So this is obviously exactly how it sounds. If there are boats available, we have time off, and we have been properly trained, one of the activities we can do it Rec Boating. We can just drive around and see cool shit. I have been on one of these trips already and have seen more wildlife/backyard Antarctica than I have in all my other seasons combined. I understand that this is a priviledge and an honor and hopefully you can see why.
Our driver for the day, John takes us on a grand tour of Arthur Harbor and beyond. Arthur Harbor is the bay where the station is located and Hero Inlet is right off the shore from us. It is just that. A little inlet. However, that weird current thing you see in the first picture, the thing that looks like a wake or a wave in the middle of the water? That's the upside down hull of a sunken ship. In 1989, right around the time the Exxon Valdez ran aground, the Bahia Paraiso an Argentine resupply vessel hit land and sunk less than two miles from station. I don't know much about it. Apparently you can see much more of it when the tide is out. But this is a cool link with a great photo of it. http://antarcticmarc.com/bahia.html
As the winter goes on, I'll do my best to head back out there and get some better pictures.
We continued on to Torgersen Island, the nearest island to the station. Here we saw an amazing site.
Tons of Adelie penguins just hanging out on the backside of Torgersen island. And they were all around us 'porposing.' I assume called that because they jump in and out of the water like porpoises. We also got to check out some elephant seals squaring off. They were probably fighting over women or land. I mean, what else to mammels fight over eh?
These next three photos are pretty cool. There are about seven huge icebergs floating around Arthur Harbor. Not state sized like that chunk that broke off of the ice shelf several years ago, but big enough to make our resupply ship wary of coming into the harbor. The rule of thumb for dealing with icebergs is that we have to stay three times their height away from them. Simply put, if an iceberg is 10 feet tall, we have to manuevuer the boat around it 30 feet away.
The berg you see in the photo is not that big at all so we are at a minimum safe distance. The other two photos are two of the more interesting ones. All the ice you see floating around in these pics is called brash ice. I don't know what it means but it comes from the caving of the glacier. We'll be sitting in the galley or walking between buildings and we'll here what sounds exactly like thunder. But it's not. It's the ice from the glacier moving. It's hundreds of thousands if not millions of years old and we are listening to it move. Breathtaking. But little bits of it will fall off and float around in the harbor. The white snow drift looking things in the water is freshly fallen snow on pieces of fallen glacier. So awesome.
And the first pic you see up there, the one that looks like a bunch of jellyfish or grease in the water, is called just that: Grease Ice. The water is cold and still enough to where it begins to freeze. If left alone and undisrupted long enough, this is the first stage of a frozen ocean. But wind or higher temps or boats moving the water will break it up.
These last three pics are my Palmer money shots thus far. Awesome. Thank goodness for cheap Fuji cameras with incredible digital zoom!! This is the first leopard seal I have seen. I love the picture of him chillin on the berg with the glacier and Mt. William in the background. Awesome. And the orangish pic was taken with my little point and shoot camera pointing through my ECW goggles. It turned out to be a good filter. That's a good representation of an larger berg that we have to move around. They can be dangerous and move or cave at any time so we have to be as safe as we can.
That's all for now. Stay tuned for pics from Boating II, the band room, Crosstown Pizza, and the last boat leaving for the winter! Some crazy things happen when the boats leave...
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