Dearest Reader:

During the “big” trips I keep a diary for the entire group – what we did, what we saw, the jokes, the things that went wrong, the things that went right. I refuse to pretend that everything always goes smoothly on all of my trips, but we always learn and we always have a good time. Skim through this synopsis – blemishes and all – it isn’t sanitized but I think it will give you a flavor of my trips and the wonderful people who go on them.

Michael Ellis



Antarctica and the Falkland Islands with Michael Ellis and Marine Expeditions on the Academik Ioffe

26 February to 17 March 2000

Sat. 26 Feb. Up with too early to catch our 7 am flight to Miami. Carmen, Michi and LaVerne are already in BA having a good time. 4 hrs to Miam, far northern capital of Latin America. Long layover gives us time to have a scare about the Ellis’s “lost” coupon. Left on a big 747 packed to the gills for a 8 hr, 7000 K flight arriving

Sunday, Feb. 27. .. at BA a little after 7 AM. Through customs and onto MEI bus in the warm rain for 45′ drive through little traffic to the Hotel Presidente. Valerie and Gustafo our guias. 12 million in greater BA, only 35 M in country. Watch out for the infamous MUSTARD thieves. LaVerne and Michi got it but saved their money. the obelisk, 9 July 1832. Met by Steve from Toronto, shown our rooms, paid some fees, gave them our tickets. Took shower then met for an orientation. We are the bottom of the food chain here in the world of traffic- be careful. A walking tour is scheduled for 2ish. Rain clears. Others recover, go walking on their own. Beautiful flowering trees of the city – purple is Jacarandas and the pink is Silk forest tree or Choriso specious (in the same family as baobabs) known locally as the Palo Barracho the drunk tree. Monk parakeets, rufous horneros, chingolos. Some of us to a Tango show. Tomorrow the Estancia!! And big thick juicy steaks- yummy

Monday, 28 Feb. Good breakfast. We are READY at 9:45. Buses pull out at 10:10. Heading northwest out of town 70K to Estancia Santa Susana. Past the La Recoleta neighborhood, named for the religious orders that would recollect why they entered the faith. Dog walkers get $100/dog/ per month. one of the best jobs in BA. To our left was the Rio de La Plata. 220k in widest part but only 5-10 meters deep Brown because of all the sediments from the Paraguay and Uruguay River that join to create the river. But the highlight of the area was the recreated WORLD OF JERUSELUM, why isn’t that on our tour?? Forget the Estancia, give me plastic palm trees. 1978 World Cup soccer stadium, also Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones played there holds 80K. Past Country Club Estates for rich white people fleeing the city. Sounds familiar? Our bus heard a very very long talk on why there are no black people in Argentina. Basically they just sold slaves here but didn’t need them to work because they had gauchos. The other bus got to taste Matte, definitely an acquired taste. To the Estancia, welcomed by genuine cowboys, we think. Can’t make no money on cows these days so North American tourists will have to do. We tour the ranch house, some of us ride horses, we birdwatch (glittering bellied emerald!). Then our asado, meat meat and more meat. wine and wine. Followed by tango, singing, and guacho dancer playing with his two balls. Lynn (17 yrs of age) gets dancing trying to get one of those belts. And finally we watch the cowboys do their horse work with the grand finale of ring games. The little boy needed glasses, Carmen cruelly said. Lynn trades a very sloppy kiss from the fat guacho for one of the rings. Was it worth it? You will have to ask her. The owner was very good at the rings and cute to boot. Off at 4 and back to BA at 5:15. It was a gloriously beautiful day and the temp was perfect. early to bed tonight or might as well just stay up. Some us went to the Ecological Area, good for birds. Carolyn and I go for a stroll to La Recolata constantly on the alert for those infamous MUSTARD ARTISTS. Suspecting many innocent people but we are ready if and when they strike. Bags are out by 10 PM, so are we.

Tuesday, 29 Feb. Leap Day. Ahgg. We do it! Off to domestic airport on time. Flying south 3 hr 30 to Ushaia, Yaghan for ‘bay extending westward. Our trip seems to be finally be beginning. Land right on time, 9:05 at 4 yr old airport. Much safer and better than old. Cloudy 50. We are with Evelyn and Coco the driver. Go 11 k into Tierra del Fuego National Park. 45k folks in USH. last time I was here in 92 there were maybe 20k. Native Indians ate 300 mussels per person per day and sealions and ducks. Only 2 pure Indians left over in Pt Williams on the Chile side. 1902-47- Prison in Ush, defined the area. Beagle Canal disc by Fitzroy, 180 k long. As we enter the Park we see the first Andean Condor of nine that we will see today!! Great day. Our first stop is Ensanada Bay for a very brief 10′. We are ready to walk! Out of the bus out of the plane. In the Nothofagus (southern beech 3 species) forest. Kelp and Upland Geese, Imperial and Rock Cormorants, giant petrels, white browed cincloides. Usnea is the lichen in the trees, Mistletoe, peat bogs full of spaghnum, beaver dams (26 pr introduced in 1946, now there are 50K!}. To the end of the Pan American hiway, 18K kilometers to other end. Great grebe, ashy-headed geese, Lapaitaia= Bay of Good Forest. ia= bay in yaghan language. Banded k-fisher, fire-eyed duicon, black-browed albatross, flightless steamer goose, y-b pintails, dolphin and kelp gulls, Indian mussel middens. Oh yes some others reported a group of the very rare Fuegian, long-necked, flying penguins. Blackish oystercatcher, black-chested buzzard eagle. On the way back to town for lunch, we stop on a bridge for a great Great grebe looks. View of Mt. Olivia and the 5 brothers, glaciated peaks. Tax free area to encourage development in the late 70’s. To lunch at the very weird dog place. The lamb was apparently good but pretty old to be called lamb according to Huge Argubrite. Overlook at the peat bog area, great light, more condors, austral parrots Lynn sees.
We are dropped off at the Hotel Albatross for a brief foray into town to buy and mail postcards etc. Back to bus at 5 and to the ship. HURRAY, the excitement builds. We check into our rooms and Carmen and Lynn attempt to steal June and Richard MacDonalds luggage, all June’s underwear no less. They are finally caught! Now Carmen won’t get to use Richards bird book.
We are cleared to leave the harbor and the horn sounds very loud as we leave. Glorious light and rainbows- Bl-browed albatrosses, giant petrels, and skuas abound. Brad Rhees, the expedition manager, welcomes and orients us. Scott is the Hotel Manager. Adam the bartender, Pablo assistant expedition manager zodiac driver, etc. Akos the Hungarian birder, Sonja the marine mammal gal, Jim the Historian. Paul, Steve (from BA), Santiago. Very very smooth as we head almost due east through the Beagle Channel. Will enter the South Atlantic sometime around 3. We dropped our harbor pilot off at 10:30. Star talk by passenger John on the foredeck. We hope to make the South Shetland, Hanna Pt. on Livingston Island by 4 PM the day after tomorrow- Thursday, Mar 2. Seas here are noted for their abrupt and dramatic changes, nature will dictate what we do. The farthest south we get will be 65′ 10″ S Peterman Island. 43 Russian Crew, homeport on Baltic. Pablo does the safety talk, we are dismissed and then shortly thereafter have a safety drill. I sure as hell don’t want to get in that lifeboat. Oh my God they say we have to MUSTARD in one place or was that muster?? We thought the artists were at work again. Magellanic penguins seen. Smooth smooth as we all drift into sleep, this was a very long day.

