Antarctica Expedition : Post #6 - October 19, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

Antarctica Oct 19

Hi!! Today was one of the most amazing days!! One of the things on my "to do " list, was to record the sounds of Antarctica.

Penguins were on the top of the list... We had a permit to go to Cape Crozier to see the Emperor Penguins but it is very difficult to access them and it requires an Emperor Penguin expert scientist to accompany us.

Paul Ponganis is the expert in Emperor Penguins and we were lucky enough to be able to accompany him. It was a matter of going now or never. The Emperors make their colony in the sea ice. They find areas where the sea's underwater currents have made formations allowing them to be in protected areas.

On approximately Oct 17, the Adele Penguins (20.000) come to the mouth of this area. This area then becomes a protected area and no one is allowed to go closer.

The view and clouds flying to Cape Crozier were otherworldly...

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We left McMurdo by Helicopter at 8:30 AM and flew to a landing spot about a 2-hour hike away from the Emperors.

Using stabilizers on our boots and Ice Axe, we climbed down rocky terrain to the Ice. It was very difficult to find an area to cross that wasn't blocked by huge chunks of ice or by icy water.

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On the way we saw a Weddell Seal and her cub.

 
 

We spent an hour fascinated by the Emperors and their behavior. They waddle along but if there is a crack in the ice, they lie down on their belly and slide across. Pick themselves up by their beak and continue.

There were several baby chicks that had just been hatched, snuggling up to their parents asking for food. Not all of the parents would give in to their requests.

One Parent found a dead baby chick and tried to revive it. The sounds of these birds are like music.

We came across an abandoned Emperor Penguin egg...

 
 

We then climbed up a steep, rocky slope for 1 1/2 more hours to the comfort of our helicopter.

Quite a day!

 
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View on the way home!!

Tomorrow... Lake Vanda and Bull Hill

Posted by Diane Tuft

Antarctica Expedition : Post #12 - November 1-2, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Antarctica Nov 1-2

Cape Bird, Antarctica

Lou Sanson, the head of the New Zealand Antarctic Program arranged for Murphy, Lars, Tom, Tim, Johannes and me to stay at the Cape Bird Hut for 2 nights.

What a magical 2 days!!

 
On the 212 Helicopter

On the 212 Helicopter

 

We arrived at the Hut, which was quite luxurious, featuring a full kitchen with Stove so I was able to cook for everyone for 2 days. Water is collected by melting snow and the toilet is equipped with a Pee hole and a Poo hole and a place to put the paper. Upon leaving the Hut, everything needs to be taken away including the dirty water from the dishes, paper, food, pee and poo.

Our Home

Our Home

Our Toilet

Our Toilet

The trek uphill

The trek uphill

Waiting to open our last bottle of    Cabernet Sauvignon

Waiting to open our last bottle of
Cabernet Sauvignon

Cape Bird is situated on the sea ice with bands of open water... an ideal location for Penguin Colonies.

 
 

The Adélie Penguins come every year to make their nests, lay their eggs, and raise their chicks until they are strong enough to be on their own.

Building their nests

There are several colonies scattered on the rocks in Cape Bird. The number reaches 30,000 by the time all of the Adélies have arrived. At this time the male penguins are busy building nests for the female penguins. The nests are comprised of small stones arranged in a concave circle. It is hard work for the male penguins.  They have to find the correct stones and make an attractive nest so that the female will agree to lay her eggs in his nest. Each male has to make sure that another male does not steal some of his stones. The male and female Adélies are always on the look out for a thief.   

 
The best nest on the hill.

The best nest on the hill.

 

Once the nest is built the male sits in the nest and waits for a female to come to his nest so they can mate.

The female Adélies are still out in the water, so the male Adélie calls out to lure a female to come to his nest. It helps if the nest is well built!! We are not sure if Human beings mimic these penguins or the penguins mimic human beings... But most females like a good provider! 

The sound of their calls fills the air.

 
Calling

Calling

 

We watched a line of Adélies out on the sea ice, trying to get to the land. They waited for an hour before the first one went in. "Were there Leopard Seals in the water?"(natural predator). Not yet, but they were not sure. There is always a sacrificial penguin. The Leopard seal will eat just one, so it is a good sacrifice.

 
 

One brave penguin led the pack and they all followed coming over the mounds of sea ice snow.

I felt like I was watching a Disney Movie!

 
 
 
Hopefully they all will all find a mate.

Hopefully they all will all find a mate.

 
 
Mating

Mating

 
 
Couples

Couples

 
Once the couples are paired off and mate, the female will sit on the nest until she lays 2 eggs (approximately 3 days).
 
First Egg

First Egg

 

After the eggs are laid, male and female Adélies will alternate sitting on the eggs until the chicks are hatched.  (Mid January). While one is sitting on the nest, the other goes out for food. Shared responsibility in bringing up the chick!

The Adélies change the shape of their head according to their mood.

Distressed (flat head)

Distressed (flat head)

Pretty happy but curious (round head)

Pretty happy but curious (round head)

Sometimes they prefer a slide rather than a walk.

Sometimes they prefer a slide rather than a walk.

Sometimes they like to turn their heads for a little rest.

Sometimes they like to turn their heads for a little rest.

We then explored the area and found an amazing Glacier.

 
 
 
 

The sky is forever changing from the frozen droplets that lace the air.

A view from the shore

A view from the shore

A ring around the sun

A ring around the sun

This is Antarctica!!!!!

 

Posted by Diane Tuft

 

Antarctica Expedition : Post #16 - November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Antarctica Nov 8

Cape Royds / Shackleton's Hut

Today Murphy and I went to Cape Royds with Jean Pennycook, an Adélie penguin specialist. She will live at the Cape Royds Adélie penguin colony for 3 months studying the penguins. I can see how these penguins can be addictive.

Adélies with Mt. Erebus in the background

Adélies with Mt. Erebus in the background

Cape Royds is also the site of Shackleton's hut...

Sir Ernest Shackleton was the 3rd officer in Scott's Discovery Expedition of 1901. Unfortunately, he was sent back early to London for health reasons. He returned in 1907 on the Nimrod. The Nimrod was stopped by ice 16 miles north of Discovery's old base at Hut Point (the first landing site of Scott). Eventually, Shackleton set up camp at Cape Royds, which is 24 miles north of Hut Point.

On October 19, 1909 Shackleton and 3 others set off to go the furthest south ever reached... 88 degrees, 23 seconds (the South Pole is at 90 degrees). He was only 97 miles from the South Pole.  Upon his return with all of his men alive, King Edward VII knighted him.  Shackleton is credited with discovering the approximate location of the Magnetic South Pole on 1/11/09 and having been the first person to climb Mt. Erebus.

 
 

The hut was very simple... Just one room with everything in it...except, of course the necessary darkroom.

 
 
 
It seems like Heinz could have been a sponsor for Shackleton, also.

It seems like Heinz could have been a sponsor for Shackleton, also.

 

Warm clothes and transportation...

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The necessary reading material and photographs to remind oneself of home.

 
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In 1914, Shackleton attempted the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. It was going to be the first attempt to cross Antarctica from the Weddell Sea via the South Pole to Vahsel Bay.

His ship, "The Endurance" got trapped in the pack ice and crushed before landing. Fortunately, no one died but his trip was aborted. Shackleton went back in 1921 on the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition to try once more but he died of a heart attack before he could land in Antarctica.

 

Posted by Diane Tuft