S: Antarctica and Easter Island 2011
FC: Antarctica and Easter Island January 13, 2011 to February 3, 2011
1: Santiago Chile | January 14, 2011 We arrived in Santiago this morning after an overnight flight from NY
2: Pablo Neruda's House in Santiago
3: Wine Country Saturday January 15th
4: Lapostelle Winery One of the best in Chile
6: We had lunch in Santa Cruz followed by a visit to the Montes Winery, another maker of fine wines.
8: Valparaiso We hired the driver who took us to the wine country to take us to the coast today. | Sunday January 16th
9: Pablo Neruda's Valparaiso House and nearby Poet's Park
11: Vina Del Mar and Concon
12: View from Hyatt facing mountains | Monday January 18th We joined our group and took a tour of the town center with a visit to the Pre-Columbian Museum which included 2000 year old mummies.
13: Ushuaia Argentina | Off to Antarctica!
15: January 18, 2011 Today we flew from Santiago to Ushuaia (the southernmost city in the world) We looked at the bay, the colorful houses, the new hotels up on the hill and the big casino in town. The town has grown from 20,000 people to 60,000 in the past few years due to Antarctic Exploration and other nature tours. The weather was mostly dry with occasional sprinkles and we were told it was a nice summer day (45 degrees). We went on a catamaran ride in the Beagle Channel, saw seals and penguins and black and white cormorants that looked like flying penguins. Then as we were leaving to get on our ship it started to rain.
16: All Aboard! We boarded the National Geographic Explorer, went to our room and found our luggage waiting for us. This evening we had dinner and cruised up the Beagle Channel and late at night entered the Drake Passage and began to rock and roll. | January 19, 2011 We continued through the Drake Passage. We started the day with a stretch, then went towards breakfast. The waves were a 6 out of 10 (10 being the worst) and a good part of the ship (including Bob) got ill. Susan was fine. During the day they had talks on using your camera and nature talks. Susan took a few pictures and Bob stayed in bed
17: January 20, 2011 We survived the Drake! Things were calmer this morning as we finished our trip through the Drake passage. We rise to a racing escort of Cape Petrels, a retinue of giant petrels, and behind them wheeling majestically and resplendent in his white robes of state, a huge wandering albatross, patriarch of the southern ocean. Most passengers were feeling better. In the morning there was a lecture on penguins and everyone relaxed. At 0930 we sight the first iceberg, at 1045 the sun dapples a snowy icecap: our first sight of Antarctica. | After lunch we stopped at Aicho Island. We were in the first group to go onto the island while the second group went on a Kodiak tour. We saw colonies of gentoo (Iipstick) penguins and chinstrap penguins. The Gentoo tended to be near the water and the chinstrap penguins were at higher levels. These were our first colonies of penguins and we observed the penguins feeding their young and interacting with each other, entering the water and returning.
18: The King and a Chinstrap | Swimming, Jumping and sliding on an iceberg | After our visit to the Penguin colony we went on a Kodiak tour of the surrounding islands and observed some Weddell seals on one of the islands and then went around to look at the chinstraps up on some of the high bluffs along the shore. We had fun watching penguins jump onto and then off a small iceberg. We then got a radio call that a King penguin had been spotted near the seals, so we went back to look. We got out of our Kodiak and walked up to observe. There was a solitary king Penguin standing alone and grooming himself. Nearby was a chinstrap Penguin that made an interesting size comparison. We got some nice pictures of the King and his yellow eyes. When we returned to the ship we had a welcome cocktail reception from the captain and crew.
19: The March of the Red Penguins | January 21, 2011 Brown Bluff - Antarctic Sound (Fridgett Sound to Weddell Sea) | We reached the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in the early morning and we found ice conditions conducive to making a landing at Brown Bluff. This wonderful site consists of a long beach backed by a spectacular, rust-colored cliff rising 2,225 feet (675 m) above sea level. The cliff face is actually the exposed interior of a huge cinder volcano that has been cleaved in half and partially washed into the sea (Figure A). Its appearance is not unlike the mesas of the American west, although this is a volcanic structure surrounded by a massive ice cap. This morning we went out with the second group up to this island where we visited a colony of Adelie penguins and some Gentoo penguins. We walked sideways through a side-slipping hill with snow and ice up onto a glacial ice field and took lots of pictures. The hill was a bit scary and Susan found it very challenging and frightening (as everyone did), but worked up her courage and got across the tough part (in both directions). “I would not have been able to do this 20 years ago”. Very true!