Wednesday, Mar. 1. About 2:30 we entered into the South Atlantic and our journey got a little bouncier. After breakfast, all of my group looking pretty good., we have a lecture on Marine Mammals by Sonja, a German gal. Seas are averaging 15′ with some occasional ones of 20-25’. Glasses, chairs and people are sliding back and forth. Engine tour at 11:30, 12-knot average, and heading almost due south, 58. Great birds until we have an official watch for them at 3:00. Wandering albatross, giant petrel (northern and southern), soft-plumaged petrel, and white-chinned petrel. I slept through the history talk by Jim, covered Greeks to right before the first polar explorers. Seas begin to flatten out a bit around 4:30. Bird lecture by Akos at replaced by Santiago because he is sick. Introductory to likely birds that we will see. Magellanic, Gentoo (3rd largest), only one with red beak and nests in small colonies. 80-90 feathers per sq. inch. Chinstrap- the little mountaineers because they choose the highest pts and can nest earlier because, the areas are free of snow. the wind blows it off. Adelaide are the farthest nesting south birds in the world. Only Macaroni penguins have 20-30 prs only on Pen. But many in the Falklands. Rockhopper sim. to Macaroni. King Penguins are very slow breeders.
Wandering, Black browed and Gray-headed albatrosses. Light-mantled sooty albatrosses are sim to giant petrel. Fulmars, Cape petrels, snow petrels, Ant petrels, 98.5 % of Ant. is covered with ice. Wandering Albatross covers 8500 k in 10 days! White chinned petrels with wedges-shaped tails. Long line fishing industry using squid as bait is killing W. albatr and other seabirds. May be too late for WA. Wilson’s, white bellied and bl-bellied storm petrels. Skuas -South Polar and Ant. Ant Tern snowy sheathbills blue-eyed or imperial cormorant.
Wow seas have really flattened out now. Good job Santiago. Up on the bridge to watch for birds and then there is almost no activity. We cross the Ant. convergence as the temp drops. After dinner we watch David Attenborough in LIFE IN THE FREEZER. And then to bed. Peaceful

Thursday, March 2. Smooth sailing all night. Whale blow first thing in am (Humpback?). After breakfast we meet in the library for some info on seabirds. Cape and Ant. petrel, Ant fur seals, Royal albatross!!, fulmars, grey headed albatross, Wandering and BB Lab., The second part of Sonyas talk on whales. We could see Minke, Humpbacks, Killer whales are 20-80 K in the area. Southern right whales have 1 ton testes. Migration of baleen whales may be a response to anti-predation against Killer Whales, which stay down there all winter against the ice-edge.. Blubber has 5 “purposes” Thermal insulation, Food storage. Resiliency to help whale with upstroke of flukes, has “memory”. Streamline.
then up on the bridge- Passing Castle Rock and our first icebergs. Ice is, indeed, very nice. The whole continent is covered with a 3-kilometer thick layer of ice which occasionally yields giant icebergs the size of islands and states (in fact, there is an iceberg the size of Rhode Island floating around
somewhere off the Weddell Sea). The ice shelves don’t calve as frequently as they do in the Arctic, because at comparable lines of latitude from the pole, Antarctica is on average 20 degrees colder than the north, due to the size and influence of the ice cap. But they don’t melt as quickly, either, so they last a long time, maybe decades. And even the small stuff that falls off the ‘bergs and the brash and pancake ice that result from the freezing of the sea are enchanting. We see gentoo and adalie, fur seals, Light mantled albatross!!! Ant. tern,
Rounding Snow Island one minke whale and one humpback. Ant tern and lotsa of Cape Petrels and Wilson’s Storm Petrels The store was open and some folks did some shopping.
At 2 Brad gives us our landing/zodiac/ethics talk. Coming around to the south side of Livingston Island. We have made better than expected time because of a following wind. Speaking of wind it is blowing at 30 knots right now constantly. We may have to change locations (Hannah Pt was the original site) and go to Plan B. We do. At 4:30 we launch our first shore party onto Half Moon Island, lies between Livingston and Greenwich Islands. 62 36 S. The landing is smooth and easy. Rain is happening and heavy overcast. Met by fur seals and Chinstrap penguins, the little mountaineers. Sure enough there are many babies and quickly losing their down and gaining adult plumage. Skuas shooting through the air, the copraphage Ant. Sheathbill (aka Ant dove.) A few blue eyed Cormorants and Wilson’s petrel flying around. We stay 5 meters or 15′ away from every animal but the Fur seals. We give them 15 meters or 50′. They do tend to get feisty!!! The top is off limits as is the Argentine Base. Most of us walk east to the other beach where there are a few Gentoos on shore. We leave a bit earlier than the promised 7 because there is a slight change in the weather. But that’s OK because most of us were ready, it is cold, rainy and windy. Livingston becomes more visible to the north, huge glaciers. Icebergs all around. COOOOOOL. We are really here. Time for showers and Happy Hour.

