Saturday, February 7, 2009

South of the Antarctic Circle: Detaille Island and the Antarctic Peninsula - Feb 7

I wanted to be awake for crossing the Antarctic Circle. Don’t know why, but it just seemed like a cool thing to do. However, we were supposed to cross at about 4:00 am so I didn’t think my chance were too good. I happened to wake up at about 2:45 and made my way to the bridge. Lo and behold, we had picked up speed and I had missed it by about an hour! Anyway, I got the GPS reading at 66 degrees 45 minutes south (The Antarctic Circle, defined as the latitude at which there is 24 hours of sunlight at the summer solstice, Dec 21, is currently at 66 degrees 33 minutes south). Photo, Across the Antarctic Circle.

Saturday we couldn’t land due to ice conditions, but we took a Zodiac cruise around Detaille island. Lots of sea ice really made you realize that you were in Antarctica. This really is an expedition, not just a cruise. It certainly isn´t your basic Carnival Cruise to the Caribbean, and there is a definite element of danger.

The penguins also liked the sea ice.

There were some truly amazing icebergs, and I may have to put together a collection of photos just on the chunks of ice.

Even on a Zodiac ride, the wildlife was amazing. We had some very curious crab-eater seals following us. One just couldn’t understand why we didn’t invite him into the boat with us.

In the afternoon we landed at Cape Saenz, on the Antarctic Peninsula itself. We were greeted by a pair of leopard seals, the second highest animal in the Antarctic food chain. The favourite meal of leopard seals is the penguin. The only predator of the leopard seal is the Killer Whale (Orca).

We also had a humpback whale who got curious and decided to investigate our Zodiac for about 20 minutes. He just stayed close by, rolled over a few times, and was very playful. We also didn’t invite him onto the boat due to his length of about 40 feet! In this photo he was between our boat and another.

All in all, we ended the day wondering how we could top this!

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