Friday, 25 December 2015

Antarctica Voyage Day 6 – 24 December 2015, Graham Passage, Danco Island and camping on Leith Cove



This morning we woke up next to huge glaciers, ice bergs and ice flows.  It could not have been more stunning and beautiful.

Graham Passage, Antarctica


Graham Passage, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Humpback Whale, Graham Passage, Antarctica




Humpback Whale, Graham Passage, Antarctica



Humpback Whale, Graham Passage, Antarctica



Crabeater SealGraham Passage, Antarctica



Crabeater SealGraham Passage, Antarctica



Graham Passage, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Graham Passage, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Graham Passage, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig



Gentoo Penguin, Graham Passage, Antarctica


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Gentoo Penguin Danco Island, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig



Gentoo Penguin, Danco Island Antarctica




Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig, Danco Island, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig




Danco Island Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Danco Island Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



The area was full of Humpbacked Whales, which was stunning. We went out early on the Zodiacs, in amongst the ice leading to the Graham Passage.  Humpbacked Whales came really close to our Zodiac missing it by metres.  Our Zodiac then travelled from north to south between Bluff Island and the mainland peninsular, through Graham Passage along the shoreline, through thick surface ice, in the most dramatic scenery possible.  After two hours of cruising, we returned to our ship.  From here we could see that there were a number of ships in the same area.  Here we were in the Gerlache Straits, the main thoroughfare through the Antarctic Islands.

After an afternoon of sea watching, looking for Snow Petrel, we returned to the Zodiacs for a land excursion to Danco Island.  Here we got brilliant views of Gentoo Penguins on the beach and swimming on and off, doing that jumping out of the water thing.  We also hiked in the deep snow up to a Gentoo Penguin Colony 590 ft up.  It was interesting watching the penguins waddling along their “Penguin Highways”.


Gentoo Penguin walking along a "Penguin Highway" Danco Island Antarctica


Back at the ship we were having a quick dinner, as we were going out to camp out in bivis for the night. How cool is that?  

If that wasn't enough excitement, Simon came to tell us that the birder on their sister boat, The Ushuaia, had seen a first year Emperor Penguin two hours before and were about to pass the same spot.  We all ran to the top deck, where within a few minutes another passenger spotted the Emperor Penguin lying on the snow next to a Chilean research station, Gonzales Videla, at  Waterboat Point.  Our views only lasted 5-10 minutes as we lost the angle into the area. 

We are all ecstatic, especially Simon who had been coming here for 20 years.  Emperor Penguins breed on ice deep in the Weddell Sea and are almost mythical amongst birders as the only way to reliably see them is to fly into their breeding grounds and camp at a cost of about £30,000.  Not something most birders will be affording.


Emperor Penguin at Chilean research station, Gonzales Videla



Leith Cove


Leith Cove


Leith Cove


Leith Cove

Leith Cove



Leith Cove


Tonight was two nights after the summer solstice and sunset was at 11.55 pm and sunset was due to be at 2.20 am. We were sleeping out in bivi’s and apart from being too cold to sleep, the light was also going to keep us awake. We camped out on an icy island in the Leith Cove, just off the Antarctic Mainland Peninsular. We got to the island at about 10.30 pm, then had to dig out a hole for us to sleep inside our bivi’s, so that we were protected from any wind. It was the most beautiful night and to be camping out in, made even more unbelievable by the fact that we were in Antarctica. It was about 1 am by the time I was cosy in my bevi, but I slept really well considering how cold it was. What a way to welcome Christmas morning!




Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Leith Cove, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

Leith Cove, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Leith Cove, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig



Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Leith Cove, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Leith Cove, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig


Best birds and animals of the day:
Emperor Penguin
Gentoo Penguin
Adelie Penguin
Chinstrap Penguin
Kelp Gull
Antarctic Tern
South Polar Skua
Southern Fulmar
Cape Petrel
Wilson’s Storm-petrel
Antarctic Cormorant
Snowy Sheafbill
Crabeater Seal
Humpback Whale


About the Writer



Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig 


Mya-Rose Craig is a 13 year old young birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She loved seeing Mountain Gorillas in East Africa and Penguins in Antarctica over Christmas 2015, her 7th continent. 

Mya-Rose is a Bristol European Green Capital 2015 Ambassador along with Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Simon King, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Shaun the Sheep! See the full list of Bristol 2015 Ambassadors. She has also been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter











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