We set out from Ushuaia and headed up to the Falklands. Pretty smooth sailing and some nice sightings of cetaceans, with some bow riding dusky dolphins as we left the Beagle Channel, then a close pod of hourglass dolphins which allowed some photography, and then we hit the Falklands. It was my first visit to Bleaker Island, but what a great place. A couple of freshwater ponds with breeding black-necked swans, some tufted and silvery grebes, and a bunch of white-rumped sands and two-banded plovers. Nice start! The rockhopper colony was fantastic, with half grown chicks running around and creching, and massive Imperial shag colonies. All made for some great photos. Stanley in the afternoon gave us a chance to walk around from the wreck of the Lady Elizabeth to Gypsy Cove.. A great walk with some botanising and birding along the way. I tried to discourage everyone from looking at the disheveled lone King penguin moulting on the beach at Gypsy Cove..their first King penguin - it should have been 1 of 60,000 breeding pairs in South Georgia, but oh well! I got a few minutes back in Stanley to run up and catch up with Kay McCallum who we had stayed with for many weeks back in 2004 when we were married in the Falklands. Was great to see her and chat, even if only for half an hour!
Then it was on to South Georgia where we completed something nine landings (inc zodiac cruises) in three days. We managed every landing with weather being stunning almost throughout, something that is very rare on South Georgia. A zodiac cruise at Elsehul was first up, but of course the highlights for me were Salisbury Plain (with 60,000 breeding pairs of king penguins), my first visit to Prion Island with breeding wandering albatrosses, St Andrew's Bay with even more King Penguins, Gold Harbour, and Cooper Bay. South Georgia is a stunning stunning place, and if you ever get the chance to go to Antarctica, make sure it includes at least a few days in this absolute jewel.
Then it was down to the South Orkney Islands where we made a landing on Coronation Island. Massive chinstrap colonies, and I managed to find a leopard seal as well. We had five seal species during the two zodiac cruises I did, so pretty awesome, again in pretty sunny conditions. Looks like a pretty rugged place, and can't even imagine spending the winter there as my good mate Rick Price has done on more than one occasion!
Then on to Elephant Island, where as with the rest of the trip, the seas were flat, the winds light, the skies blue, and we made a landing on Point Wild! I venture to suggest the weather was not much like that day for most of which Shackleton's men spent camped there! Absolutely stunning to land there and see the place up close. Those guys were damn tough, it's hard to believe they all survived, but they did, and Point Wild can't have been the most relaxing of places to spend the best part of a winter.
We then headed down to the Antarctic Peninsula, with a sneaky day in the Weddell, including a landing at Brown Bluff (where the wind got up to 90 knots as we got people back to the ship in the zodiacs...needless to day a few people - inc me driving - got a little damp!), Devil Island, and some cruising in Antarctic Sound. Very nice day. Then back up and around to a few spots with a stunning pod of killer whales in the Gerlache, beautiful humpbacks and calves, before an absolutely stunning day at Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay, with an evening cruise in stunning conditions in the Le Maire Channel. Wow! Just doesn't get any better. We then rounded off with a great day at Port Lockroy, Cuverville and then onto the South Shetlands. The last day was a big one with Bailey Head (YES- my first landing here at this legendary place and driving too!), Whalers Bay, and Pendulum Cove, and the Hannah's Point...whew, four landings! After all that, we did something like 27 landings, and really needed a rest on the Drake on the way back, and it was the Drake Lake! Fantastic.
So I am now in Buenos Aires, having had a day wandering around Costanero Sur birding. Looks like I will head there again tomorrow and then may get a day with a guide on Sunday, before heading home.
|Hourglass dolphin busting through the surface
|Chilean skua on Bleaker Island
|Rockhopper chick testing its wings
|Adult rockhopper amongst the creche
|Comin' to get you...
|Goose feather on Bleaker
|Ferns near Gypsy Cove, Port Stanley
|Magellanic penguins near Gypsy Cove
|Wandering albatross at sea
|Macaroni penguins to scared to get in the water
|King of the hill!
|Leucistic fur seal pup
|Kings, kings everywhere!
|Looking from the top of Salisbury Plain
|That kid don't need no more food!
|Wandering albatross stretching its wings on Prion Island
|The colony at the top of Prion Island
|Wandering albatross on the nest on Prion Island
|Fur seal pup nursing
|South Georgia pintail at Stromness
|Stromness Whaling Station
|Reindeer at Godthul
|Gentoo chicks stretching it out
|Chasing for food!
|Giant petrels cleaning up a penguin
|King in snow
|King with a rainbow
|About to mate
|Looking out over the colony
|North meets south
|Boisterous sub-adult elephant seals
|Giant petrels tearing apart a carcass
|King penguin running through the colony
|Feeding the chick
|Arriving back at the colony
|Skua with a scrap of penguin
|The beach at Gold Harbour
|Leucistic fur seal checking out a king
|Leucistic fur seal
|Macaroni having a shake
|Coronation Island, South Orkneys, massive chinstrap colony
|Cape petrels following the ship on the way into Elephant Island
|Against the light
|Across the bay from Elephant Island
|Monument to the Capt of the Yelcho, Luis Pardo Villalon, who took Shackleton back to Elephant Island to rescue his men
|Bergs in light
|A closer berg
|The bluffs of Brown Bluff
|Adelie still building with stones
|Adelie colony at Brown Bluff
|Rick Price poised like a coiled spring
|MV Clipper Adventurer, just before the 90 knot winds!
|March of the penguins
|View from the top
|Adelie chicks on Devil Island
|Fluffy Adelie chick
|Chasing for food
|Bergs and light
|Big tabular berg
|Female killer whale
|Breaking the surface
|Big male killer whale
|Bergs and sunset
|Awesome zodiac cruise
|Cape petrels feeding on krill beside a berg
|Big cave archway
|They left their mark...whale bones
|Weddell seal scratching
|Gentoo and chick panting in the heat
|A humpback dives
|With a berg in the background
|Stunning close views of a humpback calf about to break the surface for a breath
|Early morning light
|Humpback breaks the surface
|Bergs and sun
|Flat calm coming into Neko Harbour
|The ship at Neko
|Gentoos heading out to sea
|A visit by a minke
|Young Antarctic shag
|Young Antarctic shag diving
|Ctenaphore or comb jelly
|on the way into the LeMaire Channel, ah Una!
|Lots of ice in the LeMaire
|But we went in anyway
|Light on the hills in the LeMaire
|Gentoos at Port Lockroy
|Skua about to land and harass penguins
|Not on my watch buddy!
|Go ahead make my day!
|Part of the gentoo colony on Cuverville Island
|Humpback right by the ship
|Just round the corner from Bailey Head, Deception Island
|More chinstraps than you can shake a stick at!
|Coming back to the colony
|The rocks etched by penguin claws on Hannah Point
|Skuas make short work of a dead gentoo chick
|A giant petrel killing a giant petrel chick, a very strange and disturbing thing to watch