Antarctic Exploration February 2003, Part III

Continuation of Part II

About 700 king penguins make their home on Volunteer Point, on sandy and grassy land, never with ice, 26.2.03 The fat king penguin in the left foreground has an egg resting on his feet, covered by his belly to keep it warm Mirror image of a king penguin on the hard sand of the beach

Tuesday, 25.2.03

Landing at Volunteer Point on West Falkland Island. We were in the first boat at 0615 with the sun just rising above the cloudy sea horizon. There was a good swell and we were told that with the breakers rather strong on the shore 600 m away, we would have to bring in the Zodiac driving backwards. The Filipino motormen are generally very good navigators but today our luck ran out. A huge wave lifted the boat and all on the left side of the Zodiac were catapulted into the boat with the wave following and filling it half full with water. Naturally, we were wet as if we had fallen into the sea and the walk of about 1.2 km to see the King Penguins was rather difficult for me especially as we had then to walk the same distance back with the oversized boots I had described further above. I had taken off the stiff water proof pants; they served no purpose in this case as the sea water entered from the top, but it was easier to walk. Despite all this, we were rewarded with a noisy and wonderful group of some 700 King Penguins huddled together and staring at us as much as they stared at them. We found the green grassy surroundings quite strange for these penguins as we had become used to see them on rocks and snow and ice.

The biggest penguins are the Emperor Penguins but these colonies are located closer to the south pole and can only be seen by hardy explorers walking for days on end. Actually, these penguins have to walk on ice for 200 miles after the breeding period to find open water for food and bring their weight up again to normal levels before the winter sets in again.

We then returned to the BREMEN around 9 am and had breakfast, and on the ship went to Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, looking rather like Charlestown in Nevis. We were having an early lunch 100 m away from the Anglican Church when the Captain announced that due to sharply increasing winds, he had to leave the not so safe anchorage and return to sea. This led to a confrontation between some former East German passengers, who bitterly complained how it could be that a similar vessel was moored at the convenient private pier, where one can step on and out without getting wet? Apparently, that vessel had been given preference over us.

This argument went back and forth, with the Captain being pushed into a corner as the representative of Hapag Lloyd, the latter being described as cheap and uncaring. It is certain that, under normal circumstances, we could have taken our Zodiacs for the less than 100 meter ride to the official pier.

Out here the sea is agitated but the weather sunny, and it would see to me that the swell and the height of the waves are diminishing. Perhaps we can make another Zodiac attempt tomorrow? Some passengers want to send their postcards from there as they have similar nice stamps like St. Kitts & Nevis. And I would go and find an internet cafe. The chef mentioned he ordered fresh salads and fruit there and these supplies were delivered with the Government tender coming for the landing fees.

Wednesday, 26.2.03

As the dispute continued, I had proposed that Hapag Lloyd should show those passengers interested copies of the messages which was done. Actually, we were confirmed in April 2001 for the mooring pier but later dropped in favor of the ship that needed it more urgently as they took on new passengers here in Port Stanley.

I started feeling kind of sick on Sunday, and I took some motion sickness tablets but I soon realized it was something else because I perspired profusely and was cold at the same time. So 2 days of little food, lots of good old Camomile tea and Aspirin brought me back to nearly fine.

We made 2 more landings on two of West Falkland’s private islands, at each spot the BREMEN was paying the US$ 20 landing fee (this was included in our package price). Most of these islands have very little ground water and they save whatever rainwater falls in cisterns, in the same way many Nevisian still do to this day.

During the cruise nearby Port Stanley and on the way to Argentina, we saw many different species of small and large sea birds. We also spotted 3 sei whales, a rarity in these coastal waters. They are normally only seen on open oceans closer to the equator. We also encountered also a large number of different dolphin species that played in the waves off the bow.

Thursday, 27.2.03

At sea

Friday, 28.2.03

We had a great day in Puerto Madryn, a costal town of 75000 and the capital of the whale watching industry here. I attended to about 400 emails (!) whilst Uschi went on an 8 hour bus trip – at the last checking, her bottom is still OK as apparently the bus was a newer one and the roads had much improved since the eighties.

A leisurely sailing back to the Rio de la Plata and Buenos Aires Harbor in excellent whether was very relaxing although we felt a lot of pressure to attend all the many excellent lectures. The food was also abundant and good.

Saturday, 1.3.03

To end the story on a funny note: the ones who tried to start a mutiny after Port Stanley were seen sitting as the guests at the captain’s table for the final dinner which goes a long way to prove that the meek will hardly ever inherit the world! The Bosshards had been invited to the First Captain’s Dinner on Day 2 but then, we are no mutineers after all.

Sunday, 2.3.03

At sea

Monday, 03.03.03

End of a beautiful trip, with a half day city sightseeing tour and a fine Argentine beef lunch with really home made fries. The check-out from the BREMEN went without a hassle and when we said good bye to our many new acquaintances at curbside of the Hereford restaurant in Puerto Madero, an old warehousing area superbly made over to house refined specialty stores and fine restaurants of all kinds, we all felt a bit sad that it was all over.

Cabagge like yellow flower in the arid sand above the beach 3 kings penguins striding on the beach, one looking like being the boss 5 king penguins walking on the beach, their long shadows thrown in fornt of them
3 king penguins in the pose of actors or singers. They can become nearly 1 m tall. A large group of red penguins returning to their Zodiacs waiting on the far side of the wide bay Red penguin making a snapshot of 2 king penguins in the foreground
A skua, a large sea gull, is a fearless dive bomber to hunt for fish and even week penguins and to scare away even much larger competitors Gate made of 2 whale bones on New Island, 26.2.03 Black-browed albatrosses on New Island
Rugged coastline on New Island Black-browed albatrosses on New Island West Point Island, privately owned. To visit, passengers paid US$ 20 a head, making it a tidy sum of $2500 for the owner
Magellan penguins. The stone in the foreground looks like a seal with upturned head Port Stanley on East Falkland, capital of the group with less than 2000 inhabitants Fur seals sunning themselves on a sandy beach near Puerto Madryn, Valdez Peninsula, 28.2.03
Patagonian fox on Valdez Peninsula Patagonian coast line near at Valdez Peninsula, with elephant seals, also site of the great whale watches in April each year Emperor Penguin Chick
Emperor Penguin Colony – these majestic birds can become 1.2 m tall Emperor Penguin adult with chick 2 Emperor Penguins (ca. 1.2 m tall) with their chick

The above 4 slides of Emperror Penguins are courtesy of Donald Bradshaw of Heather Hill, Stoney Cross, near Lynhurst, England.
They were aken on a expedtion to Antarctica in search of the Emperors (with a Russian Icebreaker sporting 2 helicopters) in November 1994

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