Friday, March 3. Very smooth ride all night as we go farther and farther south. We awaken surrounded by land, glaciers, icebergs, minke and humpback whales. We are here, the beauty is breathtaking. Grp. 2 lands first to Cuverville. The beach is littered with whale bones. There are Gentoo chicks galore with every hairstyle available. Skuas through the air, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Ant terns, Imperial cormorants. We have plenty of time to wander through the large colony. The human antics are almost as good as the penguin ones. John has his tux on and looks real good. It is profound to have some quiet time to just sit and take it all in viscerally. And to boot the sun comes out and lights the ice up bright blue. Temp is 33. I get to see an iceberg calve into the sea. Great sound, dramatic. On the zodiac rides back we see Leopard seals very well and get very close to the icebergs and motor right through all the floating ice cubes. Back on boat for our Bar BQ on the back deck. Just in time because it starts to snow!! Carolyn says we are getting the Ant sampler, a little bit of everything. We are in a very tight channel, icebergs everywhere. Way cool way way way cool. We are supposed to with our little group after lunch but we decide to postpone it until 7. Neko Harbor is our next landing site but the snow is falling hard!! It will be on the Antarctic continent! Hurray, we are all happy campers except for Carmen who is feeling a bit under the weather like several others on the ship. The Water?? On shore at 2:30 ish the snow stopped for us. In Neko Harbor and more Gentoos, an Argentine Refuge site not occupied, dive bombing skuas, one Adelie penguin. Watched and heard avalanche and calving glaciers. Delightful to just be among those penguins tobogganing down the snow, watching the chicks chase their parents, squabbling with each other, gathering pebbles into a nest. Time to just be there in spite of the fact there are 100 of us, you can find a quiet place to just BE. Back on boat at 5:30. A minke whale plays with one of the zodiacs. A leucostic (Whitish) minke is seen as well. Sun is shining we are heading south in calm seas. It is good to be alive!! We anchor off Pt. Lockroy for the night. Watch Life in the Freezer part III. One million fur seals on the S. Georgia Islands. Mean skuas kill cute penguins. Mites survive with anti-freeze in their blood.

Saturday, March 4: We pull anchor at 6 or so. Skies are overcast gray and snowy. Minke whales abound. Heading southwest into the Lemaire Channel, 1 X 7 miles. Called “Kodak Gap” but it is pretty dark for good pixs. Can be chock full of ice but it is relatively easy to navigate through. Big snow flakes. Crabeater seals on ice, have pointed heads (dog-like), Weddell seals have cat-like heads and spotted) Leopard seals have reptilian heads and are big. We get safely through the Channel, have breakfast and we are at the farthest south of our journey, Petermann Island, 65 10, only 90 miles from the Ant circle the way the tern flies. Port Circumcision, named on Jan.1 the Day Jesus was supposed to have been cut, is our beach landing. Grp 2 on first and the weather has changed – no snow, a bit of sun. Our first Adelie penguins with chicks and more Gentoos. A couple of sheathbills with bands on their left leg. blue-eyed shags, Wilson’s SP, attacking skuas, 4 crab-eater seals on ice floe, Ant. terns. Moss and the Ant Hair grass. Great views from both hills. hundreds of icebergs in all directions. Cross to lost British men. I am left on island without life jacket. As we lunch we return back through the Lemaire Channel with sun trying to shine this time. some very good scenery, dramatic cliffs capped with snow and ice. Onto Port Lockroy, Wiencke (Winkie) Island 64 49. Half go immediately to the Post Office and restored Operation Tabarin Hut. They welcome us by thanking us for bringing good weather, best they have had in days. We mail postcards, self-tour the historic structure and have a moderate buying spree. The other half od us start with Goudier Island. Carolyn describes the location of a couple of penguin chicks nests as being on the far side of the “Valley of Penguin Pooh”. It is pretty stinky over there. Though the staff says they can’t smell it anymore. The sailboat here has 6 guys doing a documentary on leopard seals. Brad gets all our passports stamped with an Ant. stamp. Many Gentoo chicks that seem a bit farther behind than many others that we have seen. We anchor here through dinner and invite the guys to eat with us. How could they refuse?? Dave Burkett and Rob come over and first take a hot shower. The station has been open and restored for five years. 1911-31 home of the whalers. 1944-62 the Royal Navy was here. And then it was abandoned. Now it is the busiest place in the Ant. We were the 99th ship to visit this year!! And the Acad. Ioffe with Brad was the first to visit in 95 when Dave first came and now we are the last for Dave since he is leaving Rob runs the busiest PO in the Ant. Dropped off 11 Nov with 6 month supply of food. Rob has been studying the impact of visitation on the nesting penguins and has not seen any difference in breeding success, only change is in habituation to disturbance. They will both be glad to return to the land of available females. There was no trouble between the English and Argentines in the Ant during the Falkland War- there were still good mates.