20: Hiking up a Glacier
21: The penguins here formed long lines single file to follow sand bars out toward the water. They would hesitate and then one would jump in and dozens would follow. No one wanted to be first or last – the vulnerable positions to be eaten by seals.
22: Devil’s Island and Whale Watching During lunchtime, the ship made its way through the Antarctic Sound, which affectionately has been referred to as Iceberg Alley. We passed (maybe a little too close) to numerous tabular bergs. The afternoon started with us watching whales from the bow of the ship and from the bridge. We saw many hump back whales and a family of killer whales that followed the ship for quite a while. When we arrived at Devil’s Island we had the option of going on land to visit one of the larget colonies of Adelie Penguins (about 15,000 pairs) or taking a Zodiac ride around the back of the island to see the ice floes. We chose the land option. When on land we had the option of climbing to the hill top, walking across the “saddle to see the other side and Seymour Island or just hanging around with the penguins. Bob walked to the top which was over 600 feet up and Susan walked across the saddle. Great views from all places and tens of thousands of penguins. The penguins were nesting across the entire front of the island.
26: This morning we arrived at Deception Island. It was a bit windy so the boat was a bit rocky as we went down for breakfast. Breakfast as usual was delicious. The island has a small opening and then is horseshoe shaped, so it has a well protected and somewhat hidden harbor. It had been a major scientific base and some of the buildings remain. The island is volcanically active with the last major eruption in 1969, although there are hot springs. The last eruption killed off most life within the water in the bay, so there are straggler penguins, but no active colony on this side of the island, as there is not enough food for them here. On the outside of the island is a very large colony of penguins. We landed at Whaler’s Bay. Clouds of dust and volcanic ash were picked up by the wind and swirled into earth-colored tornados that spun down the length of the beach in Whaler’s Bay. Figures in red parkas bent forward and struggling thought the gusts made their way among the ruins of the old whaling station in Deception Island. There was a major whaling operation here from the 1800’s until 1931 and the ruins are well displayed. Storage and processing facilities are evident. We hiked up to Neptune’s window and then around the hills for a while before heading down to look at the ruins of this abandoned whaler village. It was very windy with swirling clouds of dust and volcanic ash making walking difficult. | January 22, 2011 Deception Island
27: A few took the challenge of a swim in the icy Antarctic water. Standing in swimsuits braced against the strong winds, many faces looked doubtful that this was really a good idea. Then, suddenly the swimmers would race forward with a sudden courage and plunge into the water. A hot chocolate with a dash of whisky made it all not seem quite so bad when they got out. And shivering the polar plungers jumped into the nearest zodiac and hurry back to the warmth of their cabin on the ship.
28: Lindblad Cove Our ship left Whaler’s Bay and passed again through the narrow gap of Neptune’s Bellows and into the waters of the Bransfield Strait. Soon we were passing into the sheltered water of Charcot Bay and then into the surreal beauty of Lindblad Cove. Blue icebergs in fantastic shapes floated by. Almost immediately a leopard seal was spotted, resting tranquilly on a piece of ice. Looking down over the bow of the ship, the leopard seal looked back. Soon it resumed its nap and the ship moved on to look closely at a crabeater seal. Also resting, this seal was more blonde in color and prefers to eat krill, not crabs. The cove was named for the original Lindblad who started taking groups down to Antarctica many years ago.
29: Li | Lindblad Cove
31: Lemaire Channel January 23. 2011
32: Palmer Archipelago This morning we ate breakfast as we began to approach the dramatic Lemaire Channel on the way to Booth Island. We then went up to the Bridge to watch the passage through (See photo previous page). We are in the Palmer Archipelago, the group of islands off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. When we arrived at Booth Island we were in the first group to go out in inflatable kayaks. It was a bit chilly and breezy, but we had no problems through most of our time out in the kayak. We paddled along the ice cliffs allowing lots of room if there was a calving. We also avoided getting too close to icebergs (although as we were getting ready to load into our kayak an iceberg floated into the ship (the one you can see in the picture with the rescue boat on opposite page) and rolled over sending along a few waves. After about 45 minutes we decided we had seen what there was to see and headed back in. As we were approaching the boat the wind starting picking up quite a bit and we struggled to paddle to the spot from which we needed to disembark . Two kayaks that were lined up in front of us got blown back past us as we paddled hard to get in. Once inside they announced that they were moving the landing platform out to make it easier for the other kayaks to unload and they canceled the next group that was to go out. Then they announced an emergency as two people had fallen into the very cold water. It was a young girl and her Mom and they turned out to be fine, but were brought in quickly, undressed to get the wet clothes off immediately and covered with warm dry blankets. The emergency response was quick and professional.
