Aitcho, Greenwich, and the South Shetland Islands
The first landing was on
Barrientos Island, which is part of the Aitcho group of
Islands. These islands are themselves part of the South Shetland
Islands. The South Shetland Islands are approximately 80 miles
offshore from the Antarctic Peninsula. The
M/V Ushuaia anchored a little ways off from the landing
site. And even though the only way ashore was to descend a steep
gangplank hanging from the side of the ship; everyone was happy
to be leaving for solid ground.
The distant lifeline
It took several trips, with three Zodiacs, to disembark all the
adventurers. The little rubber boats, overflowing with eco-tourists,
shuttling back and forth from the black pebble beach; was a sharp contrast
against the local penguins going about their business completely oblivious
to us. The ship seemed so distant from the snow covered seashore. Our
detachment brought home how reliant we all were on it.
The rocky beach butted a steep snowy embankment, which was difficult to
climb in rubber boots. There were penguins everywhere; lying about on the
snow, walking up and down the beach, alone, and in massive congregations. It
was around about this time their dirty little secret was exposed. They
really smell bad; especially when on mass in their rookeries. I mean they
smell truly awful, hold your breath, gagging smell. How can such a cute
looking creature produce such a bad smell?
The thin atoll did not take long to cross. Several seals relaxed on the
beach on the other side of the island. However, time seemed to flash by
quickly and it was soon time to return back to the ship. It was difficult to
pull away from the snowy wonderland, but we had to leave for our next stop.
Yankee Harbor on Greenwich Island, the next landing site, is a marvelous
place. It is a small island with most of its terrain about 4 to 6 feet above
the sea. In the middle of the island are several 1,000 to 2,000 feet peaks.
The island was dotted with penguins and seals. It took some time to walk its
full length in rubber boots, especially as it was snowing heavily. It turned
out to be a three mile hike through often very thick snow. Icebergs, some
with the most beautiful shades of icy blue, surrounded the island.
While sailing to our next destination a pod of orca whales offered
escort. After enjoying a great meal the most gorgeous sunset lit the
The endless Antarctic sunset
At this time of year they start at 10:00pm and end after
12:00am! While tucked away in our bunks the Captain slowed the ship down and
gingerly maneuvered through an ever thickening ice sheet. It was quite
unnerving lying in bed listening to massive slabs of ice bump and scrape
past the porthole. This was first contact with the Antarctic pack ice and it
would not be the last
Join me on the next part of the trip as this Antarctic adventure
Exploring Antarctica, danger at every turn