Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brown Bluff Landing

Thursday, January, 26 2012 –

Today was actually the first foot steps onto the Antarctic Continent. We landed at a spot named Brown Bluff. There is a large adelie penguin colony there, and a few gentoos mixed in. The rimrock cliffs were amazing, not at all what I expected in Antarctica, since they looked more like the rimrock along the Crooked River in Crook County, Oregon. Just a reminder that Antarctica IS the world’s largest desert.

It was a wonderful, leisurely, sunlit three hours ashore. We were able to walk at will among the penguins, or sit on the lee side of a sheltering rock, soak up the sun’s heat and watch the antics of these tuxedoed clowns. They were so hesitant to enter the surf, passing en masse along the shore until one would suddenly enter the water and there would follow a small penguin avalanche into the waves. They were out again soon.

The most exhilarating portion of the trip though was the zodiac ride back to the ship. The winds had begun to kick up, and you could spot little williwaw’s dancing out across the open water. Nine of us boarded into Brett’s boat and headed to the ship. While out in the open, the winds really began to kick up and we had a bit of a rodeo ride, and a brisk saltwater shower as we neared the gangway. Brilliant spray soaked us well through. I would gladly buy another ticket for THAT rodeo ride. Yeeeeeehaa! Back aboard, Cheli, or expedition leader announced that they had readings of winds at 97 knots during the return. I am in awe of this crew and staff.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Out At Sea

January17, 2012
Today was spent aboard the Clipper Adventurer. It was our first full day out at open sea. The fog has come in, and the water is rougher than yesterday. Some people are feeling a little seasick. I am actually enjoying the roll of the ship. I have found the safest way of walking is to have a very wide stance and keep your knees very loose. It is easier to keep your balance that way, even if it doesn't look very graceful.

Today we saw imperial and wandering albatross, and white-chinned petrels. Since we left Ushuaia, Argentina we have also seen dusky, hourglass and peer's dolphins in the waters near our ship. The dusky dolphins actually played at the bow of our ship for more than a half-hour as we came through the Beagle Channel and into open waters towards the Falkland Islands.

Yesterday we had two landings off-board. We used large rubber boats, called Zodiacs, to travel from the ship to the shore. They carry eight people and the helmsman. The morning trip was to Beeker Island. We hiked from the sandy shore all the way across the island. Along the way we saw sheep and herford cows. Yes, there are people who live there year-round, and actually try to farm. (It was a 56-degrees. How warm was it where you are? Don't forget, it is summer here south of the equator.) While walking, we saw upland and ruddy-headed geese. There were also black-necked swans, skuas with chicks and magellanic penguins. After crossing the pasture we came into tussock grass, over 5-feet high. One of the guides, a botantist from Homer, Alaska, pulled up a stem of the grass and let us sample the crunchy stem. It tasted a little like celery, but no strings. Actually I think it would be really tasty in a salad. Conrad, the guide, said he prefers the South Georgia tussock and we will have to try a taste comparison when we arrive there.

There, just beyond the tussock, we came to a rock hopper penquin colony, high on a cliff top above the water. There were hundreds of rock hoppers. Do you know why they are called that? Right, they actually hop from rocks to rocks. All the way across a cliff, over the edge, down the face and plunge into the ocean. It was really noisy. (I am now working on perfecting my rock hopper call.) The chicks were molting, loosing there soft downy feathers and growing sleeker, warmer feathers to get ready for swimming in the ocean and feeding themselves. It was a wonderful hike. Well worth the 5am wake-up call to be able to go on it.

Back to the ship for brunch, then lunch and a lecture. The ship cruised around Beeker Island and into Port Stanley. There we went on another hike along the coastline through a native vegetation preserve. We saw an abundance of birds, and were able to walk right through the burrow-nest area of the magellanic penguins. They would pop their heads out of the burrow holes, with no fear of us passing by. At a cliff overlook, above Gypsy Cove, we were able to view a beautiful night heron on its nest and several striking, red-headed turkey vultures. Every thing has a place.

There is much more to tell you, but it is difficult to pull away from what I am doing to write about what I am doing. I feel like I don't want to miss a thing! There is so much to learn, to experience, to consider. I am struck by the vastness of the ocean, the smallness of our ship, and the beauty of our planet. I promise to keep soaking it all in and bring back as many stories for you as I can.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Easy Landings

Buenos Aires.

When I was a 14-year old Iowa farm kid, laying out in hot summer sun, I would read stories of such places. Just the sound of such names, the strangeness of them against mid-western horizons conjured images of the world's most exotic places. Buenos Aires. The name rolled around my teeth and over my lips. I would read of such places and dream. Dream of one day walking there. Dream of one day saying "Oh, yes, Buenos Aires" with a sophisticated worldliness.

Now, today, I am IN Buenos Aires. Today the name still rolls beautifully around my teeth and over my lips. The sights of tile-roofed houses and sounds of this city's life fill me. The laughter and bustle of the people enriches me.

I'm not dreaming; but after 24 hours of travel to get here, I do need a nap. Look out, Buenos Aires, the farm kid is here! Not sophisticated or worldly, but mighty, mighty grateful.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Prepping for deParting

Friends gathered round a warm fireplace. The dark night gathered beyond the cedar walls. Lights danced outside on the black water's mirror. And within, laughter rose to the rafters.

What a way to celebrate adventure! To have friends gather in good cheer and filled with shared excitement. With good words signed on my expedition jacket, I am becoming ready for the parting. I'll carry all of you along with me now. And I promise, I'll bring back stories!

With so much encouragement and excitement in support, you all make me feel like a can soar!