Sunday, 5 March. Left at 5 or 6 heading south in Neumayer Channel and then east into Errera Channel. We enter into Paradise Bay. At 9 our group meets in the library to have a talk about seal origins, ID, behavior. Our group Richard in one Zodiac piloted by Santiago. We are off at 10:30ish. 38, 12 knot winds. Almirante Brown Naval Base. This is the one burned down by the Arg Doctor who was forced to stay a second winter and then burned the station down to effect his own rescue. We had incredible encounters with Minke Whales, feeding, lunging. Best Santiago and I have ever seen. Ant terns on Icebergs, Ant fur seals, several Crabeater seals. Lichens, blue-eyed shags, sheathbills, copper staining on rock walls. Light is glorious. Supposed to be Snow Petrels around but we don’t see them. Asado at the Base and Argentine music that drives Santiago nuts. Heading north between large glaciers up to Danko Island for our landing at 2:00. We pass Neko Harbor on the way. At lunch Brad announced that the Russian doctor had a concoction that would help those suffering from diarrhea. There was a stampede to get the milky white mystery juice.
Onto Danko Island. An abandoned British Site now used by a few Argentine scientists. Big colony of Gentoos. A young skua chick and upset parents dive-bombing us. Great hike all the way to the top for a fantastic view and we justify eating all that pasta for lunch. Fun to watch all those Gentoos walking up the snowfield. Weather conditions still good, not sunny but 39 with light wind. Our zodiac goes over to see Leopard and crabeater seals on ice floes and cruising the shore. We continue north during snack (chocolate covered donuts and good peaches) out the Errara channel and into the Gerlach Strait. The Marine Expeditions staff on board is one good-looking bunch of people, they apparently don’t hire ugly people. Happy hour drinks are White Russians. I imbibe my first ones- good. I am continually amazed at how comfortable this entire experience is. Outside it is snowing, icebergs are floating around. Inside the drinks are flowing, Babe in the City is playing on the VCR, a small disco ball is turning in the bar, hot water is flowing out of the showers, someone is cooking a fabulous dinner for us, setting the table, our beds are being turned down, the boat is a very comfortable home. wow is it easy! After dinner we attempt to view Life in the Freezer, Part IV. Steve, the new guy, tries his darnest to get it rewind but alas it is the wrong tape. Take 2. Bad, mean giant petrels, We begin motoring north and encounter a minor swell, we forgot how good we have had it.

Monday, March 6. We arrive off Hannah Pt., Livingston Island at 7:30. This was our first scheduled stop but we couldn’t land and went on to Half Moon Island instead. Heavy fog, visibility is limited. We see some of our “northern” friends- Cape Petrels, Giant Petrels. The anchorage is pretty far from our landing. Onshore around 9, 32 and 15 knot. Feels a bit colder. This is our first chance for Elephant Seals and Macaroni penguins. Upon landing we go left for about 9 Macaronis mixed in with the Chinstraps, white morph giant petrels and their nests (Santiago tells me they are very sensitive to disturbance and will abandon the nest very easily upon disturbance by people). There are only 2 E. Seals in the wallow. A large female and smaller juv. male. No croutons available for the sheathbills. Pretty smelly. To the right and up the cliff we could look down on 4 juv. male E. Seals play-fighting on the beach. Another banded sheathbill. There is abundant Ant Hair Grass, that we are not supposed to walk on. Most of us back to the boat earlier than usual, a bit colder it seems. Our zodiac fills up with water, quite cold and adds a bit of excitement to the long journey back to the ship. The clouds lift and we can see the glaciers that feed the sediment so visible in the sea here. We head due south to Deception Island 10 miles away during our lunch of pizza. The Island is one of the most famous visitor sites in the Ant. Along the east side there is an abrupt ice cliffs. We enter through Neptune’s Bellows at 1:30 into Deception Island, called that because it appears to be a solid island. Port Foster. First discovered by sealers, Nathaniel Palmer 1810ish. He climbed up Neptune’s Window and was allegedly the first American to see the Ant. peninsula. It was a much clearer day than to today. Pendulum Bay for the hardcore swimmers. Carmen the support person records Lynn, Bob and LaVerne swim in it. Some of the rest of us power nap. Most of the site is protected and you cannot leave the beach. Back on the boat and we move to Whalers Bay. Abandoned about 1962 due to overharvesting the whales. At the peak in 1930-40s processed 100 whales per day! No wonder there are none left. During WWII the Allies poked big holes in the fuel tanks so the Germans couldn’t use them. The Germans sunk a Norwegian whaling ship, the only good thing the Germans did according to Sonja. A British and Chilean Research Station destroyed by lava flow in 1969. Much equipment abounds, being reclaimed by nature. It is a bizarre and wondrous lunar landscape. Back on the boat and back out through Neptune’s Bellows heading northeast toward the oldest base in Ant,, run by the Chileans. We now estimate that at least half of the boat has the BUG whatever it is. Happy hour is really catching on now, party on down, down under. After dinner a video of a collapsing 350′ iceberg that was a dramatic close-call for another ship this past Jan… Almost a “situation” as her Captain said. Then Jim attempts to run Part 5 but once again someone has sabotaged the video. We retreat to bed. Very smooth passage about midnight we arrive at Discovery Bay. Someone is stealing the Marine Expeditioners from the hallways. Is nothing sacred??? Boots are next.

