We Make Landfall on the Antarctic Continent

February 15th, 2010 at 2:54 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Yesterday morning, we woke around 8am to find ourselves surrounded by ice bergs in the northern part of Marguerite Bay, just south of Adelaide island. We could make out brown bits of land in the distance in addition to ice bergs and figured landfall was not far off.

An iceberg in the fog

An iceberg in the fog

However, minutes later we were in the midst of very dense fog, which did not let up for hours. An attempt was made to find us a landing site with wildlife nonetheless, but it was not successful.

The fog made it difficult for the Zodiacs to scout a landing site

The fog made it difficult for the Zodiacs to scout a landing site

Radar shows where there are obstacles

Radar shows where there are obstacles

The captain of the National Geographic Explorer opted to move the ship to a new location to try again, and another scouting party was sent out. Finally word came back that we would be able to go for an afternoon landing at Red Rocks Ridge, where there was a large colony of Adélie penguins. However, because of the fog, there would be no Zodiac tours while others were on shore, and instead half the passengers would go ashore at 1:30pm for two hours, and then the other half would go at 3:30pm so that the 100 person on shore limit could be properly enforced but still allow all to spend ample time exploring.

The plan for the afternoon once a landing site was confirmed

The plan for the afternoon once a landing site was confirmed

Everyone on board had all been previously distributed into a total of six groups, and we are in Group 1. Groups 1, 2, and 3 were the first shift, and Groups 4, 5, and 6 the second.

A Zodiac leaves the National Geographic Explorer en route to Red Rocks Ridge

A Zodiac leaves the National Geographic Explorer en route to Red Rocks Ridge

The ride was a bit cold, but we were thrilled to able to finally set foot on the Antarctic continent, and better yet, get a better understanding of how penguins lived on land.

Bas and our friends Natalie and Bruce on the Zodiac to the landing site

Bas and our friends Natalie and Bruce on the Zodiac to the landing site

Some of the expedition members who landed ahead of us - the black specks on the snow are penguins

Some of the expedition members who landed ahead of us - the black specks on the snow are penguins

We spent the next two hours observing the rules of conduct as well as hundreds of penguins, a fair number of Antarctic blue-eyed shags (in the cormorant family) as well as several territorial skuas.

The penguins ignore all the paparazzi photographers

The penguins ignore all the paparazzi photographers

Bas studies a juvenile Adelie penguin

Bas studies a juvenile Adelie penguin

I will post several separate blog posts after this one with photos of particular encounters at Red Rocks Ridge in order to split things up a bit, as there are a lot of pictures to share.

 

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