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Our Lindblad/National Geographic Explorer trip of a lifetime to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica took place in November, 2013. As friends who had been there told us, one can only fully appreciate the beauty of the birds, seals and icebergs unless you have been there. In the absence of that, I will try to pass on to those who have not been there (and those who have) the wonder of these fabulous places.
Itinerary: Antarctic Lindblad-National Geographic Expedition
Nov 9th to 29th 2013.
For dates November 6 to 9th including the birds of the Buenos Aires Zoo, Reserva Natural Otamendi and Tierra del Fuego see www.ComingsBirds.com/Argentina.
Nov 10th At Sea to the Falkland Islands
Nov 11th Falklands
AM: New Island (red marker on left of above map) This was a wet landing on the precipitous western coast with gigantic colonies of Rockhopper penguins, Imperial or Blue-eyed Cormorant, and Black-browed Albatross and a large rookery of southern fur seals.
PM: Carcass Island (red marker at left top of map) A hike along the shoreline with Megallanic and Blackish Oystercatchers, the rare Coob’s Wren, the beautiful red-breasted Long-tailed Meadowlark, Blackish Cinclodes or Tussock Bird, White-browed Ground Tyrant, Magallanic Penguin, and Upland Geese. Later in the afternoon we were welcomed with refreshments by the Island owner Rob McGill and his family. The Striated Caracara was prancing around on the front lawn.
Now 12th Falklands
AM: Stanley (at right red marker above map) A tour included the Stanley museum giving the history of the 1982 Conflict.
PM: Long Island Farm. A private farm one hour drive north from Stanley (near Green Patch) showing the extent of open fields on the Falklands. There was a demonstration of cutting peat for warming houses, shearing sheep, and care of the horses. Obtained nice photos of the Austral Thrush.
Nov 13th Scotia Sea to South Georgia
This allowed great photos of the Cape Petrels, Black-browed Albatross and Southern Giant Petrels flying around the stern of the boat.
Nov 14th South Georgia territorial waters.
Again more sea birds including Fairy and Antarctica Prions, Black-browed Albatross and Imperial or Blue-eyed Cormorants on Shag rock.
Nov 15th. Elsehul and Right Whale Bay, South Georgia
AM: Elsehul Bay (to the right of Bird Island above) is on the north coast of South Georgia. It contains one of the largest Antarctic fur seal colonies in the world and home to many birds including the Macaroni Penguin and Grey-headed Albatross.
PM: Right Whale Bay (below Cape North above) named for the large number of Right Whales that used to be here. The Right Whale is so named because it was the, “right whale to kill.” It had a lot of blubber thus a lot of whale oil and floated when killed so they could be towed to the rendering stations. It is also home to thousands of King Penguins, fur seals and elephant seals, all set to a backdrop of a cascading waterfall.
Nov 16th Salisbury Plain and Prion Island
AM: Salisbury Plain (At the Bay of Isles above) The Salisbury Plain is in the wildlife rich area of the Bay of Isles on the northern coast of South Georgia. The plain and the tussock slope behind is home to one of the largest King Penguin rookeries in South Georgia with 70-100,000 pairs. Also present were many Brown Skuas and Southern Giant Petrels.
PM: Prion island (north west of Prince Olav Harbor above) is a rat free island allowing for the survival of the South Georgia Pipit. The tussock slopes are made easier to climb by the presence of a wooden walk and staircase. This staircase also protects the tussock from the human. Wandering Albatross nest at the top of the hill. Several pairs of South Georgia Pintail were also on the island.
Nov 17th Fortuna Bay, Stromness Harbor, and Grytviken
After a night at Fortuna Bay (see upper left on map above) some were dropped off for a hike reproducing the last stretch of Shackleton’s trek across South Georgia down to the whaling village of Stromness, in 1915.
AM: Stromness Stromness (in red on map above) is now an abandoned whaling station. It was the here that Shackelton ended his 36 hour trek across South Georgia in his successful effort to rescue his men left at Elephant Island. The abandoned and decaying building are off limits but the surrounding area is rich in wildlife. It was here that I obtained many photos of the South Georgia Pintail.
PM: Grytviken. Grytviken (in red on map above) was established as a whaling station by the Norwegean Sea Captain Carl Anton Larson. It was last active in 1965 and the area now serves as a museum and scientific station at King Edward point. It is the burial place of Sir Ernest Shackleton (the “Boss”) and Wild. We paid respects and a Irish Whisky toast to Shackelton at the cemetery.