March 7.At 4:30 AM one of the English Lady Birders sees Snow Petrels at the ship’s lights eating krill. A Wilson’s storm petrel is found on board, warmed up and released. The early risers catch the bird. Group A goes to the base at 9. Since it is up to nearly 40 David wears his shorts. The Chileans think he is poco loco! Arturo Prat base was the first established in Ant in 1947. 62 29’. 11 staff, 2 marine biologists. A cute museo with pictures of Captain Pardo, who rescued Shacklton’s men from Elephant Island. Visit to the chapel. Alexandro, our guia, shows us his room, the playa, the water pumps, the pool table, the gym. It is a well-run and well-maintained base. Seismograph with sat link to Washington. CNN and Baywatch. Back to boat around 10:45. We meet outside the library for the penguin prostitution story and a bit about the green plants. Alice algae took a LICHEN to Freddie Fungus and now they live together in a natural relationship. Golden algae (diatoms) colored the belly of the Minke whales cream. Gave rise to the common name Sulphur Belly for the southern Blue whales.
Penguin prostitution

PRACTITIONERS of the oldest profession have been found at work on the icy shores of Antarctica plying their trade in a dress of black and white feathers – they are penguin prostitutes. The first recorded examples of bird prostitution have been observed in colonies of Adelie penguins on Ross Island, about 800 miles from the South Pole, by Dr Fiona Hunter of Cambridge University and Dr Lloyd Davis of the University of Otago, supported by the New Zealand Antarctic Programme.

They observed how male Adelies pay for sexual favours with rocks and stones, a limited resource that can prove crucial for the survival of broods. In no other bird have such extra-marital exchanges been recorded, said Dr Hunter, a post-doctoral researcher who has made annual visits to Antarctica to study their sex life.

She described how, at the start of the breeding season, the penguins hunt for stones. Once all the loose rocks have been collected, they attempt to peck them out of the frozen mud to construct a nest platform, crucial to keep eggs high and dry above mud and chilly melt water. Stones are so valuable that they will steal them from each other, though they risk being attacked by the owners of the hard currency. In the journal Auk, Drs Hunter and Davis describe how females have developed another strategy: they lure nearby male penguins for sex in exchange for the rocks. “Females have figured out that one way to steal the stones without being attacked is to swap copulations for them,” said Dr Hunter.

They slip away from their partner and wander over to the nest of an unpaired male. Standard courtship follows, with a dip of the head and a coy look from the corner of her eye. If he shows interest, she will lie prone which, in the language of penguin love, is an invitation to mate or carry out what the scientists call “extra-pair copulation”. Once mating is over, the female picks up her payment, a stone, and carries it to her nesting platform. Sometimes their customers are so satisfied that the females can return for second helpings of stones, without having to offer more sex. Other females found that a little courtship was enough to persuade a male to allow them to play with a rock, then cart it away. One especially teasing female managed to collect 62 stones this way, said Dr Hunter. “The males were probably duped into thinking that she was a possible partner.”

The zoologists are now analysing the benefits of penguin whoredom. While

the male may lose some of his rocks, he gains the possibility of fathering
extra chicks. The benefits to the females are less clear. “I don’t think that she is just after his stones,” said Dr Hunter. “Perhaps the female mates with an extra male for another reason, say to increase the quality or genetic variability of her offspring. This seems reasonable given that not all males actually father the chicks they help to rear.”

Another reason for seeking male company could be to form a relationship with a potential mate for the next season if her partner dies. The team is now planning another trip to the frozen continent to uncover more details of the penguin’s complicated love life.

I wonder if this is the origin of the saying “getting your rocksoff” ???

Lunch is tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches, just like Mom used to make. Comfort food before we head out into that wild and wooly Drake Passage!! Just 4 nautical miles away is Aichto Island, in the English Strait between Greenwich and Robert Islands. A volcanic island. We have a chance to walk north on it for one mile. Southern Giant Petrel nests with chicks. Soon we head north for 2 days into the DRAKE PASSAGE! Time to put those patches on. No more eating, we sleep and fast. Falklands here we come!
Onto Aichto island at 2:30 much greener and more kelp and more human debris. Bob and his little penguin (appears to be a Kinglet penguin) was a hit with Gentoos of course and the avid Japanese photographer. There were a few chinstraps at the north end of the island. Took long walk to the north in heavy fog, surreal volcanic shapes. Elephant and fur seals, white-morph southern giant petrel chicks still in the nest and very very big and fuzzy. Some of us get lost in the fog. Many whalebones, moss galore. I felt like we as a group were not being very careful about not stepping on it. Our last Terra Firma for a while. Pulled anchor at 5:15 and heading north. Dinner has a great turnout. Relatively smooth seas. Finally see the last of ‘life in the freezer’.

Wed. 8 Mar. I see Snow petrels out my porthole at 3AM. Well maybe not. Today is a Russian holiday Day of the Woman. In Russia women don’t have to work but not on the ship, Victor tells me. Good, I did not want to make my own bed. Blue petrel, Common diving petrel, Wilson’s and white-bellied storm petrel, slender billed prion, gray-headed and BB albatross, corys shearwater, soft-plumaged petrels, unid. dolphins. Sonja’s talk on Ice Seals at 10. I fall asleep under the influence of drugs. Lunch and the sea conditions are still good. Fog but calm seas. Jim’s lecture on Scott and Admansen’s race to the South Pole. Store is open. Ships tours continue, reading. Making good time. Videos being watched. New Birds on bridge= sooty shearwater, blue petrel, 1 unid whale. At around 3 PM we cross the convergence.
Penguin talk by Akos/Santiago. Kept giving us hints for Ant Jeopardy. 38-39 body temp. 20 million Macaroni most numerous, 1 in 2 penguins. 40 sp of fossils, now 17 living sp. eyes can see in and out of water. 70-90 feathers per sq.inch! 7 sp in Ant. Emperor 1.2 million breed in very tight colony that are constantly whirling, moving outside birds into middle. Skuas, gulls and sheathbills are the land predators. Sheathbills favorite food is the snot of e. seals. Klepto-parasites. Catastrophic molting. Chinstrap adults at Hannah Pt were molting, takes alot of energy. Little penguins live 12-20 yrs big guys to 40 yrs.. In honor of the International Day of the Woman, Adam serves Bailey’s Irish Creme? After dinner there is a rousing game of Ant Jeopardy. Very clever, put on by some of the PAX. Continues to be a very smooth passage.

