Antarctica and Patagonia, Chile- #2 Seals and Icebergs

Weddell seal in the snow.

There are several kinds of seals in this part of the Antarctic. This one is a Weddell seal. I shot it at a low shutter speed to blur the snow. We made several zodiac landings at various points on the peninsula on the northwest corner of the continent south of Chile. This is summer in Antarctica. The weather ranged from snow and rain to generally overcast and cloudy weather with temperatures ranging from the mid-20’s to the mid-30’s. As it turned out, it was generally warmer in Antarctica than it was at home in Kansas at the time. That’s not true today! There are also some fur seals, crab seals and the penquins primary predator, the tiger seal.

Tiger Seal
Weddell seal baring his teeth.

While we did see a few seals in the water, most of them were on floating icebergs.

This is a crab seal.
Crab Seal
Weddell seal

I liked the landings but I’ve seen penquins and seals on previous trips. I certainly liked watching them move around the land and in the water. What I think I enjoyed most was the unique forms that the icebergs took. Without putting something in an image to give some scale to the size of an iceberg it’s difficult to realize how large they are. For example, this image of zodiac from our ship with an iceberg in the background.

A zodiac between two large icebergs.
A zodiac moving between two icebergs.
These icebergs are thirty to forty feet high. These are reflections and not the under-the-water portion of the icebergs.

It’s said that what you see above the surface is only a small part of the iceberg below the surface. This next image was of an iceberg that was right next to our ship one evening. Looking down on it shows all that is below the surface.

Some additional icebergs…..

This iceberg has a pool in the center of it.
You can see the iceberg below the surface.

Following are a few images I shot with a GoPro. I held it below the surface beside the zodiac on an approximately 24″ handle. Most of these images are of smaller icebergs that we floated up to on our zodiac.

The mountains were equally beautiful.

Entering the Lemaire Channel. This is a 12-image panorama.

The Lemaire Channel is a fairly narrow channel. It is only about 1600 yards wide. It is one of the first passages we made into Antarctica waters.

On a rare sunny day I could see the reflection of the mountains in the ocean.
This panorama is made up of nine images.
The kayak gives some scale to the size of the mountain.

There was a group of kayakers who went out most days to move around the icebergs and to make landings on shore. There was also a group of snorkelers in dry suits who floated on the ocean. One group of snorkelers had a whale pass under them. I’m sure that was exciting for them to see!

I wasn’t among either of these groups but I did do a polar plunge off the stern of the ship. Yes, the water was cold but getting out in the wind was colder! I’m still waiting on a picture that the ship’s photographer took of all of us who went in the water. There were about 20 polar plungers!

We also saw several whales but most were too distant for me to get good images.

At the conclusion of our cruise, we headed back north to King George Island at the northern tip of the peninsula. We had cruised from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica but we flew back to Punta Arenas from King George Island. I was expecting a small airport but what we learned was that it was just an airstrip. We took zodiacs to shore. From there we had a mile and half walk up the hill to the airstrip. We passed between two research stations. One for Chile and another for Russia. Another Chinese one wasn’t too far away. There was no terminal, no seats, just a landing strip. Luckily, it was a beautiful sunny day. If it had been raining it would not have been pleasant. Three planes from Antarctic Airlines arrived. The red/blue group got on plane #1. Those of us in the yellow/green group boarded plane #2 and the three Covid patients boarded a third plane. We never saw them.

After arriving back in Punta Arenas, we spent the night in the same hotel we’d stay in at the beginning of our trip. The next morning I joined five others and our Russian guide, Daniel Kordan (his Americanized name) to start our week touring the Patagonian region of southern Chile. More on that in my next post. Thanks for following my blog!

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Antarctica and Patagonia, Chile

Chinstrap Penquin in a snowstorm

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Antarctica and the Patagonia region of southern Chile. This is my first trip since my round-the-world trip in late 2019 and traveling has certainly changed. After filling out multiple forms for the Chilean Ministry of Health regarding my vaccination status and verifying the type and date of my three vaccinations, I got the okay to go to Chile.