Nov 18th St. Andrews Bay and Gold Harbor
AM: St. Andrews Bay (lower right map above) For those so inclined, there was 5:30 AM dawn landing at St. Andrews Bay to get photos of the King Penguins and Elephant seals by early morning light. I was only on the shore 15 minutes before the crew concluded additional landings were too dangerous because of the high surf and we all retired back to the boat.
PM: Gold Harbor (at Iris Bay on map above) For me this was to most productive of all the landings in that I was able to apply all I had learned about still and video photography of penguins and seals and we were able to stay for hours. We even had the baby elephant seals, called weaners, approach us and even climb on us (See MOVIES). They are called wieners because the mothers have fed them to fat tubes and abandoned them to return to the sea and mate.
At Cooper Bay across from Cooper Island (see map above) we took a Zodiac excursion and photographed Chinstrap Penguins and Antarctic Terns
The last site we visited in South Georgia was the beautiful Drygalski Fjord (see map above) with a glacier at the end.
Nov 19th At sea towards the South Orkneys.
Because of approaching bad weather we left South Georgia a day early and headed to the South Orkneys, a destination almost NEVER visited by cruise ships.
Nov. 20th South Orkney Island
The South Orkney Islands make up a lonely and isolated archipelago located along the southern boundary of the Scotia Arc. The islands were named for the Orkney Islands in Scotland which are located at approximately the same latitude north as these islands are south (about 60 degrees latitude). They were discovered independently on the same day (December 6, 1821) by two sealers - George Powell (British) and Nathaniel Palmer (American). However, the islands were not properly surveyed until the Scottish explorer William Brice aboard the Scotia. Although both the British and Argentina claim the South Orkneys, the Antarctic Treaty has frozen all sovereignty issues and the islands are open to used by any signatory of the treaty.
On our Zodiac tour of Coronation island, the most striking features were the beautiful blue and white icebergs, the Leopard seal, and the many thousands of Chinstrap Penguins lining every visible ridge for miles and miles.
Nov 21st Elephant Island.
Elephant Island was made famous by Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Endurance Expedition. After being beset in ice for 281 days and the sinking of the Endurance, the party of 28 men in three lifeboats drifted northward in the ice flows eventually hitting the inhospitable Elephant Island. While 22 crew camped under upturned boats on low-lying Point Wild, Shackelton and five others made his remarkable sea passage in a small lifeboat to South Georgia, 700 nautical miles away to seek help. The party camping on Elephant Island survived on penguins and blubber until their rescue 137 days later. We toured Point Wild in Zodiacs.
Nov 22nd Weddell Sea a great ice-filled sea which indents the continent of Antarctica between Antarctica Peninsula to Queen Maud Land. The sea was discovered in 1823 by James Weddell of he Royal Navy, who named it the George IV Sea. The name was changed later to honor Weddell in 1900.
AM: Freeze ice at Duze Bay (upper middle of map). Miles of freeze ice in an inlet. Freeze ice consists of frozen surface ice 3 feet thick. Using specially constructed metal bridges we walked from the Zodiacs onto the freeze ice and walked for about half a mile on the ice.
PM: Devil Island. (middle of the map in red) We toured around in Zodiacs hitting the growl ice and larger ice formations sightings of Weddell Seals and Adelie penguins.
Nov 23rd Half Moon and King George Islands, South Shetlands
AM: Half Moon Island (red spot in map above) is a small Antarctic island 1.35 km north of Burgas, Peninsula, Livingston Island. It has a sizable rookery of Chinstrap Penguins.
PM: King George Island (map above) is of great paleontological interest due to the outcrops of fossil remains of a wide range of organism including vertebrate and invertebrate icnites, and abundant flora from the late Cretaceous to Eocene. We visited two research stations the Frei (Chile) and Bellingshausen (Russia).
24th Orne Harbor and Port Lockaby
The Gerlache Strait is named for Adrien de Gerlache, who led the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897-99 on board the vessel Belgica. This expedition chartered much of the Antarctic Peninsula region, and ultimately was beset in the pack ice near Peter I Island, becoming the first exploring vessel to ever over-winter in the Antarctic. Her crew became the first people to ever over-winter south of the Antarctic Circle. Gerlache was joined by and international roster of notable popular personalities – his chief officer was a Norwegian named Amundsen, making his first trip to the Antarctic; the ships doctor was an American explorer and con-man named Frederic Cook, and the geologist and meteorologist of the expedition was a Polish scientist named Henryk Arctowski.
