Once again Europa departed as the most part of its crew were out for count below. Emerging some hours later it was something of a surprise to see the changed weather conditions, although the Captain had warned of the approaching low pressure system yesterday evening. Instead of bright blue skies and piercing sunshine, clouds shrouded the peaks and soon a blizzard was blowing across the Europa as it ploughed on, this time, and for the first time, heading northwards and back towards Ushuaia. But before then, many things still to see. The initial programme today was due to see us take in a tour of the Yaluah islands, not landing, but Europa cruising to take in the Adelie penguins.
The Adelie are another form of penguins, one which are generally found further southwards. We have just about reached their outer limit.
The Adelie are distinguished from the Chinstrap by their facial markings – explanatory photos should reveal all:
However this part of the programme was abandoned due to the inclement weather – no one, not even the hardiest of souls, fancied penguin spotting from a wind and snow swept bow of the Europa! We’re on holiday after all, aren’t we?! But the crew came up with a good alternative.
We landed at Booth Island, further north and, I think, on the same level as the northern entrance to the Lemaire Channel. We suddenly realised how fortunate we have been with the weather. A blowing gale, horizontal snow in our faces made for a completely different experience from our last few days.
But a good change it was too. We could say we had experienced a “realer” Antarctica! We hiked part way across the island to find an old stone structure which was used to house meteorological instruments in the first part of this century.
But first things first, climbing off the beach we nearly stumbled on a weddel seal, laying out across the beach. It was extraordinary to see this animal so up close, and so at peace. I thought he was sleeping, but it turned out he wasn’t, merely “resting” and probably keeping half an eye open to check on us funny aliens!
We walked around the island, checking out the various rockeries of adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins. I managed to see one pair of gentoos swapping positions on their eggs.
It was interesting to watch the ritual they have as they change places. Quite a lot of fussing goes on, and naturally several bouts of the throaty call we have come to recognise over the last few days!
Back on the boat we enjoyed a relaxing evening back on ship, for the first time in several days there were no hiking trips planned! Sometimes it is good to be able to relax and catch up on blogging and photo selection, even more so at the moment as we have a photo competition on board! Surely my pic of a penguin crapping must be a candidate for best picture in the wildlife category?!