Thursday, 9 March. Air temperatures definitely warmer, positively balmy. Wandering, sooty, royal, grey headed albatrosses before breakfast. Pretty quiet out there on the sea. Waiting for Brad to tell us something but there is nothing to tell. Great looks at Royal and Wandering Albatross. Sooty shearwaters, white-chinned petrel, slender billed prions.
At 10 we have a lecture by Jim in the history of the Falklands. Maybe first visitors were Patagonian Indians. 1592 John Davis. Hawkings 1594. French. Every one named them different names. Pt. Louie French had first settlement 1764. 51 S. Temp is moderate 32-75, windy. Argentina sent German-born, Philly educated Vernea, to administer the Islands. Arrested 2 Americans for overharvesting the seals. USA sent warships down and they destroyed the town. Everyone left for years. Was a motley bunch of denizens, now mostly British. 320 sheep per person. 2000 April to June, 1982. Falkland/Malvinas war. 800 Argentine, 300 British, 3 Kelpers killed.. Now there are more Brit military personnel than Kelpers. Good things= Argentina kicked out the Generals, Falklanders got much more financial help from GB. South Georgia Islands were also involved in the war. Many of Jims photos are from there and he recommends that we go there next time.
We are on Drake Lake, so smooth, but no birds. After lunch Sonja continues her lecture series on pinniped (feather footed). I fall asleep again! Back out on deck we see a group of Hourglass Dolphins!! New species for me. 45′ later to the starboard side another group is seen, maybe the same species. Northern Giant Petrel, feeding flocks of prions at krill (boiling at sea surface). Akos’ lecture at 5:30 on the “Wildlife of the Falkland” is actually just on the bird life. 2 main islands east and west but total is 778 islands. Not sub-Antarctic island but temperate. Only 10-15 non-windy days all year, always cloudy, humid but temperate throughout the year. 186 sp. total birds. 61 breeding, 18 land birds, 43 seabirds, only 9 Passerines (songbirds). These songbirds are all subsp from the mainland (no endemics) but are larger, have extended breeding season, fewer eggs. Not much for them to eat due to the wind affecting the vegetation., no insects, few fruits. 163 sp. of flowering plants and ferns. 90 are exotic introductions. 2 main types of vegetation- soft camp= white grass Tussock and hard camp= woody shrubs no trees like diddle-dee. Conservation ethic is weak here. Wiped out the native fox. Put bounty on geese and killed 7 million of them. Also killed prions, tvs, all birds of prey, burned the tussock grass to improve pasture for the 5.5 million sheep! In general have not been good environmentalists. Still calm out there and not much in the sea. distribution of food resources in the marine environment is spotty. Bl-browed alba and a few Magellanic diving petrels. Roman the weird Russian has been on the boat for 8 months without seeing his wife and child. They shouldn’t let him off of the second deck so soon. Oh my god what is that bright object in the western sky?? The sun! The sunset was beautiful, great clouds, the green flash happened. And Mercury er make that Mars was underneath the Crescent moon. It is definitely getting warmer! Tomorrow at 8 AM we should be right off of Sea Lion Island. We get a long hike tomorrow. Be good to get off the boat. Rockhoppers and other delights tomorrow. Going to a Lodge for snacks and tea.

Friday, 10 March. One week from today we will be on our way home! Arrive off Sea Lion Island Falklands at around 7:00 AM. We are in heavy thick fog and 52 with light wind. Land at Cow Pt on a beautiful white sandy beach. Stash our boots and begin a long walk, not stooll. No stopping until we get to the Rockhopper breeding area. Never mind that our fearless leader, A-Kos has never been there. one hour and 15′. By the nursery we find striated cara-cara, Turkey vultures, tussock birds, Falkland thrush. Other birds upland geese, the Falkland Flightless Steamer duck, Patagonia crested duck, Magellanic penguins, PEREGRINE falcon, black-throated finch, southern house and Grass wrens, Falkland pipit, rufous throated dotterel (in winter plumage), bl-crowned night heron, brown hooded Dolphin and Kelp gulls, darkfaced ground tyrant, Common snipe,(yes Hugh they are real), blackish oystercatcher. No rockhoppers but we did find some very very large male Southern Sea Lions laying in the Tussock grass looking like bears. Meanwhile Les the jogger gets lost in the fog and nearly goes into a state of panic being attacked by penguins and nearly stepping on an elephant seal. He recovers and now has a story. Great looks from the cliff at e. seals and sea lions with yearlings. Noticed some flipper tags on the e seals – yellow and pink ones. Rock shags, Imperial cormorants, giant petrels. Getting very warm and the fog clears. Some head toward the lodge for tea and crumpets, a few of us just watch the seals for a long while. Plants- diddle-dee, mountain berry, sea cabbage (Senecio), tussock grass, chickweed, sheep sorrel, wild celery, native woodrush, Gunnera (Pig vine), native crassula, native boxwood at nursery, small ferns galore and so much kelp. The whole place feels fecund. Almost tropical Carolyn says and I guess it is true – the contrast between the Ant and here is striking. Back on the boat a bit late. Afternoon excursion to Bleaker Island, not too far away. First landing at 3:15. There is a land rover and cows waiting for us. Again onto a white, wide sandy beach. 1600 pairs of breeding Gentoo to the right. To the left about one mile away are some Rockhopper (aka Snipe Penguins). We go in search of them. Great hike. Cows, horses, Magellanic penguins, upland and Ruddy-headed geese. Rock shags with chicks, to wondrous Imperial Cormorant colony with nearly full-grown chicks. Skuas harassing them, dolphin gulls wandering around. Begging, regurgitation, usual stuff. Then to the Rockhoppers, past the surreal elevated nests of the Cormorants made of old Tusscock grass. Looked like the Dogon people of West Africa homes. Sheathbills, steamer ducks, pied or magellanic oystercatchers. Falkland skua. The sun came out several times, one of the 15 days of sun in the Falklands. Made everything more beautiful. Military meadowlark with the red chest. Our ship riding high up over the grassy plain. Double banded plovers and white rumped sandpipers. Back on boat by 6:30ish, happy hour and time for showers and then dinner. Emperor Penguin movie tonight. Hugh has figured out the system for sleeping in the same room as his SNORING roommate. Heading north and we expect to land at Volunteer Pt around midnight. Seas are calm.

