly a whale buffet- small groups of humpbacks were everywhere, weaving bubble nets and lunging up through the water in unison to engulf whatever small prey they had encountered that morning. Though they were far away, the scale of this remarkable event matched the frozen splendor of the landscape behind them.
The first penguins we saw on our trip were from the ship (the Orion). These Chinstraps seemed to be headed back toward shore after some successful foraging at sea, using their wings and feet to propel themselves through the frigid water (Tim, the expedition leader, announced the temperature to be somewhere around 1 degree Celsius…). Like dolphins, penguins often “porpoise” through the water as they travel. By clearing the waves entirely, they fly through the air and maintain forward momentum while still breathing regularly, reducing the drag they experience at the intersection of ocean and sky. To predators this motion may be very confusing; to photographers it can be both endlessly entertaining and endlessly frustrating, as most penguin-porpoising photos involve a larger proportion of feet and tail feathers than heads and bodies. But as always, patience and a large memory card are their own rewards…
Our trip began in Buenos Aires, my first visit to South America. I really can’t claim to have “been there,” since our stop was perhaps twenty-four hours, but we got a little taste of the city. It was very European, actually, many of the buildings French in style, and much of the art in the museum imported from the Old World as well, which made it feel less interestingly new for me as a traveler. But it was summer, and sunny, and the city was beautiful. I got to practice my Spanish, and we got to spend one last night ashore before our transfer to Ushuaia the next day. The mood was chill and the word was “siesta.” Welcome to the adventure! Just wait till it heats up (…figuratively).
Agent Red Squirrel has been remiss- I’m sorry for the disappearance! But I have good reason: things have been busy in my world recently. I relocated hemispheres once again, this time even further south than Exmouth, and I made it to a fifth and sixth continent. That’s right, after a very brief stopover in Buenos Aires, Argentina (South America), I headed for the Antarctic Peninsula on board the National Geographic Orion. It was my greatest adventure yet, scientifically fascinating, photographically exhilarating, and so much fun that it can’t be contained in a regular series of posts. For the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a single photo and an explanation thereof four times per week, about every other day, to tell the story of the Time I Went South.