33: We went onshore after this to see the penguins colonies and a site that had been used by the French to try to establish the position of magnetic South Pole. It was extremely windy (our guide estimated about 60 mph), but we got some great photos of penguins and their young chicks
34: The penguins wore out paths between their colonies where they raised their young and the sea where they went for food. THe waters in this area contained an endlessly varied sculpture garden of blue and white ice, full of exquisite detail and unique color, broken into craggy towers, carved into sinuous lines, moving and changing before our eyes.
35: Protecting their young from the winds and cold and feeding them at a point near the French site at the island peak. | This afternoon we visited Petermann Island. This is the location where the group that sponsors two young woman who are on our trip who monitor and count penguin populations in locations throughout the Antarctic Peninsula have maintained a multi-year site. They have noted that the population of Adelie Penguins has dropped significantly here as the average temperature has risen by 5 degrees Celsius as part of global warming. The Adelie populations further South have maintained their populations. The Gentoo Penguins populations have risen even more sharply as they are more of a Sub-Arctic species. This has historically been their southernmost breeding location, but they now seem to be spreading further south with the warming.
36: We walked up to a couple of areas where there were breeding groups with chicks. As usual the groups on the higher locations had much larger and more mature chicks than those on the lower and newer breeding areas. We then walked down towards the research building that is located here and saw a Weddell Seal that had dragged itself up the slope and was sleeping in the snow. .
39: We finished the afternoon with a Kodiak ride to look at and take pictures of icebergs. As usual there were some pretty amazing shapes and colors.
43: Monday, January 24th, 2011 The Gullet This morning we went into an area called the Gullet where the scenery (soaring peaks and sweeping glaciers) and ice floes are very interesting. It was calm so we were able to go for a Kayak ride around many ice floes with seals on them. While on the Kayaks we were served (from a Zodiak) Glog – a Swedish hot spiced wine concoction that was pretty good. We then went out in a Zodiak with Stephan who took us on a fun ride to see some spectacular ice formations.
45: Early in the morning we had seen an Emperor penguin on an ice floe and gotten a couple of pictures (we were on our way to breakfast). As we returned up the channel we spotted the Emperor again and for a half hour stayed next to it so people could take pictures.
46: We watched killer whales spy hop looking for their favorite food, a Weddel seal. In the afternoon we had a little barbecue break on the back deck of the ship where a light treat was served with beer or soft drinks. The weather was mild and everyone enjoyed themselves.
47: After this we went to Detaille Island and Base W, where we dropped off 2 people who will begin to restore this site, which was the last of many British outposts established in the region in the 1950’s. Hastily abandoned in an emergency evacuation in 1958, the old camp looks much the same as it did when it was occupied for three years during the end of that decade.
48: Personal items and effects were left, along with everything else it took to manage an Antarctic installation at the time. Things are deteriorating rapidly now and the place needs a lot of work if it is to be preserved.
50: January 25, 2011 Lemaire Channel Port Lockroy and Jougla Point First we visited nearby Jougla Point where there are many left over whale bones from an abandoned whaling operation. When we first landed here there was a young crab eater seal that Susan took a great picture of up close.
52: Tom explained to us how when working here while in college he and some friends reconstructed a whale skeleton from bones left on the each here. Bones from several, not always similar whales where used. Today this would be frowned on.
53: Port Lockroy was the first British base in Antarctica, established in 1944. It has been fully restored to be as it was in the 1950’s. It has an interesting museum and a gift shop that serves as a Post Office where you can mail things home via the UK (it takes about 7 weeks). Penguins live all around the base camp, even under the building.
54: Danco Island In the afternoon we sailed to Danco Island and we took the opportunity to go on our third and last Kayak for this trip, Some people climbed up to another 600 foot peak and others took a Zodiak ride. It was a beautiful peaceful afternoon and the weather was perfect for Kayaking, with a very mild breeze. We could see the penguins climbing almost straight uphill to their nesting area where the hikers had gathered. We paddled over to the area where the penguins came out on rocks and congregated before entering the sea. We watched them for a little while before paddling further into the cove. We were out for almost an hour and a half and had penguins swimming around us. With that we finished the active part of our visit to Antarctica and returned to the ship to get ready to head back North. | This evening we saw a preview of the DVD the staff was producing of the trip. We then shared our best photos on PC’s with the other guests. There were some great pictures taken! Sir Ernest Shackleton said, “I seemed to vow to myself that some day I would go to the region of ice and snow and go on and on till I came to one of the poles of the earth, the end of the axis upon which this great round ball turn."