Saturday, 11 March. Awoke to a rolling swell and thousands of sooty shearwaters. Landing at Volunteer Beach is doubtful. Can see King Penguins on the shore and up on the hill in their breeding colony. Cows too. 30 knot wind and high surf on the beach. So it is to Plan B, . Oh well we have been lucky til now. Factoid for the day- Union Jack is union of 3 crosses, St. George, St. Andrew, St. Patrick. Jack means flag. Heading south to Stanley for a full day in town, LUCKY US! Time to shop at the bomb store. Overcast, typical weather. Flock of 5 cattle egrets around the boat. Rumor has it they land on the stern. Entering the harbor we see two dolphins (Brad says Peale’s) leap high out of the water. Our “dry” landing is one of the wettest yet. Spray on the boat from the hard wind We invade Stanley (whoops! poor choice of words!). The ordinance place is out of signs. Bummer, was the perfect gift for my 13 yr old. Next we hit the PO, and wait in lines for stamps, first day issues. The museum at the far end of town is a long walk but worth it. Very well done. The real Horse Whisperer happens to be in town and is visiting the museum. A good ole boy from Mississippi. The entire ship is wandering around trying to elevate the local gift shop economy. We eat at the Victory Bar, others go to the Upland Goose. Bob eats Upland Goose, tough he says. At the Internet cafe we enter cyberspace with a spot of tea. There are alot of memorials of the 82 war in town, not surprising. And also from WW 1 and II. Carmen et al visit the dead people. Back on the ship by 5, we are having a Bar BQ on the deck in the rain and wind. Navigating toward New Island on the far western side of the Islands. Film is Under the Ice by a New Zealand film co. Lynn & Carolyn were both distressed by the obvious disturbance that man was causing in the pursuit of science and for us- entertainment. The sounds of the Weddell seals were extremely haunting. It seemed like a place that we should not be in. We can see lights as we round the Islands on the south side.

Sunday, 12 March. Very smooth seas. Up to mixed fog. Small group of Peales Dolphins, many BB albatrosses, Greater Petrels, sooties, C. diving petrels, giant petrels, one peregrine flew over. Sun playing hide and seek, thick fog then none then back again. Thousands of sooty shearwaters, bb albatrosses and Imperial cormorants. To West Island and the sun is shinning on Ian Strange and Tony Chators place. Beautiful light. Onshore a bit after nine. They meet us with books, stamps and posters. The old stone/wooden barn at the landing is left over from the American whalers in the late 1700’s. They named the Island New after New England, used the cove for quite a few whaling years. Abandoned ship is a former Canadian minesweeper of ancient vintage and in dire need of repair. The black crowned night herons like it. We have another one of those 15 minute! hikes to the rookery. Rockhoppers, Black-browed albatross, imperial Cormorants. Most of the albatross chicks very large and fuzzy. Skuas, red-backed hawks, striated cara-caras, Kelp gulls all flying overhead. Dramatic abrupt sedimentary cliffs, thousands of BB albatrosses in the water, their very white heads looking like golf balls in the sun. Giant petrels picking through the abundant kelp at low tide. European hare droppings everywhere, Carmen saw one and I did too. Cushion plants looking like moss. Red-breasted meadowlark, dark faced tyrant, upland goose, flightless steamers, Pat. crested ducks. Back on the ßoat for lunch, Mexican food-Very popular. Thousands of cormorants following boat. A grey backed storm petrel in swimming pool. Jim’s talk on Shackleton causes a number of folks to fall asleep. Richard announces that there are millions of shearwaters. We are west of S. Jason. Up on the bridge to see. Our first Yellow nosed albatross. Richard asks Bob to find one and he immediately complies. They are found mostly between here and Brazil. We are starting to see trash at sea now. Akos has a talk on Antarctica as a habitat. Abiotic and biotic features. most isolated, highest, coldest. 4 divisions- continental, offshore islands, Ant islands, sub-Ant islands. Reflects most light. only 2% land available to nest on. 8 sp. can be found on mainland. one land bird. Strong winds and no insects so restricts passerines. 95% of all birds breed on the peninsula. No raptors, skuas occupy the niche. Heading north-northeast toward BA smooth seas so far. Bloody Mary is the cocktail special tonight from Adam, the first name in bartending. Carolyn and I go out on the deck and witness bioluminsce in the sea, not alot but some. Seas are OK. From New Island to BA is 1140 miles.

