10 January 2013

A Quick Dispatch from Elephant Island

Elephant Island
Elephant Island

We are experiencing astonishingly good weather and amazing whale sightings at our first landings near the Antarctic Peninsula. Yesterday afternoon we zodiac cruised around Point Wild, Elephant Island with icebergs, humpbacks, and fin whales, and this morning made a truly delightful landing among nesting Chinstrap Penguins at Cape Lookout. The seas are glassy and right now as we re-position to visit nearby Gibbs Island, people are out on deck in t-shirts watching the fin whales and humpbacks that are feeding here by the score. It’s just amazing. Table Bay was inaccessible this morning because of sea ice and we had to make a long detour last night for the same reason, but where it’s clear it’s spectacular.

Even the two and a half sea days from South Georgia to here were very busy with all the excellent lectures – and the chance to get caught up on sleep after all the exciting landings. I’m gradually getting caught up on the South Georgia reports, including gathering geological tidbits, and will keep posting them as I’m able. Meanwhile, we’ll be landing again soon and there are at least twelve fin whales off to starboard. The Antarctic is incredible!

Heard on the Bridge:

“Why can’t we take the ship over there and look at those whales?”
— a geologist

“Because we have to go look at rocks.”
—a biologist

“The rocks will still be there after dinner.”
— a geology student

“No, they’ll be subducted.”
— another geologist

“They’ll have cleaved into an multilayered isoclinal porridge.”
— the biologist

– Kate Spencer, Staff Naturalist; Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris