We all awoke today with a magnificent view of Yankee Harbor. This small harbor is on Greenwich Island in the northern section of the South Shetland Island group. As the ship positioned outside Glacier Bluff and Spit Point, it gave us a view of our landing site and a background surrounded with glistening glaciers. In the early 1800s, Yankee Harbor was a well-known American and British sealers’ landing site, which is evident from the artifacts remaining on the beaches. As the shoreline rises away to the east, we can also see an Argentine refugio tucked below a knife-edge ridge and rock scree.
Gentoo penguins nest in Yankee Harbor, above the gravel and cobble bar that protects the harbor. As these penguins are early in their nesting stages, only a few eggs were seen on the eastern shore. Hovering overhead we saw many skuas, predators to the nesting gentoo penguins. Although we arrive with the intention of solely observing the gentoos, we find ourselves connecting with these sea birds. Their curious personalities bring them within only a few meters as they stop briefly to check us out as they make their way along the penguin highway.
Further out on the spit of Yankee Harbor we found southern elephant seals hauled out to enjoy the sunny day. Some were lucky enough to see the numerous scars on the bull’s neck resulting from a battle against another male during the elephant seal’s mating ritual. Hauled out on the sea ice towards the northeast, the smaller crabeater seals also enjoyed the sunlight. Our only glance at them was from a distance as they held protective positions on the sea ice in the back of the harbor.
Gentoo penguins with Livingston Island in the background.
Once again we were at the mercy of Mother Nature. Increasingly high winds and a wind-driven swell surrounded the harbor, forcing the captain to make the decision to safely return to the ship before the weather worsened. The weather in this region is a reminder in itself of how unforgiving and ruthless the environment can be.
Mariano Albano entertained us this morning on board with a great presentation on the conservation of albatrosses and petrels in the southern region. ACAP, the international agreement to protect these sea birds by minimizing threats and raising awareness is playing a major role in the prevention of extinction. Since 2004, over 13 countries cover over 30 different species, protecting these sea birds.
Zodiac transfers are an experience in themselves.
Dan Cox gave a stunning and incredible presentation today. He featured his photography from the arctic including some breathtaking polar bear shots. Dan’s other projects took us to Montana to see his work with the American Prairie Reserve. We are lucky to have Dan on board as a photo coach to provide instruction to enhance our own documentation of our voyage in Antarctica.
Within a place of constantly changing conditions, we’ve learned to thoroughly enjoy the time ashore we’ve received, but to also appreciate our opportunity to even have a presence in this area and see the vastness of Antarctica. Tonight our compass leads us north, bound for Ushuaia.
Matt Dolan, Naturalist/Zodiac Driver
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