Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Drake Passage and Antarctic Peninsula

The Drake Passage crossing was unusual on two counts. Firstly it was extremely calm, in stark contrast to its reputation as one of the most fearsome sea areas in the world. Actually [satellite data hat on] it isn't anywhere near the windiest bit of the Southern Ocean - that is the Indian Ocean sector - but to sail around the world you have to go through the Drake Passage whereas you can avoid the other areas, unless you want to go to Crozet (my PhD islands) or Kerguelen.

The other unusual aspect, for me, was not stopping. Unlike my normal research cruises where we stop frequently (we will rarely steam for more than a couple of hours at a time) we quickly dropped a couple of landers over the side at the north side of Drake Passage and then set off to the Peninsula. This, combined with a light tailwind (cross winds get the birds to ride the updraft along the ship), meant there wasn't much chance for photography, but there was a good series of Fin Whale sightings and a breaching Mesoplodon whale was photographed by one person, but I missed it.

The Peninsula was its usual calm and ridiculously scenic self. Photos don't really do it any justice, but here are some anyway:

 Cape Petrel

 Southern Fulmar

 Smith Island, the first bit of the Peninsula we saw, due to our slightly unusual approach route

 "Penguins on an iceberg!" was probably the theme of the trip

 Elisabeth, a PhD student from Florida State University seeing her first snow ever. Quite a way to do it!

 Gentoo Penguins, increasingly common along the Peninsula as the ice retreats

 Entering Lemaire Channel

 Lemaire Channel gets quite narrow...

 Humpback Whale fluke

 Another Humpback tail.

 Minke Whale

Quadcopter being "tested"

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