Sunday, February 24, 2008

Antarctica Part 4- Animal Life

Humback Whales are amazing! We saw over a hundred whales while we were on our ship.

It was very difficult to get any pictures of the whales jumping out of the water. They would go down for about 5 to 10 minutes before they jumped out of the water and they could come up anywhere. I was just lucky to see them breach (jump out of the water). The best one I saw was of a mother and a baby together but unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me at that time.

We saw the most beautiful iceburgs. They were all thousands of years old and huge. We had staff on board to lecture us about the wildlife, glaciers, etc. One of them compared an iceburg to a piece of ice floating in your drink. The tiny piece of ice that shows above the liquid that you are drinking is similar to an iceburg. The majority of the ice (about 5/6th) is below the surface. We had to be very careful cruising through the water.

This picture just shows you how close we would get to the whales. Our Captain was awesome! Because we were in a smaller boat he would follow some whales until we found more and then he would move on and follow them. We would spend hours following the different whales in between our stops on land.

Whenever you saw the tail come up you you knew that most likely they were going to dive down for a few minutes. I think I have about 500 different tail pictures. I am only posting a few.

I know the picture can not do the iceburgs justice. They were spectacular!

One of my favorite parts of the iceburgs were the colors. I thought they were just white but they can be light blue and bright turqoise as well.

This is a common site. We would often see iceburgs filled with seals or penguins. This is a baby leapord seal sitting on an iceburg.

Most whales travel together. This is a mommy and baby traveling together.

This is a whale coming down from breaching. The sun was so bright so it was a difficult picture to get.

Here is another seal sitting on the ice.

The whales also like to roll around. Here he is rolling around waving his fins at us saying hello.

Well here is the end for today. I will try to post some more penguins and the huge elephant seals that we saw on shore tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Antarctica- Part 3 Cuverville and Neko Harbour

Aren't these penguins so cute!!! These are gentoo penguins. Most of the penguins we saw had babies that were about 1 month old. They were so cute. The first thing I noticed when we landed at Cuverville Island was that it really smelled. Penguins do not smell that good. But then I noticed how cute they were and I got over it!
If you want to get a good look at any of these pictures click on them to make them bigger.

Here is me with my family just after we landed. Notice all the penguins behind us.

Here are some more penguins. We saw hundreds if not thousands of penguins while we were in Antarctica. The penguins would all live in one area.

Isn't this sweet? These babies were born late. They were only about 2 weeks old. Unfortunately this means they probably won't make it during the winter. The mom was keeping them warm as the dad was building the nest. Notice him setting the little rock around the mother. Most of the mother penguins were cuddling or feeding the babies as the penguin fathers were building the nests. It was fascinating to watch this out in the open.

We left Cuverville Island and headed over to Neko Harbour. We were excited to reach Neko Harbour because we were finally making a stop on the mainland of Antarctica instead of just the islands.

When we arrived at Neko Harbour my family and I decided to hike through the snow up to the top of this hill to get a good view. This is where we were climbing to. We had to be very careful hiking and not leave the trail as the ice and snow could always cave in and someone could fall quite a ways down.

Here we are climbing.

Here we are at the top. Isn't it beautiful? It was definetly worth the hike!

While we were up there we next to a huge glacier. We were able to see lots of calving (when the snow drops). It would begin by a loud bang noise and then you would see the snow drop down. This one was cascading like a waterfall.

The next two pictures are one of my favorites. I had just climbed down the mountain and had my camera ready as I was looking at the glacier when this huge chunk fell into the sea.

This is the splash the glacier left.

This is a very typical site we saw on most of our landings. The beach was always covered with ice. Some small pieces like these and others were huge- bigger than me.

Here is a gentoo penguin feeding her babies.

The penguins love to swim. They loved to jump in to the water. They would also swim alongside the boat with you. They would jump in and out of the water wherever we went. I loved watching how playful they were.

The next couple of pictures are just of the scenery as we were in our little boat going back to our ship.

I know it is ridculous the amount of pictures I am posting on my blog but believe it or not I took over 2,000 pictures on this trip. So, I can't help but post quite a few. The only thing I can say is that unfortunately the pictures do not do it justice!