I was required to have a PCR test within 72 hours of departing the United States. Originally, I was scheduled to leave Kansas City on Sunday, January 16. I got a PCR test at our nearest community health department on Thursday, January 13. It was negative. I wasn’t sure whether the 72 hours was from the date of the test or the date I got my results so I scheduled another test the next day at our local hospital. Another negative test. Meanwhile, my flights were cancelled on Saturday due to weather in Atlanta, my connecting airport. Delta rebooked my flights for Monday. When I arrived at the airport about three hours early, Delta refused my test because I wouldn’t be departing the US within the 72 hours from the time the test was administered. They sent me to an Urgent Care location about ten minutes from the airport for an antigen test. Got it…negative…and headed back to the airport. All good.

I had a two hour connection in Santiago, Chile for my final destination, Punta Arenas, Chile but I was required to get another another PCR test at the Santiago airport. Everyone arriving in Chile is required to get this test. Transiting the Santiago airport and going through the necessary procedures was difficult. Lines were long and even though I got pushed to the head of the PCR test line, I couldn’t make it fast enough. I missed the connection and was booked on a later flight that day. Most of my fellow travelers on my trip required 3 1/2 to 4 hours to go through the required procedures.

The company I had booked my trip with had arranged for a hotel in Punta Arenas prior to boarding our ship for our trip to Antarctica. Before boarding, we were bused to the port were we were required to get another Covid-19 antigen test….negative again. Chile is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world and everyone wears masks. Getting into a restaurant requires your temperature being taken at the door, your name and phone number for contract tracing, if necessary, and be masked. Plus only two people are allowed to sit at a table.

Our ship, the Greg Mortimer, was built in 2019. It is owned by Aurora Expeditions and is named for the company founder. It’s a beautiful ship with two viewing platforms that come out of the bow on either side.

This ship holds 120 passengers and a crew of 95. There were only 76 passengers onboard for our trip. Due to Covid precautions, we were divided into four groups of 19 or so. Each assigned a color…red, blue, yellow, and green. The red/blue group ate together in the dining room first one day and then alternated with the yellow/green group the next. Masks were worn all the time with the exception of when we were in our cabins or in the dining room. The two groups very rarely were together. Otherwise, whether we were hiking or in zodiacs, we wore masks. Also, we were assigned table mates and ate with the same people every meal. There was no moving from table to table to meet and visit with others. Also, there was an empty chair between everyone. All food was served by the staff whether buffet for breakfast and lunch or a la carte at dinner. There was no helping yourself in the buffet line. The food was very good by the way! Everyone onboard was tested five times. After the first test, about 3 days into the cruise, three people tested positive and were confined to their cabins. I was tested a total of 10 times between my first test at the community clinic at home and my final test before I departed Chile for home on Feb. 4.

The ship moved multiple times as we cruised along the west coast of the Antarctic peninsula. We made numerous landings and used zodiacs among the icebergs. On shore the primary attraction was penquins…gentoo, chinstrap and adelie. Also ashore were fur seals, crab seals, Weddell seals and tiger seals.

Two gentoo penquins traveling along the penquin highway, the trail they make to move through the snow. Gentoo penquins have a white strip on the tops of their heads and an orange bills
Another penquin on the penquin highway.
A colony of adelies. They don’t have any white on top of their heads and black bills.
A chinstrap penquin in the snow. Note what appears to be a strap under the chin thus the name.
A mother chinstrap feeds her chick.
Penquins swim fast and jump in the water. Tiger seals are their primary predator.
This gentoo pops up out of the water!

We look at seals in my next post.

Thanks for following my blog.

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Auroras, Waterfalls, Sea Stacks, Ice Caves

I’ve recently returned from two plus weeks in Iceland.  I spent a couple of days traveling independently in Iceland with my son before joining a small photography group.  Iceland has been on my bucket list for some time.  This relatively small island at 66 degrees north latitude has been growing in popularity over the last several years and I wanted to see it before it is completely overrun with tourists.  The island has a population of about 350,000 and gets more than 2 million visitors a year.  Most visit in July and August.  Most residents live in Reykjavik, the capital.

I left Dallas on Nov. 10 at 4:20pm and had a non-stop flight to Iceland arriving an hour early at 5am local time.  Iceland is 6 hours ahead of Central Standard Time.  I picked up my rental car and headed for Reykjavik, about a 45 minute drive from the airport.  My son had arrived the day before and we had nearly two days together to see as much of the southern coast as possible.   He had been backpacking around Europe for two weeks and was on his way home.  When I picked him up, it was still totally dark since sunrise was scheduled for about 9:30 that morning.  Sunset was between 3:45 and 4:15 depending on what part of the country you were in.

