This morning (Tuesday, Feb. 3) as we woke, the seas were somewhat calmer, and we could see albatrosses flying alongside the ship. Thus, landfall must be pretty close. More passengers reappeared and seemed to be overcoming their seasickness. The first iceberg was spotted about 8:30.
After breakfast, we had another mandatory briefing about Zodiac safety, most notably; how to get quickly and efficiently in and out of the boat with minimal chance of getting a dunking. Then we all got our life jackets for use on the Zodiacs.
We received the welcome news that we would make our first land exploration this afternoon (ahead of schedule) with a landing at Half Moon Bay on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands. The bay is home to a large colony of chinstrap penguins, most of whom still had their fuzzy chicks in their nests, as well as several other kinds of sea birds. Usually, there are also different types of seals present. We can’t wait!
The 210 passengers are divided into approximately three groups of 70 each. We then take turns going to shore via the Zodiacs, where each group stays about 1 hour. Typically, there will be at least 2 expeditions per group each day ( one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Since the sun is up from about 5:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night, the timing on all of this works out. The ship is frequently moved from one place to another between expeditions. Our group is scheduled to go at 4:00 and it’s a sunny, if very windy, day.
We land on shore and are immediately bombarded with unmistakeable proof of a penguin presence: the overwhelming pungency of penguin poo, and the raucous sound of over 3000 penguin pairs jabbering at each other. Everywhere we look we see penguins walking, nesting, feeding their young and chasing each other. As is usual, we start with an updated briefing from a naturalist as to what we will see here on this expedition today. We then move from position to position marked by the naturalists to showcase certain highlights.
Finally, there were all the penguins, including thousands of chicks, still wearing the downy soft birth coats, spending most of their time being fed by their moms. The cuteness factor was off the Richter scale!