AM: Orne Harbor (map above). In the AM we sailed past the spectacular Gerlache Straight towards Orne Harbor, situated at the northern end of the Errera Channel. The landing site, Spigot Peak is located on the peninsula proper, and therefore a continental landing. Much of this area was explored and charted by the Belgian explorer, Adrien de Gerlache. He named the Errera Channel in honor of Leo Errera, a professor at the University of Brussels and a contributor to the expedition.
PM: Port Lockroy A British Antarctic Territory. With its gift shop and small museum it is one of the most popular tourist sites in Antarctica. It is located on the tiny Goudier Island in the bay (see map below). There is a Gentoo Penguin colony adjacent to the station.
Lemaire Channel (see map below) is a beautiful narrow channel – see photos.
25th Neko Harbor and Dallmann Bay
AM: Neko Harbor a boot shaped harbor (see map above) is named after the whale factory shop Neko which operated along the Antarctic Peninsula in 1911-12 and again in 1923-24. There is a glacier near the landing beach requiring caution when it calves. We toured the area in a Zodiac. The high winds and cold temperature made it one of the coldest Zodiac rides of the expedition.
The Melchior Islands are a group of low, ice covered island lying near the center of Dallmann Bay (see map below) in the Palmer Archipelago. First seen but left unnamed by a German expedition under Dallmann, 1873-74, the islands were re-sighted and roughly charted by the French Antarctic under Charcot, 1903-05. Charcot named what he believed to be the largest outermost island in the group “lle Melchior” after vice Admiral Melchior of the French Navy, but later surveys proved Charcot’s “Ile Melchior to be two islands, now called Eta Island and Omega Island. The name Melchior Islands has since become established for the whole island group now described of which Eta Island and Omega Island form the eastern part.
26th to 27th Return to Ushuaia.
Because of a horrendous storm brewing in the Drake Passage over the 28th to the 30th, with winds of 50+ mph, the captain decided to leave the Antarctic Peninsula a day early and navigate the Drake Passage ahead of the storm.
A note on bird photography
I use a Sony alpha 77 camera with a 70 to 400mm telephoto lens. One of the reasons I like this camera is that it is a SLT (Single Lens Translucent). Since there is no mirror flopping up with each shot the bust speed is great and videos can be taken through the electronic viewfinder which is a big help when the sun is at your back, making an LED screen difficult to read.
One of the advantages of the Lindblad/National Geographic Explorer is that there were a number of professional photographers on board - Michael Nolan, Karen Copeland, Ralph Lee Hopkins, David Wright, and Cotton Colsen, to give photographic advice. One day I asked Michael Noland why so many of my photos were not in perfect focus – see for example the Brown and Yellow Marshbird in www.ComingsBirds.com/Argentina. He pointed out that even with image stabilization the photo speed should be at least equal to or greater than the mm of the lens. Thus, for a 400mm lens the speed should be 1/400 or greater. To be certain I set my speed at 1/2000th. The trouble with this is that now the f-stop was 4.5 giving poor depth of focus. However, all the photographers on board pointed out that for the modern high end SLR’s and SLT’s the sensors can accommodate high ISOs. Thus, I set the ISO to 2000 producing f ranges of f16 to f32 with great depth of field focus. I call this my 2000/2000 rule. It could also be a 1000/1000 rule. After that all of my photos were coming out with great focus, even the Wilson’s Storm Petrels far out to sea. See, for example, the South Georgia Pintail photos compared to some of the earlier www.ComingsBirds.com/Argentina photos.
I thank Karen Copeland for reviewing the first draft of this web site for errors, of which there were many.
NOTE: WHEN ON AN INDIVIDUAL PAGE CLICK ON THE FIRST PHOTO TO SEE IN FULL SIZE, THE CLICK ON NEXT TO PROGRESS TO OTHER PHOTOS.
DON'T MISS THE MANY GREAT VIDEOS OF KING, GENTOO, CHINSTRAP AND ROCKHOPPER PENGUINS, GETTING ON THE FAST ICE AT DRUSE BAY, THE DRAKE PASSAGE, AND MANY OTHERS - SEE MOVIES
The items in small print are birds or seals, the items in CAPITALS are SLIDESHOWS, MOVIES or PLACES.
I acknowledge Wikipedia for species and family names, ranges and other bird and geographic data.
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