Sunday, 27 December 2015

Antarctica Voyage Day 9 – 27 December 2015, Landing on the Antarctic Penninsular



This morning wake up was an hour early at 6.00 am, as we were due out on the Zodiacs at 7.45 am to visit Paulet Island. However there was too much ice on the sea to get there. The area was stunning with icebergs the size of islands and huge amounts of ice on the sea.  

Instead of landing, we had a group of 6-8 Orca (Killer Whales) which we managed to get close to. Orca are actually whale killing dolphins. We had the most fantastic views of them for over half an hour.  They were in and out of the water in between floating ice, showing their black and white bodies.











Orca



Orca


A little later we were getting into Zodiacs and cruising between icebergs.  Almost immediately, we were rewarded with close views of two Snow Petrel, flying around in front of a massive iceberg and also over our heads.  They were the most beautiful birds and definitely worth waiting for close views.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig on a zodiac cruise
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig on a zodiac cruise
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig











Snow Petrel
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig


Adeile Penguin on ice









In the middle of our zodiac cruise, we met with the other boats and were given cups of hot chocolate, before we continued our wildlife watching.

Back on the boat, we were lucky enough to witness a very rare sight.  We watched as a group of about 12-15 Orca harassed a female Humpback Whale, which Jimmy explained were actually trying to drown it's calf.  The Humpback wasn't doing anything to stop them, just staying in the area.  He wondered whether the mother was staying as part of a mourning process.  Jimmy, the nature expert, said that this was a very rare occurrence but they had seen evidence of it on the last three voyages.  The first time all that remained was an oil slick with huge numbers of Wilson’s Storm Petrel on the water feeding.  This was the first time he had seen the killing in action.  Only a couple of people saw the calf, as it was being forced to stay under water until it drowned.  I know it’s nature, but I found it really sad.

In the afternoon, we landed in Brown Bluff, on the mainland Antarctic continent.  Landing on islands and cruising close to the mainland shore was fantastic, but there was something very special about actually landing on the Mainland Antarctic Continent.  It is something I have really wanted to do since I was 9 years old, my main ambition.

There were 20,000 penguins pairs here, mainly Adeile Penguins which had chicks and Gentoo with eggs.  Brown Skuas were here as well trying to get eggs or even chicks.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig



Adeile Penguin colony, Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig 
Adeile Penguin colony, Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig 


Adeile Penguin Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig 


Adeile Penguin Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig 


Adeile Penguin Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig 


Adeile Penguin Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig 

Adeile Penguin colony, Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig 


Adeile Penguin with chick Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig 


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig


There were also Snow Petrel nesting high on the cliff as well as Kelp Gull lower down.



Adeile Penguin  near Brown Buff, Antarctic Mainland
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig 





We have had strict rules in relation to our landings.  First we had to vacuum our clothes and belongings, especially Velcro, to remove seeds and plant matter so they did not become aliens plants in Antarctica.  We also had to scrub and disinfect our boots each time we left the boots.  Also, not getting close to any birds or animals and not removing anything at all from any place.  The staff on our boat are really dedicated and so care about preserving Antarctica. However, this may not be the same for all ship crew. Numbers of visitors have increased massively over the last 20 years and so the impact of passenger landings has to be considered.  

The research shows that nesting penguins are pretty robust but other birds nesting at landing sites may be effected by disturbance.  Other issues might be trampling of lichen and other rare fauna.  At the moment things are self regulated thought the Antarctica tourism group however there seems to be no real way of punishing persistent offenders.  I think overall that although there is limited impact from tourism this plays an important part in ensuring that people know and care about this continent, which is crucial to stop countries from exploiting the area.

Best birds and animals of the day:
Snow Petrel
Kelp Gull
Brown Skua
Adeile Penguin
Gentoo Penguin
Orca
Humpback Whales

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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