I love the light blue that surrounded every iceburg we saw. Tomorrow I will post again and I will post more iceburgs and finally my pictures of the humpback whales and seals. For now I am going to get warm with hot cocoa and remember all the amazing things I was able to witness in Antarctica!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Antarctica- Part 2- First Landing

I would like to begin by saying that I really believe Antarctica to be one of the most beautiful places on earth- that said- I would not put our first stop as one of the most beautiful places in Antarctica.

We crossed the Drake passage and lucked out. This is one of the stormiest places on earth. Luckily we didn't encounter a storm. The waves rolled the entire time we were crossing and because we were in a smaller boat we did feel every wave. We finally began to spot iceburgs. The day we arrived it was very overcast with a mixture of rain and snow. The iceburgs look very different in the sun.

Here is a picture of Deception Island from our ship. Deception Island is an active volcano which is why the island is all black.

Every morning we would begin the same ritual. We would get up put on all of our warm clothes and wait for them to call us ashore. Antarctica will only allow 100 people ashore in one place at one time. When we are called we go down to the bottom of the ship into a room where we put on our boots.

Here is a picture of all of us ready to go out for the first time. We were all so excited because we were finally finishing a goal of stepping on all 7 continents.

After we go outside we climb down some stairs onto these boats. These boats hold 8 people and they are running people back and forth to our ship. They can go pretty fast.

The first thing I noticed when we got to Deception Island is of course all of the garbage that has been left behind. When Antarctica was first being discovered many people were leaving behind all sorts of stuff. Each country has left behind their own garbage dumb. Some people are trying to clean it up but it is taking some time.

Deception Island used to be a a factory for the whalers remains. When people first were whaling their ships could not take care of the whales remains so they would drop off all the items they didn't need from the whale to these factories. They would then take care of the remains. It wasn't too long before they built whaler ships big enough to handle every part of the whale. When this happened the factory was abanded.

It was a joke the entire time we were at Deception Island that we were walking on the moon. There was an eerie quiet about the area. Even though I have been away from people before I have never been anywhere where there are no people or wildlife. The island is very dark covered in garbage and whale bones.

I can not imagine living here in this desolute area. The houses couldn't have kept the residents very warm. It would have been a very difficult life.

I can not imagine dying here either. We would find crosses all over Antarctica. Because of the harsh climate and no medical equipment many people would die.

But on a lighter note- I could have died after what we did next. Yes- I feel like I am part of the Polar Bear club! I did go swimming in Antarctica. It was freezing. Here is Emily (my sister-in-law) and I running out of the water. Spencer (my brother) had just come out of the water and was laughing at us. The worst part was that I couldn't breathe!!! It took every ounce of my strength to keep running into the water until I ducked under. The only way you could get the certificate from the ship for swimming in Antarctica was if the water went up to your neck- I went in twice and the second time I actually went under water. That was dumb! BRRRRR!!!!!!!!

Here is a picture of Lindsay and I right after our swim and before we left Deception Island. Let's just say that went I got back on the ship I had one of the best hot showers I have ever had!
Our next stop is where we first encounter penguins. I will try to post those tomorrow!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Antarctica- the beginning Argentina

I just got back from Antarctica and still can not get the amazing scenes of my voyage out of my head. I decided that the only way to blog this would be each day I would focus on a few days from my trip. I can not do the entire trip on one blog entry. I hope you don't mind. I am beginning with Argentina. The picture above is the balcony where Evita and then Madonna spoke (or sang) to the people of Argentina. I really like Buenos Aires. We had a great time walking around. The city is very European. We visited many cute little cities. The Tango is very popular here. You will see people either painting pictures of the tango or dancing the tango on the streets.

When we were finished with Buenos Aires we flew to Ushuaia (which is the southern most part of Argentina). This is where the Tierra del Fuego is. They call Ushuaia fin del mundo (or end of the world). We spent the rest of our time in Argentina in Ushuaia. Below are some pictures of the national park of Tierra del Fuego. The mountains were beautiful. We had excellent weather- we really lucked out. Actually we lucked out with weather the entire tour.

Here is me with my siblings. I went with my parents and siblings on this tour. Josh, my husband was so nice to stay home and help out with our 2 children. I am so grateful for him because if he didn't help out I would never have been able to go.

Here is a picture of our ship the Nordic Norge. This is the ship that we voyaged out to the great unknown!!! We boarded the ship in the evening. We left that night around 10:00 pm to begin our crossing of the Drake Passage. I will blog tomorrow about crossing the Drake and our first landing in Antarctica!