Camping Trip

January 29

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At this point, things are happening so fast that it's almost impossible to keep track with writing the log, sorting the images, going on all excursions and actually getting some sleep. We woke up anchored before the very scenic Errera Channel, which we crossed just before breakfast - as in, before 7. Right after breakfast we landed on Cuverville Island, which is the home to many Gentoo penguins, shags, and various types of seals. Of course the usual icebergs were present as well, and we had a great time observing the penguins on land. It was very cute to observe how they steal rocks from other nests as well as the other little arguments and interactions. After two hours on land we blended perfectly into the environment and smelled like penguin poop, which was omnipresent and unavoidable.

Click on the first image to start a slide show for this day (86 pictures)
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Then it was already time to get some fresh air and water spray on the Zodiac and go cruising. Essan was uncertain about her bladder capacity and first went from the island to the ship, while I took directly a ride with Sean. We saw some Minke whales playing in front of our boat as well as the usual tons of penguins. On one side of the island we had the privilege of spotting the local scavenger, a small white bird whose name I already forgot, the only bird around without web feet: it eats penguin poop and has been seen pulling tape worms out of penguin's rear end. How lovely.

Back on board thanks to Annie I got my very own cheese-free pasta for lunch, as otherwise every single component of lunch was contaminated with this smelly ingredient. We got even some extra time to digest and especially to nap since the parking spot at Paradise Island was already taken; thus we continued to Orne Harbor where we made our first continental landing. Despite the name "Harbor" you should not think that there was a harbor; just a bay where you may or may not park your vessel for a few hours. We took a somewhat strenuous hike and walked up a cliff from where we could see the whole bay as well as some ice bergs with leopard seals chilling on top. At the top of our hike we were welcomed by some Chinstrap penguins; it was quite amusing to see these little creatures happily running around here on the rocks with us gasping for some air, wondering why someone this small would make this hike voluntarily over and over.

After the hike we cruised around the bay and could observe a group of Chinstraps jumping into water, one after another, like you have certainly seen in documentaries before. Just as I asked how often icebergs turn over, one did just that as we were boating along. We also got somewhat wet because the waves got bigger and when returning to the boat we got severely splashed by sea water.

But this was just the beginning of fun for the day. After dinner - which today for us was a rather interesting "chicken pie" which had not much to do with a pie - we got the equipment for tonight's camping experience. Yep, we would land on the continent and stay overnight, because it's so much fun and we can. A sleeping bag, a thin mat as well as an outer waterproof BiWi thing was all we got - ready to sleep under the stars, or rather, the clouds. It was only a couple of staff members who brought their own little tent. We were ferried to the campsite and prepared our bedding. We were introduced to the "toilet facilities" consisting of a plastic bin, and just as some people crawled into their sleeping bags our campsite was visited by a big crab eater seal. It looked really elegant while swimming in the water, but as soon as it crawled up on land you could tell it was not having the time of its life. At least we saw an active seal - all other ones so far have been asleep on ice, maybe raising their head when we zoomed by on the Zodiac. This boy or girl was right there among us, crawling through the "staff" section of the camp.

Eventually it got quiet. The night was short, cold, and our shallow sleep was interrupted a few times by the noise of the nearby glacier breaking apart and falling into the ocean. Of course these things happen only when you are asleep and don't actually have a chance to see them...

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