Blue skies to the north, mirror-like waters reflecting the landscape, numerous glaciers pushing towards shore, and all around us, jagged mountains cloaked with thick cakes of ancient ice.
The Antractic Peninsula – a land of extremes, full of life, and endless photo opportunities.
With a plethora of visual stimulation, and my camera’s meter showing considerably more light than I’ve ever experienced anywhere on this planet, powerful photo compositions were everywhere, and easy to capture. If that isn’t enough, there were plenty more distractions – the occasional Snow Petrel flying over a family of Humback Whales, calving glaciers abruptly crashing into silent waters, a cliffside dotted with Antarctic Shags, small blue floating bergie-bits, some with resting Crabeater Seals, and dancing Wilson’s Storm-Petrels darting around our zodiac.
Yet, many of us were eager for the main attraction – A Gentoo Penguin colony. We saw them even from a distance, the low exposed outcroppings jutting into the bay, krill-pink from layers of Penguin guano, and thousands of dark-&-white birds standing or marching to/from the frigid water.
Getting to land was a process in itself – a well choreographed dance of tiny zodiacs, executed with military precision, from the gangway to a beach full of curious fur seals. Once on land, we usually had options – go for an energetic hike, meander through the colony while trying to avoid disrupting active penguin nests, or just wait for the wildlife to come to you – all difficult choices, each with their advantages.
Then there is the luxury of just wandering around the bay, amongst the icebergs, on a zodiac cruise… a scenic drive through an ever-changing exhibition of natural sculptures, lines and patterns, endless and unimaginable beauty in the form of deep blue ice. Occasionally, these “bergie bits” provide refuge to life forms such as Adelie Penguins, Gentoo Penguins, South Polar Skuas, Giant Petrels, immaculate white Snow Petrels or even a Leopard Seal. With luck, the wildlife will even come close. On one occasion, we were graced by an Adelie Penguin jumping onto the pontoon of our zodiac. Imagine the thrill of a Humpback Whale swimming below, its features clearly visible in the crystal clear waters. And, you just never know what lies around the corner. Each moment was a new chapter into an icy blue wilderness.
March 3, 2011