Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Antarctica Journal day30 - February 12, 2007

Calm - 10 knots variable North wind /no engine/ seas 6 feet

The bad news is we aren't going that fast. But since we are going the wrong way the good news is we are not going that fast.

Steve says the first thing he'll tell Sunny about this place is "Did you read Shelley's blog? He could wax poetic about the incredible light, majestic vistas and lots of animals but, alas, "Lots of pictures means there's lots to see,'' says succinct Steve.

Russ says the things that impressed him most about this trip are the variety and numbers of animals he had never seen before and the fact that there were no people. And that not all mutton is bad.

I guess I agree. I might add: I will remember the ice: all blue and sparkly and dangerous, the skies on a clear day look like they are created with a thousand unique brush strokes, the different colors of water, from indigo to palest azure. And what about those little dudes and how just before the chicks fledge they are bigger than their parents and they chase them around, pecking at their throats until mom gives up her breakfast. In a week the parents will leave their pebble nests in the rookery for the last time this season and head out to sea to fish. The leopard seals will come to camp at the mouth of the rookery. They are ferocious hunters and they wait for the chicks. The chicks have no choice. To stay on land is to starve so they will go.

Did you ever wonder why they called them Blue Whales? Because if you have seen one surface you know they are grayish black. (You all know I love blue whales so just bear with me) I was hoping I would get to see one down here. They feed on krill at the edge of the ice. One mouthful of water and krill might weigh 45 tons but they contract their throat pleats then raise their tongue. This pushes the water out through the baleen while keeping the food in. Blue whales swim really fast: up to 30 mph but only if they have enough to eat. And they need almost 4 tons of krill a day. And when they slip below the surface there is an instant transformation from dark mottled gray to pale luminous turquoise blue...

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