North, but still south... the fijords of Fuegia

North, but still south... the fijords of Fuegia
North, but still south... the fijords of Fuegia

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Yay friends!!!!!

So, I was finally able to post after multiple failures!  I'm just about to leave on my fifth trip of the season, it's been super busy as usual but with such great people I've been working with it's been fantastic. And to top it off, I've been able to visit with friend if mine in three different 'human' places on the way!!! South Georgia (Sheri Bluestein, worked together at mcmurdo) , Port Lockroy (liesl shernthaner, from South Pole), and lastly a veritable handful of fantastic folks at Palmer Station!!!  We were able to book in a visit to Palmer, my inside connection there (yea Katie Leum!) when we realized that my ship wasn't slated for a visit and what a shame to miss each other on this side of the continent, Katie told me all of the slots for visits hadn't been booked for the season so we went through all the official channels and our Expedition Leader rearranged our schedule to get us in on the one day the station had available to accept us and voila!  We were in!  It was so awesome to get to spend some time with great friends, catch up a bit on our lives since we'd last seen each other... Several years in fact but it was like no time had passed.  We were even able to invite some of the station staff on board for an outdoor barbeque in the sun, as that morning the weather cleared after several days of cloud and rain. Good omens all around!

So that's it for now, madly catching up on clearing out the spam in the inbox, be patient if you're waiting on a reply from me... I hope to get to it eventually.  Internet on the ship is essentially a no-go.

Love and hugs to everyone,
:) jos

Not dead, just down south...

This was written two weeks ago, and I'm just now finally getting internet on a port day... So enjoy and I'll try again next time!

Well, another Antarctic season has begun... well, it's actually far underway, I've just come on in the middle of it!  The ice is melting, the penguins are with chicks, seals have their pups... it's full on summer down here.

I've had two trips so far, one ten day to the Antarctic peninsula and one 18 day to the Falklands, South Georgia, and the peninsula and both trips were fantastic... stunning weather, great guests, great crew... and I'm getting paid to be here.  Not really a bad deal, all in all.

Our internet connection on the ship continues to be relatively inaccessible though so it'll just be bits and pieces from me as I can get things uploaded in town on turnaround days.  With that in mind (I'm typing in bed on the eve of our port day in Ushuaia) here's a brief synopsis of my time so far.

Here's port, the lovely mountainscape of Ushuaia Argentina

Then it was off to the land of ice and such... then boarding the zodiacs...

Heading off to a cool destination...

Like the wreck of an old whaling supply ship (the Governouren in Foyn Harbour) with a private boat anchored in its shallow lee

or maybe a zodiac cruise

Where we happened to run into Santa on Christmas Day...

Or maybe some kayaking?

Or perhaps a hike overlooking Paradise Bay on a flat calm, blue sky day?


But what about the penguins?  Yep, some of those too...

At Useful Island, a 360• lookout once used by whalers and now enjoyed for scenery, peace, and nesting gentoos on high!

Ok, and there was at least one iceberg we saw...

Then off with that lot, on with the next, and sailed off to the Falklands we did!

Windswept islands looking a lot like the Scottish moors, but with black-browed albatross and rockhopper penguins throwing a wrench in things...

Then on to Stanley for a little "throwback Thursday" scene of a farflung British outpost still supplied primarily by ship from the old country... Though there is an amazing coffee/wine bar/chocolate shop selling the finest truffles for I don't know how many thousands of miles...

And off again to Saunders Island where we saw four species of penguins in just about a square mile... (gentoo, king, magellanic, rockhopper).

Then it was back to sea, heading for South Georgia.  It doesn't disappoint, especially when the weather holds and you're treated to blue skies and fair winds... Not to mention tons of wildlife!

Actually the fur seals were so dense here that we couldn't land the passengers safely so we had to move on!

I used my camera for all of the other landings so I don't have a record of them here but at the end we were able to take the ship up into Drygalski fijord which was an impressive area for the jagged rock walls and craggy ice falls... not to mention the 50 knot winds screaming down at us from the glacier at the head of the inlet...

Then came Point Lookout at Elephant Island... the nearly inaccessible point Shackleton and his men first made landfall after their journey across the ocean after their winter spent stuck inthe pack ice of the Weddell Sea...

And then on to the Antarctic Peninsula... where I am continually mesmerized by the white stuff...

We did have a lot of whale sightings, I took this pic of one that was far away

But then some crew got really excited at the window, pointing to a whale they said was really close!

Turned out it was a drawing of a whale they were pointing at... stinkers! :))))

A last stop at Deception Island (the caldera of a blown up/sunken volcani, still thermally quite active!) where we landed near to Spanish and Argentine research bases... 

Where I took a great walk along the beach 

and found some neat penguin tracks

even where one had taken a snooze and then, as it used its flippers to stand (or maybe just dug in for traction), it shot out a load of poo, as they are wont to do...

And that's my parting shot, as it were!  Take care until next time, love and hugs to all!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Uttermost Part of the Earth's Museum

Tierra del Fuego has lived as a special part of history for a long time as a legendary location, whether in fanciful myth or as a very practical 'hump' necessary to get round if traversing the seas.  I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to visit a place that figures in the legend, the historic Estancia Harberton.  It has been a farm/ranch since the late 1800s and is now additionally a tourist destination and research center (pics below) for birds and marine mammals.

There is an absolutely fantastic book that describes the founding of the estancia and the European settlement of the area, including excellent descriptions if the indigenous populations of the area and relations between the groups: The Uttermost Part of the Earth, by Lucas Bridges.  Reading this book is what brought an American woman named Natalie Prosser here in the 60s, who ended up marrying the owners son (Tom Bridges) and she has developed an incredible biological resource here-- a private museum and repository of thousands of animal skeletons collected from the regions beaches.  Here is the museum director Angie with a new find...

Due to the currents surrounding/passing the tip of the continent, along with a combination of local topography and tidal influences, the region receives many animals washing up on its shores, just waiting for keen biologists to pack them off home, strip off the flesh (heedless of the muck and stench), and add the cleaned bones to the ever growing collection.  The museum hosts several university students each year as part of an internship program, learning collection and necroscopy techniques as well as giving tours of the museum to visitors.

Natalie Goodall and her students have been responsible for hundreds of publications, shedding light in many lesser known marine species, just by virtue of working in a sparsely populated and researched area (not to mention a student work ethic and pervasive curiosity).  Bottom line, it's pretty awesome what they're doing here.  And at just shy of 80, Natalie is still full of projects and priorities, keeping the museum and lab headed into the future.

Below, Natalie and crew in 1984 processing a stranded whale.

A couple days ago, after a short guided tour of the farm and its history

I got to visit a penguin colony on an island that the family owns and slows a tour company to take tourists there.  Three kinds of penguins: Magellanic (that live in burrows away from the shore) gentoo, and a couple of lost King penguins :)

Not ready to leave this evening, but my other commitments (oh yea, going to Antarctica!) are calling... what a great experience here!