56: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 and Thursday January 27, 2011 At Sea / Drake Passage/Cape Horn and the Beagle Channel Early in the morning, we started our journey back to Ushuaia, leaving behind the White Continent that was our home for the last week. The Drake has been good to us this time. Well, after a week full of diverse activities, such as walking on shore between penguins and seals, hiking to snowy peaks, whale-watching and cruising in Zodiacs and kayaks amongst the ice, it is time for reflection. When we think about Antarctica it becomes clear in our minds that Antarctica is not only a place; it is also a feeling, a way of perceiving nature, a life philosophy. Only someone who has experienced the long sunsets, the endless skies, the vastness of the sea ice, the majesty of mountains peaks and hanging glaciers, the brightness of the ice, the sinuosity of channels and inlets, the tranquility of bays and coves, the delicate beauty of floating icebergs, and the rich diversity of marine fauna in Antarctica... is aware of the effect that this region offers the human soul. We become affected in a special way when we have the luxury of enough time to contemplate and enjoy natural scenery. As our minds wander along unexplored paths, our thoughts become clearer, and we are able to deeply connect with ourselves and the surroundings. Time takes an unusual dimension in Antarctica, giving us the opportunity to explore those deep, fundamental feelings. The long traveling hours across Antarctica awaken the most adventurous and romantic side of one’s nature. Captain Cook said (while being in the South Georgia area), on January 27th, 1775 : “I can be bold to say that no man will ever venture farther than I have done and the lands which may lie to the South will never be explored". On Thursday the 27Th of January we could see approaching in the distance Tierra Del Fuego, where the Andes plunge into the southern ocean and then as we proceed Cape Horn becomes distinguishable. After Cape Horn we steamed towards the Beagle Channel (where we were accompanied by a group of small Dusky Dolphins) on our way back to Ushuaia. We finished the day with a farewell cocktail party and some humor from the crew.
58: The most beautiful day of the year in Ushuaia as we return we temperature in the 60's!
59: Saturday January 29, 2011 We arrive at Easter Island and proceed to our naturally air conditioned bungalow at the Altiplanico Hotel
62: Sunday January 30 The Quarry There are nearly 400 moai that were abandoned here mid 17th century.
63: Moai are carved from stone that weathers fairly quickly, so they are left partially buried to preserve them.
65: Moai statues were carved in place and then carefully moved down mountain and across the island. Many were broken in the process and many were left when the islanders suddenly abandoned the practice.
66: The main part of the quarry that everyone visits is on the outside of a volcanic crater. The inside was also used as a quarry and contains a lake that many of the wild horses that populate the island use to drink and bathe.
69: From the top of the inside part of the quarry crater we looked down upon the Ahu Tongariki site which has the largest number of Moai .
71: Here we are leaving the center of the crater in the Quarry area. Susan is standing in front of the narrow path out, and Bob is crouched by a sign warning people to be careful of the wild horses that also use the path.
75: Anakena Beach We finished the afternoon with a swim at this beautiful beach with its own moai. After dinner we went to a local dance show.
76: Monday January 31 This morning we visited the red scoria quarry where hats of the statues were carved.
77: Ahu Akivi This was the first alter restored on the island.
78: The Ana Te Pahu lava tubes were used as habitations
79: .We visited the Ahu Akahanga archaeological remains where there were ceremonial centers and villages. We had dinner at Edmundo Edward's home, where his daughter, who graduated from Wesleyan University, cooked and helped serve. We saw some of Edmundo's brother's paintings and some of the masks Edmundo brought back from his work in New Guinea.
81: Tuesday February 1 We packed up and then went to visit the Rano Kao volcano where the ceremonial village of Orongo is located. The Birdmen ceremonies took place here. We finished with a visit to the Vinapu ceremonial center with its stonework reminiscent of the Inca stonework in Peru.
82: The rocks along the area that faced the island that the Birdmen would swim to were heavily carved with figures.. Behind the spot was another volcanic lake, with vegetation so thick they became islands.
83: From here we flew back to Santiago for a day of relaxation and then back to NY..