17 May 2014

Trip of the summer - Antarctica

This is an Adelie penguin on the Yalour Islands

This year started off with a very cool job opportunity of being a sea kayak guide in one of the last wilderness areas left, Antarctica. It was a little short notice but how could I refuse, so off I went to the biggest, coldest, windiest, and highest continent with no real idea of what to expect. Turns out to be one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen with my mind being blown multiple times a day for weeks! I did some pretty cool sea kayaking and had the greatest encounters with wild life so for most of the time I just enjoyed the moment and left the camera sitting just in front of me on the deck of my kayak. When I did pick up the camera there were some pretty cool results. Enjoy!

 The biggest colony of penguins that I got to see (100,000 pairs). This is the point where they all go for a swim to get some krill to go feed their chicks with. I sat here for hours just watching them get smashed by waves and launch out of the water before going and having a look at where they all nest. Didn't get very far in before I ran out of time and had to start launching zodiacs full of the passengers to head back to the ship. Hopefully I'll get further in next time!

 My favorite paddle. It started off with me getting ultra excited with my binoculars on the top deck of the ship spotting multiple groups of Hump Back whales and then while waiting for the crane to lower the kayaks I lost sight of all whales. Then once on water we proceeded with Plan C, Nacho not having the best luck with zodiacs we broke down. This actually worked in our favor because with the extra 15 minute delay we spotted our mega friends feeding again and ended up having the best encounter of the trip. This is a photo that Nacho took from the zodiac of a very excited whale breaching for us. Thats me in the blue claiming the shit out of it!

 This is a little further inland at Bailey Head. Penguin colonies are real sensory overloads. I try to describe it as the intensity of noise and smell as being at the tip (different smell though) and so many birds on the mission to either get food, or get to their chick or chicks. Though just like Rotorua, you soon get used to the smell and you can just enjoy watching the hilarious behavior of these not so little birds.

 As you can see here they are not all pure white and black either. In reality they are quite often covered in each others shit! All pink colored from the amount of krill that they eat.

 This one is from the day that Nacho and I were put in charge of watching the zodiacs with the tide. We never ventured further than 2 or 3 meters from the boats but I was way to entertained by these guys so end result was that the boats were well and truly beached. This is a young Gentoo penguin still with its baby fluff.

 This Gentoo was all made up with lipstick and all! I had my 18-200mm lens as zoomed out as possible because this one was getting to close. These young guys are just like toddlers, they just want to come and check everything and everyone out!

 Sunrise at Pleneau Bay where there are so many icebergs that get blown in and stuck on the bottom. This was the first of 4 outings that day for a ship full of photographers. That was a BIG day!

 This is looking towards the Lemaire Channel from a little hill that takes less than 5 minutes to climb up just next to Wordie House which is right next to the Ukrainian station that was bought of the brittish for 1pound in the 1990's. Turns out it was cheaper to cut their losses and sell for nothing than to tear it down and take everything away.

 This is a Leopard seal on an ice floe in Pleneau Bay. These guys are big and scary! Probably my favorite of the seals though.

 The evening I learnt/ realized how the polarized filter on my camera worked… Pretty cool.

 Pleneau Bay

 Even made it south of the Polar Circle on one trip. As you can imagine there was heaps of ice, but it was little ice so it was safe to get really close.

 ICE!!! Still south of the Polar Circle, the weather was so calm that we had an Antarctic BBQ down there.

 These guys are cool, it's a Skua. They like eating baby penguins. Life is rough huh.

 BIG BIG ICEBERG! Paradise bay where we usually saw some whales and I made friends with a leopard seal

 This is the Lemaire Channel at sunset with a humpback having some supper!

 Hey buddy! This is a lonesome Gentoo on an ice floe which is usually where you find their pain predator. But this one is happy as giving us a wave.

And here we have a Weddel Seal. They are just straight up cute. Not scary, don't want to eat me, attack me, or even that bothered, this guy is just having a scratch and chillin.

Hopefully that was enough. There is so much to see and oogle at down there with glaciers, mountains, giant ice bergs, and more wildlife than you could shake a stick at.. words and pictures don't even do it justice!

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