Over the next four blog posts, I will do one on waterfalls, one on sea stacks and other landscape locations, one on the ice beaches of Jokulsarlon glacier and the ice cave, one on the northern lights.

Our photo group consisted of four of us and our guide, Raymond.

Here’s our group from left to right,

me, Ingrid from Argentina, David from Australia, Raymond, our guide, and Mariana from Argentina along with the Superjeep we needed to get up the mountain to the waterfall,

Aldeyjarfoss

There are more than 200 waterfalls in Iceland.  This is a few of those we visited.  By the way, “foss” is the Icelandic word for waterfall.

Godafoss

Godafoss at night with a moonbow and some northern lights. There was nearly a full moon on this night and it created the moonbow with the mist from the falls.

Gullfoss was one of the waterfalls I visited with Derek.  We didn’t go back there with my group.

Kirkjufell mountain and Kirkjufellfoss

These show the various views of the falls at Kirkjufell.

 

And a image of Kirkjufell mountain reflected in a nearby lake.

 

Fjadrargljufurfoos (There’ll be a spelling test later.)

Kolugljufur canyon and falls.  I was shooting from a bridge over the canyon and it was extremely windy.  It was difficult to stand up (I felt like a Weather Channel reporter during a hurricane) let alone try and hold the camera steady on my tripod during the long exposure and keep the rain off the front of the lens.  I shot multiple images here to try and get a few good ones.

Kvernufoss.  This was one of many falls that our guide took us to that had very few tourists there to share with.  Some of the falls are very popular and have easy access therefore there are multiple tour buses at those locations and lots of people to try and keep out of your shots. The second and third images above were shot behind the falls.  I wore grampons on my boots to keep from falling on the icy lava.

The following falls, Skogafoss, is one of those were tour buses filled the parking area and getting a shot without tourists was difficult.

Skogafoss seen here with a rainbow.  This falls is more than 180 ft high and 75 ft wide.

Lastly, this last falls is also easily accessible.

Seljalandsfoss.  Normally, you can walk behind this falls.  I was there with Derek before joining my photo group and Derek was able to walk behind it.  On the day I was there with our group it was closed due to icing on the walkway and lava behind the falls.

We’ll visit some sea stacks, lava cliffs and mountain scenes in my next blog.

Thanks for following my trips!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why you don’t want an aisle seat on a redeye flight!

I departed Dallas Wednesday evening at 10pm.  I’d ask for and got an aisle seat.  Thought I’d have a little more room.  I’d been better off with the window.   American Airlines handed out immigration and custom forms soon after takeoff.  They gave us a little time to fill them out and then served dinner at 11:45pm.  Dinner service was cleared by 12:30 am and I thought I might get a few hours sleep before our 5:15 am arrival in Lima, Peru.  Unfortunately, I was unable to dose off until about 1:30…then the lady with the window seat needed to use the facilities.  She was trying to be polite and not wake me or the person in the middle seat but it’s pretty darn impossible to crawl over two people to get to the aisle.  Now I’m awake.

By 2:30 I was able to get back to sleep until drink service at 3:30 followed by breakfast at 4.  So much for getting a little sleep.

After arriving in Lima,  I had a 7 hour layover.  The ticketing area at 6am was full of several thousand travelers in line to check in.  After about 45 minutes, I arrived at the LAN Airlines counter to find out my flight…while a LAN flight number…was operated by TAM Airlines and their ticket counter didn’t open until 9am.    Found a spot to sit and wait.

Now, I am in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  I have my last flight in one hour to Cuiaba.  I’ll spend two nights there and will be picked up by my Pantanal guide company Saturday morning at 6:30am.  There is a two hour time difference between Brazil and the Central time zone.  Lima is the same as Kansas.

The flight from Lima to Sao Paulo was very good.  I had a choice of dinner items, soft drinks and/or wine included.  The airlines don’t give you a bag of pretzels any more on domestic flights and charge for just about everything but water.  The international flights allow two checked bags and usually have meals…all included.

I hope to have another post tomorrow.  Thanks for following my trip.

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