A final gallery of photos from the trip
After an adventure-filled trip on the Peninsula and another relatively calm crossing of the Drake Passage we’re back in Ushuaia. During our time in Ushuaia we’ve hiked up to the Martial glacier/snowfield to enjoy a great view of the Beagle Channel below. We also explored Tierra del Fuego National Park and rode the end of the world train. Another day in Ushuaia and then we depart for home.
Our days have been full. Our daily schedule includes two landings on the Peninsula and several classes on different topics. Following a quick breakfast we don our wet weather gear and load zodiacs which take us to sites on the Peninsula. After a few hours of exploring penguin, seal and seabird colonies we return to the zodiacs and cruise around protected bays looking for whales, seals, jellyfish and other marine life in the open water. We return to the ship and attend lectures on a range of topics related to Antarctica and the southern latitudes. Our MSU student group meets at least once in the evening to discuss scientific papers on the ecology, geopolitics and climate of the Peninsula and southern latitudes. We’ve discussed how changing atmospheric circulation, temperatures and the ozone hole are affecting marine life and sea-ice extent, the history of exploration in Antarctica, and territorial claims in Antarctica, among other topics. Mixing daily excursions with classroom discussions is a great way to learn about this place.
One day as we were about to land an enormous ice-berg the size of a three story building began to wobble and then suddenly flipped, setting off a sizable set of waves our way. A very impressive event to watch from so close.
Our days have been dominated by sunshine and calm seas allowing for some wonderful hikes, some sledding and close encounters with humpback whales. We’ve seen sei whales, right whales, orcas and a number of humpback whales en route to the Peninsula. Much of the marine animals return to the Peninsula this time of year to feed on krill (small shrimp) which feed on phytoplankton blooms that occur with abundant spring sunshine.
We’ve had beautiful weather for our first couple of days exploring the Peninsula and had a chance to take advantage of great weather to spend a night out on Danco Island where the sound of calving glaciers kept us up all night. We visited a Chilean research station and helped census gentoo and chinstrap penguin colonies. Gentoos and chinstraps are just beginning to lay their first egg of the season (usually lay 2) as the snow is quite deep for this time of year. The mid-size brush-tailed penguins (gentoo, chinstrap and adelie) all need exposed rocks (pebbles) to build their nests so will try and delay egg-laying until the snow melts enough to allow for nest building.
We made it across the Drake passage after a small storm system tossed us around and then died quickly leaving us a fairly easy passage to our first stop on the Peninsula near Anvers Island.
Ushuaia is the furthest south town in the world (~55 degrees S) – hence town motto is “End of the World”
After a 100 year rain even hit Buenos Aires the day we landed, our flight to Ushuaia was cancelled so we slept in the airport to make sure we got a flight out the next day. The storm knocked out power throughout much of Buenos Aires and streets were flooded around the city with as much as five feet of water. We could only fly out of a second airport so had to wait for water to recede before taxis could get us there. After a few more lengthy delays we finally made it to Ushuaia. It’s cool and windy down here – beautiful mountains surrounding town. We made it just in time as our ship leaves tomorrow.
Packed and ready to go!