Our first stop after Antarctica was the city of Stanley in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas, if you’re Argentinian). For hundreds of years both Britain and Argentina have claimed the Islands as their territory. In 1982 Argentina invaded the islands. The British, led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, fought back and ultimately reclaimed the islands for Britain. Today it is a bastion of Britishness. A monument to the fallen soldiers and another to Margaret Thatcher were erected by the Islanders.
Another must see spot is the Whalebone Arch, situated in front of Christ Church Cathedral. It was originally constructed in 1933 from the jawbones of two blue whales to celebrate 100 years of British rule. After years of exposure to the elements, however, they have had to be restored and now should last long into the future.
We also took a tour to Bluff Cove Lagoon to see more penguins. We’ve already covered penguins so I won’t discuss them here other than to say that we saw Gentoos and Kings. We left Stanley in a bus and then transferred to a Jeep 4×4 for a 1/2 hour ride to the lagoon of which two minutes was on an actual road. The rest of the time was spent traveling over pothole filled fields!
Here is one more picture of a young Gentoo penguin covered in his fluffy coat. Until he trades this in for feathers, he cannot go into the water. The fluff falls out or is pulled out by the young penguin.
Take a look at the following picture. Can you tell me what’s missing? Still don’t see it? Ok, it’s trees. The Falkland Islands have no native trees! Any trees on the island were brought there by the Islanders. This makes for some very strong winds covering the islands.
Also on our tour we saw some other animals on the island: Galloway cattle, ducks and Upland geese, and a black-browed albatross. Then it was back to the city for a lunch of fish and chips at the “Victory Bar” (what else did you expect on a British Island?)
All in all it was a very nice day.
During the sea day getting to the Antarctic, cruising the Antarctic, and the trip north from the Antarctic, there have been lectures and entertainers and, of course, watercolor classes. Here are some examples of my art projects. Each one is based on a photo taken by Ron or me. The man is the manager of the fancy onboard dining room, the Pinnacle Grill. He was nice enough to let me take his photo to practice my sketching.
During our cruise we saw 3 varieties of seals: Fur, Crabeater, and Leopard. Contrary to their name these seals all make krill the bulk of their diet. All varieties have a single pup per year. The females mate almost immediately after giving birth but can hold the fertilized egg in suspended animation for a few months until the previously delivered pup is well on its way to independence.
Fur seals are the only variety of seal that can walk on all four limbs. As recent as 1933 it’s population was estimated at 60. Today after active protection, the population is estimated at 65,000.
Crabeater seals are probably the most common seal. Pups will only nurse for 3 weeks before being considered weaned. Their main enemies are Orcas (killer whales) and Leopard seals.
Leopard seals are usually only seen alone. While their main diet is krill, they have been know to eat Crabeater seal pups and young penguins for their blubber content. Little else is known about them.
And finally, yes this is another penguin picture. I just had to include it because it was so darn cute. Our next port after the Antarctic is the Falkland Islands.
Since 1961 Antarctica has been governed by the Antarctic Treaty System which sets aside Antarctica as an area for peaceful scientific endeavors with no nation having territorial rights. Territorial claims have been tabled at this time. 29 nations have established over 80 research stations conducting actual scientific programs. Additional treaties have dealt with environmental responsibilities of operational stations.
The United States has three research stations on Antarctica. While we never actually saw any of them, several staff members from the Palmer Station came to our ship by boat and gave presentations on the research being carried out. Most of which are sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
We were able to view several of these stations during the cruise. Some of them are quite huge. No matter the size, the Antarctic landscape dwarfs them all. And…they all have huge populations of penguins as guests so they all have quite a unique smell.
Port Lockerby – British
As we approached the Port Lockerby bay, it was almost impossible to see the buildings of the research station. Once you get closer, you can see the red-colored buildings.
González Videla – Chilean
Obviously, when you think of the Antarctic, you visualize ice. The Antarctic is the driest place on earth. This was difficult for me to grasp at first, since there is a lot of ice and snow. The truth is that it DOES snow here a little each year (very little) but since that snow does not melt, the snow accumulates and compresses. This compression results in the blue color. Highly compressed ice scatters the longer wavelengths of light (the red end of the spectrum) and transmits the shorter wavelengths (the blues). The beautiful blue color of the ice floats and icebergs comes from this scattering of light, but the snow and ice that we see can be thousands of years old.
One morning we opened the curtains at 6:00 a.m. and our entire window view was taken up with an iceberg that measured 120 feet tall! Here are two views of this iceberg. I wish there had been something nearby that would demonstrate the scale of this huge chunk of ice.
We saw several seals and penguins who jumped onto the ice floats to rest between feedings. As the salt water cools and freezes, the ice formed is less salty and the liquid water becomes more salty and sinks. This causes the nutrient-rich water below to be pushed to the surface. This is why we find animals in the areas with the sea ice forming. This is a picture that Ron captured of a Crabeater Seal on an ice float.
We never got tired of watching the beautiful shapes and variety of icebergs. It is also interesting to remember that 90% of the iceberg is hidden from view below the water. The one huge flat expanse of ice that four football fields could be placed on it. The ice below the water level that we cannot see sometimes hits the bottom of the ocean and the iceberg stays in one place. Other large icebergs are plotted with GPS and added to the navigational charts.