©Wolfgang Kaehler

Day 4 – Hope Bay

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Adelie penguins, Hope Bay

This morning we motor in zodiacs through the waters of Antarctic Sound, taking in the surrounding glaciers, tabular icebergs and ice floes. Approaching the shore near Esperanza, an Argentinian base, we spot clusters of Adelie penguins, part of a colony including hundreds of thousands of penguins. I am sitting next to Wayne and Roger, two scientists who have come to Antarctica for years to conduct studies of the wildlife and ecosystem. We watch the Adelies scrambling up lofty hillsides to their rookeries. I never thought of them as hikers — veritable mountaineers. Just like Seattlites, they consider the hilltop nesting sites prime real estate. Wayne explains that this is where the bare rock stays clear of snow early in the spring, giving the penguins a head-start on their breeding season. I watch the penguins diving into the sea as they make their way out to feed on krill. Wayne has been studying the penguins in this area for years and has found a substantial dip in the local population in recent years due to warming of the peninsula and the resulting decrease in algae which forms under the ice. The krill depend on the algae and the penguins depend on the krill. On shore, more Adelies gather on the ice, waiting for the penguins in front of them to take the plunge into the water. Diving in and purposing in groups, they avoid lurking predators like leopard seals. One zodiac group discovers a leopard seal circling their boat. Following the zodiac excursion we board the ship to cruise the Antarctic Sound.

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Livingston Island Panorama

We sail alongside a tabular iceberg, over a mile long, that has drifted in with currents from the Weddell Sea. Turquoise crystals line the base while infinite layers of ice, like tree rings at home, lock in the history of centuries. Four fifths of the berg is hidden beneath the surface. The sea has tunneled smooth blue caves into this giant ice fortress. We continue to spot bergs: one like a curled up Wolf, another a snowbound cabin. Outside, the wind blasts across the deck and snow crystals whip our cheeks. I push through the gust to breath in the frosty Antarctic air and take in the ice-filled landscape, while Wolf advises other travelers about photographing the icebergs.

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Tabular iceberg

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Posted November 28, 2013 | Categories: Blog, Photography, and Travel. Tags: Adelie penguin, Antarctica, cruise, cruising, Hope Bay, Seabourn, and wildlife.

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