Antartica Travel Log and Photos

This was our second millennium trip from late December 2000 through January 2001. Since there was debate about the actual millennium year (my opinion, watching all the digits turn is what matters), this was considered to be a millennium trip.

Anyway, into the more important points. We took a trip through Cheeseman’s Ecology Safaris, a small Mom and Pop, literally, travel specialist in California. Actually, Doug and Gail’s son Ted was also on the trip. The Cheesemans are wonderful people. Our only complaint, if it can be called a complaint, was that they were a bit too nice and too trusting. There were times when we would have liked to see them reign in some of the guests a bit more sternly.

The truly excellent things about the Cheeseman’s trip were that it was 100% wildlife focused, that it was significantly longer than other comparable trips, and that it was less expensive than most, especially when the per day rate is considered. Remember, if you are planning a trip to Antarctica, much of the best wildlife on the trip is in the Falklands and South Georgia. If your finances and schedule can possibly allow, definitely get to these places.

Also, when planning a trip there, it is very important to look at your schedule of days at sea. We compared at the time we went and found that the Falklands, S. Georgia, S. Orkney, and the Antarctic Peninsula take about 11 days at sea. So, if your trip is 19 days, you only have 8 days of landings. Our trip was 25 days, giving us 14 days of landings. Each day that you add to a trip like this is a land day rather than a sea day. At sea, you will see birds flying around the ship and whales, though mostly distant. An ice-strengthened ship weighs a lot and cannot turn on a dime to watch whales.

This photo was taken near the end of the trip at the southernmost point we reached, about 66 degrees 11 minutes south latitude. We did not cross the Antarctic Circle. Though the scan is not as good as the print from film, I should say that of all the photos on our walls, this is the one we blew up to the largest size, 16×24.

Antarctic Peninsula

Click on the more link to see the rest of the images from the trip, or at least the small subset I scanned and uploaded.

Rockhopper Penguin with Chick in the Falklands on New Island.

Rockhopper Penguin with Chick

Striated Caracara on Steeple Jason Island in the Falklands. These birds are highly intelligent, mischievous and serious predators preying on the penguins, albatross, and shags (a.k.a. cormorants), especially the chicks. A British couple was there to film them. They searched the island only to find them back at camp completely trashing their tents and all of their stuff. I let one get close while I was sitting on the ground. I was wearing my first pair of Chota Mukluks, which make great wet landing boots, and had to move a tad to scare the bird off. I was worried that that beak and strong talons might get through the rubber on my boot.

Caracara

Also on Steeple Jason, we went to a colony of about a half million Black Browed Albatrosses. Here’s a photo of one coming in for a landing. Of cours, all of the other black and white blobs behind are more albatrosses.

Black Browed Albatross

Stanley Island has the bulk of the human population of the Falklands. I seem to remember the total being about 5,000 people. The people there are Brits and were not at all thrilled about the prospect of becoming Argentine. Britain fought to keep the islands. Among other things they did there, they planted land mines. They have since refused to remove these mines. IMHO, the purpose of land mines is to sit in the ground for 30 years and then blow kids legs off.

Land Mines

Salisbury Plain on South Georgia Island had another of our half million bird colonies. This time the birds were King Penguins. I hope you’ll excuse me if I’m a bit King Penguin centric here. They really are incredibly beautiful birds with adorable enormous chicks, called oakum boys, which I believe has something to do with their coloration. This is an oakum boy.

Oakum Boy

Here are a few king penguins. OK, more than a few. This is a partial view of the colony. In the background, the entire flat land mass is penguins.

A Few King Penguins

Here’s a King Penguin head shot.

King Penguin Head Shot

King Penguins come in a variety of colors. Some have backs a tad more silvery like this one. Some are more black. A small number are leukistic, which means tending towards white. These are lighter than the others, some being almost blond, but mostly being a medium brown. In fact, the leukistic penguins of any species are typically the mechanism by which colony size is estimated. Once the incidence of leukistic penguins is known, counting the leukistic ones can approximate the total size of the colony with fairly decent accuracy. (Note to self, scan a photo of a leukistic penguin since I bothered with this long explanation)

Here is a very different and much rarer color variation though. They call this penguin a dalmatian.

