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Exploring Antarctica

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?

First landing

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 southern icebergs.

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 continues. Exploring Antarctica, danger at every turn

More informations:

Barrientos Island

M/V Ushuaia

Yankee Harbor


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