Many early explorers traversed the waters of the Southern Ocean in search of ice, land, or proof that anything existed at this end of the world. This morning, we could all relate, as many of us stood on the bow and various observation decks and wondered, “Have we made it to Antarctica yet?” Signs of life slowly emerged. Through the fog, we spotted petrels soaring in front of the ship and chinstrap penguins porpoising nearby, and the blows of sei whales decorated the sea. And then, we saw land.
As we approached the South Shetland Islands, we could see the columnar shapes of the basaltic land masses and hear the calls of thousands of penguins. We had successfully crossed Drake’s Passage and arrived in Antarctica.
We went ashore to Barrientos Island, where colonies of both chinstrap and gentoo penguins live. The sounds, smells, and tracks of penguins covered the island as we observed the behavior of these delightful seabirds. After seeing the graceful swimming of chinstraps in the morning, it was a fun contrast for us all to watch the somewhat awkward walking, chasing, and even napping styles of these animated penguins. It was a great first day of wildlife viewing in Antarctica.