Dalmatian

I’ve got the negative of the above photo, so please, no questions about photoshop.

On appropriately named Albatross Islet, we saw a colony of Wandering Albatrosses. These are tied with Royal Albatrosses for the longest wingspan of living birds at about 3.3 meters. Here is a male impressing two females with the length of his wings. They do seem duly appreciative.

Wanderers

Here’s a fur seal pup from the shore of the same island. Fur seals are actually sea lions or eared seals. True seals do not have any visible ears and cannot lift themselves off the ground to the same extent. Sea lions can actually pull their hind flippers underneath them and get quite high up on their flippers. Seals on land are much less agile.

Fur Seal Pup

This Elephant Seal is a true seal. I think if Rodin had been a seal, this would have been his Thinker. This was in Grytviken on South Georgia. There is a human couple living in a small sale boat there and caring for the museum. They are the total human population of South Georgia.

Elephant Seal Thinker

At Cooper Bay, still on South Georgia, we saw Macaroni Penguins like this one.

Macaroni Penguin

Sometimes, the camera catches things I never see. Since we were still using film at the time, I did not see this until I got home. Most of the time penguins feed their young, the chick will insert his/her head completely into the parent’s mouth and the parent will regurgitate to them. This time, the Chinstrap Penguin chick’s head was outside of the parent’s mouth and the regurgitated food shows. Note the pink color of krill. What’s up Chuck?

Chinstrap Penguin Regurgitation

Here is an Adelie Penguin carrying a rock for nesting material on Paulette Island. Adelies will prostitute themselves for rocks, which are highly valued as nesting material since there is little else there. Note that sometimes the prostitute will simply take the rock and not provide the sex.

Adelie with Rock

Contrary to popular belief, penguins can fly, sort of. This adelie is popping out of the water fast enough to be significantly airborne. It should also be noted that penguins swim using their flippers, which is very much like flying underwater. Most diving birds swim with their feet not their wings. Penguins and alcids use their wings underwater.

Penguin Popper

The cute wide smile on this Leopard Seal allows him/her to open his/her mouth very wide. Leopard seals grab penguins and shake them side to side until they literally come out of their skin. Then they eat the high fat skin. We were fortunate not to be among the two people on the trip who actually saw this happen.

I am posting the same photo twice here. Once for the head shot and once for just the eye. If you look closely at this leopard seal eye, you can see human shapes in a zodiak boat reflected. Again, I have the negative. This is not photoshop.

Leopard Seal Head Shot

Here is a zoom of the eye from the photo above.

Leopard Seal Eye

We saw many Gentoo Penguins along the trip. I saved this best photo for last since it actually is near the end of the trip. This was around 10 or so at night. The photo on the front page of the mountains was taken from the ship in this same location soon after this at around 10:30 PM.

Gentoos

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11 Responses to Antartica Travel Log and Photos

  1. ncredible wildlife photos! I like them alot!

  2. BubbaRay says:

    Scott, fantastic!! I can’t wait for my daughter to see these pics, I’m emailing the link now.

    These pictures are superb and amazing. To be able to see such sights with your own eyes is, to me, very impressive. I’m certain you had a “once in a lifetime” trip — few have had one or two to rival this (I’m waiting for my first orbital flight now, and I’m certain that if I p*ss in one hand and wish in the other, the “other” will be empty).

    Absolutely riveting. Would it be possible for you to provide links to higher res photos?

    Do I get to vote on which journey you next share?

  3. Misanthropic Scott says:

    Hi BubbaRay,

    Thanks indeed for the high praise. I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to take quite a few “once in a lifetime” trips. Good luck on getting to orbit. The rates for that seem steep even by comparison to the trips I’ve taken. Personally, I want to get at least as far as the moon. LEO’s cool, but not as cool as walking on another rock.

    You are certainly welcome to put in votes for more trip photos. So far, only you and Higghawker have done so. I have not put high res photos online anywhere, sorry.

