Dark Past

January 31

Back Up Next

Bill woke us up once again promising humpback whales at one o'clock, but only very few people believed him at this point. I peeked out of the window on my way back from the bathroom and other than a few skeptical passengers I saw only fog - no whales. So at breakfast the announcement was the center of discussion - most people thought that it was a hoax.

After breakfast we immediately got into the Zodiacs and were shuttled to Hannah Island, home of some seals as well as penguins - Chinstraps, Gentoo and reportedly a few Macaroni. As we landed the weather didn't seem to be able to decide whether to show the sun or not, but at least it was not too windy. We quickly passed through the colony of Chinstraps and headed towards the Gentoo. In the middle we could indeed spot one Macaroni penguin - standing all alone, without a mate or children. He (or she) was just standing there in the middle of a big war zone, as all the penguins seemed to be battling one another; it was a crazy place. Parents were very caring of their own offspring but beating the crap out of other young, and also arguing among each other. The Macaroni was just standing still observing the madness. But things were good for him - Fishbone found his / her mate, who was just coming back home from the water. So we had two Macaronis among thousands of Chinstraps and Gentoo. As Essan said, they look like the surfer dudes of the penguins.

Click on the first image to start a slide show for this day (65 pictures)
Images shown below are a small selection.
In slide show, click on image to return to index.

In the Gentoo colony one could observe another war: this time it was not parents against others' kids but rather against their own. The almost mature chicks - some of them bigger than their half starved parents - were still demanding food from their parents, who frequently had to run away from their own offspring. It seemed that the last resort was always the water, where the young would refuse to go. On the other hand, the young didn't seem to care much about the visitors, and were rather social. One of them even picked on my lens as I was taking a picture of him. So yesterday I had whale snot on the lens, today it was penguin nose goo. How lovely.

The most obvious animal on this island was however the elephant seal. A whole group of females was stretched out on the hill, smelling like the worst pig sty you can imagine. They were there for weeks, camping in their own urine and feces, waiting to finish molting. During this time they are very lazy and irritable, and indeed there was quite some arguments between them. Bottom line, the whole island was populated by angry animals enjoying the last few weeks of the short summer.

The trip from the island to the ship was short but wet; the sea had swelled and waves were splashing us and our equipment. I got a particularly good dose of sea water onto myself and mainly my camera gear. It's good that Canon designed the EOS-1 series with weather in mind, and so even though soaking wet everything worked just as new.

Lunch featured lamb, so I opted for the vegetarian route. First I ate a whole bowl of slaw, intended for 6 people and then some - but since nobody was really interested I ate pretty much all of it (and regretted it hours later). After lunch we made our last landing on Deception Island, an old whaling station. The stories about it were already repulsive enough, and the landing was at least in my opinion not one of the best or most interesting: the ruins of an old whaling station aren't what I came here for, but then this was a popular request so I guess I was in the minority. My main complaint was that since this was the last excursion of the trip it was pretty anti-climatic. The most exciting part was probably watching some people, including members of the Russian crew, take a dip in the warm pools at the shore - naturally warm water since this is after all a dormant volcano.

We were all very concerned about Annie's health: the usual happy announcement that it's 7:30 and thus dinner is being served didn't happen. So people only slowly trickled into the dining hall, all expressing their worries about Annie. There is some advantage to generally not eating fish: when you are served one and it's bad, you can't tell. So happened to me at dinner: of the four choices the fish was the least suspicious one, so I ordered one, and actually ate all of it. Others at the table who ordered the same were done with it rather quickly, though, saying that it was pretty bad. I had no such complaints, other than the fact that it was fish of course. But the dessert - white chocolate mousse - clearly made up for it. At this point the biggest problem for many is however not the quality of food but rather how to be able to hold it. Tonight we are entering the Drake Passage, heading back to Ushuaia, and the seas seem to be a tad rougher this time around. Pretty much everyone is wearing the anti-sick patch on their neck as a precaution, but I am contemplating removing it since the side effects - most importantly the super dry throat which doesn't seem to be helped with anything - are rather annoying.

We concluded the day by watching "Journey to the Sea of Ice", a documentary by our own John & Janet Foster, who seem to be very happy with the results of their filming efforts from this trip; especially yesterday's whale encounter gave them enough footage for another Discovery production, so they say. Who knows, maybe we will make it as extras onto national TV - I am the one with the dorky yellow hat.

Back Up Next