  4. Helen says:

    Scott,
    I went to Antarctica in January 2007 and found it as amazing as you did. In fact, I’m going again in 2008 – but not till late February so I can get a different look at the Peninsula and wildlife. I will also be doing the Falklands, and So. Georgia. My photos were great, but I did have some problems with my camera and the whiteness (hence the trip back in 2008!) As I’m sure you know, the picture quality had nothing to do with the return visit, it’s just too awesome to take it all in in one visit.

  5. Misanthropic Scott says:

    Helen,

    Try overexposing for any photo with a lot of white to get the white to come out brighter. For digital photos, when editing them at home, you can try “click white balance” and click on a patch of particularly white snow. Then adjust exposure accordingly. This should work with your existing digital photos as well, you’ll have to “overexpose” by lightening the photo on the computer.

    Also, in bright sunshine, anywhere in the world, the “sunny 16” rule applies. Whatever ISO you use, you can get correct exposure by setting the aperture to F/16 and the shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO number (e.g. 1/400th of a second, or as close as you can get to it, for 400 ISO). And then, of course, opening up the aperture and shortening the exposure will also result in the same exposure so F/11 @ 1/800 is the same as F/16 @ 1/400.

    This assumes you have a camera where you can set these things manually, of course. If not, try changing exposure and using click white balance when you get the photos to a computer.

  6. bobbo says:

    Snow can be very difficult to shoot. Many take “two” photos. One set for the snow brightness level and another on the actual subject. Then the really “cool” (sic) thing you can do is sandwhich and merge the two different exposures for “the best” shot. This method ((I forget the name right now as it is a fairly recent development that uses photoshop but is not a photoshop filter–rather it is a layering technique)) gives much better saturation/detail than can a fliter or effect, although many see no difference.

    So, SCOTT—-one or two more photo essays and the question will have to be==You have only one trip to recommend. Which one will it be?

  7. Misanthropic Scott says:

    bobbo,

    For snow, with film, overexposing (and a warming filter if you like such things) were pretty much all that could be done. With digital photography, I have found that if the photo is taken in bright daylight, AND, if there is a patch of snow that really is white, as opposed to mildly blue, click white balance can make the whole photo come out with perfect color. The same is true if there is anything truly white in the photo.

    As for one trip out of all of them, that would truly be impossible. You’d first have to tell me your interests. It’s highly individual. For my own taste, I could not possibly pick a favorite. Would it be mountain gorillas, wild dogs, arctic wolves with puppies (though we never got closer than about a quarter mile to the puppies), polar bears, pink river dolphins, chimps, leopard cub, or so many other wonderful choices? How could I pick one? I love them all. That’s why I keep doing it. And, even if you go back to the same exact place twice, the wildlife sightings will be different every time.

    But, if you tell me your favorite animals, I may be able to give you some tips for how to see them, especially if they’re on my list of wildlife seen.

  8. bobbo says:

    Finally remembered–its called HDR or “High Dynamic Range” photograpy or True Tone HDR. I basically stopped taking photos about the time this came on strong.

    Appears CS2 has automated the merging process.

    Easy to google and spot some really impressive photography and it does join photography with computers. Nice all the old stuff can be scanned?

    I’m feeling its about time to recharge my batteries. Hope I don’t restart my aquarium habit?

  9. Misanthropic Scott says:

    Aquarium habit? Why do I have visions of a mixture of nuns garb and scuba gear going through my mind? Neoprene habit, what a concept!

  10. bobbo says:

    Well, I have had three major aquarium periods in my life. Each one lasted 3-5 years with a few years inbetween with the tanks always getting larger. Moving was such a pain. If I had stayed in one place, probably be filled with fish tanks.

    Photography went in one long jag for about 30 years. Camera easier to move?

    Some guy was asking for hints about how to photo the fish in his aquarium and it hit me that while I had taken a fish shot or two, I never did combine those two hobbies. I smacked myself in the forehead!!!!

    Now, neoprene is about Scuba and I never did photography with that either. Took alot of beach and boat photos but never liked the hassle of underwater photography. Did take an underwater disposable with me but never got a good shot. Too much “blue.” Think the fishtank might have been/could be in the future, a better alternative??

  11. amino says:

    hi i like pengin I bwhant to see tham

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