Monday, 13 March. In the early AM the seas begin to get a little bouncier. Wind from the north, swells from the north so we are heading right into them. Better ride that way. New birds- Arctic jaeger, Atlantic petrel. Continue with Great S-waters, BB albatrosses, giant petrels, and not much else. Rainy and 12 degrees C. traveling between 12 and 14 knots. Bouncy seas. The big bird event for the day are Pomerine Jaegers, down from N.America. No make that long-tailed jaegers. I spent most of the day either on the bridge or in bed asleep. I did finally go on the boat tour with Olaf. He clearly is disappointed that science is no longer being conducted on the vessel. Sonjas lecture on Whaling and Sealing. Jim’s lecture on Mawsen and Nordskulle (?), the forgotten (stupid) explorers. Akos on bird adaptations to the Antarctic Peninsula. Great time to sleep during the lectures. At Happy Hour things are starting to calm down on the open seas. Tapes and books are being packed and we aren’t even in BA yet!!! Weather is supposed to improve. Hope so. Video tonight is Rounding the Horn. An hilarious 1980 narration by Capt Johnson of a film he shot in 1929 rounding the Horn in a classic sailing ship from Hamburg. Getting calmer.

Tuesday, 14 March. Very calm now. Foggy and occasional clearing. New albatross- Salvins. And the usual GS and AP. Very calm and beautiful. Sunbathing as we cruise into the subtropics. BA same latitude as Atlanta and LA- 36. A mystery ground dove is circling the boat, long way from land, 250 miles. Jim’s lecture on Ant in Literature and Art. The BEST is the Worst Journey on Earth, just to get some penguin eggs. Many yellow-nosed albatrosses showing up now. Wind increasing, Unided dolphins to the starboard. Conservation of Seabirds by Santiago and Akos. Much reading getting done. Time to pay bills tomorrow. 13 knots. making good time, heading north. For over an hour we travel through 1000’s of birds as far as the binoculars can see on all sides. We were on the edge of the continental shelf. I saw one insect fly by. A very bountiful sea. Many jaegers, yellow-nosed albatross, great shearwaters, Atlantic petrel, Wilson’s storm petrels. We are all getting very ready to get off this boat. Another great sunset, balmy temp to 70 today. No bioluminense tonight. seas are very very calm. Half moon. We are growing to hate the Texans. Rumors abound of a TV/VCR in their room and daily theft of electronic cords.

Wed. 15 March. Wow. It is warm. calm seas. Butterflies and moths flying by. Grey headed albatross, other boats, Spanish on the radio, 30 miles offshore. Rio de la Plata here we come. My group meets right after breakfast for closing circle. Some of our highlights: The whole thing, penguins, icebergs. Not as cold as expected. Grateful for a good roommate. Smell of the rookeries, blue of the ice. Thought the penguins would be bigger. Didn’t suffer enough for the journey. Magnificent scenery. The quiet time of just sitting and watching. Patter of penguin feet. Diarrhea talk among strangers. The sounds of the shearwaters in front of the ship. Some sadness that man is even here. Expected different landscapes, more abstract, those of the interior. Dirty glaciers. Zodiac ride in Paradise Bay. The continent is not pristine but our tourist impact is nothing compared to the sealers and whalers.

Continue north with no birds. We enter the Rio de la Plata, one big entrance. There are absolutely no birds now. Getting hot. Breanne has a surprise birthday party in the lounge. She is speechless for 15 seconds- a record! Pay our bills. ouch! We pick up our pilot, make that 3 pilots. Boat traffic has increased, Montevideo is visible. At 5 there is the final quiz. C and I opt out because we have spent the afternoon reviewing our wills and need the sunshine to recover. humid and warm. Great sunset, heading right toward it. The Captains Dinner. We thank the crew, they made our trip very pleasant. We made 16 of 17 landings. the weather was cooperative.. Pablo says that we were the worst group he has ever had. Loud loud loud, everyone having a simply marvelous time. Half moon, stars. Perfect evening temp.

Thursday, 16 Mar. Docked about 7 AM. time to pack up and get ready to hit BA. Our group leaves a bit early. Carmen, Michi and LaVerne head out to shop and bird. Bob, Dave, Lynn, Hugh, and I take the short walk (accdg. to our faithful guia – David just a couple of blocks, no problema) from the pier to La Recoleta. 2 hrs and 40 miles later we struggle to the city of the dead. We can relate to them. We find Eva’s guts and then take an expensive lunch at an Italian restaurant. Don’t even think of asking him to change the recipes, they are over 100 yrs old! Next a very crowded taxi ride to La Boca. We do the obligatory stroll and then taxi back to Dique 1 and meet the girls. The Reserve is closed due to an arson fire yesterday which the police are investigating today. We join up with Richard, Don and June and have a splendid time birding. Monk parrots (nest high in radio tower), rufrescent tiger heron, great egret, cattle egret, snowy egret, striated heron, plumbeous ibis, limpkin, guira cuckoo, red-crested cardinal, black-masked gnatcatcher, white faced tree duck, South American stilt, Rosy-billed pochard, fulvous tree duck, silver teal, white-cheeked pintail, kiskadee, pied billed grebe, yellow winged blackbird. Great looks at nutrias. Finally around 6:30 we recongregate at Los Troncos for our final meal. red wine and dead roasted cows. fun fun fun. There was quite a bit of staff/group romance and intrigue going on which most of us missed (including me) But Kim gave us some of the lowdown. Juan and the other Carolyn has a romance from day 2. Juan hitting also on Kim. Sonja with the hots for Santiago. Rumors that Brad is sleeping with Kim and /or Carolyn. The blonde Russian with the bangs is a lesbian. The one with the cute upturned nose and the loose outfits is Roman (the very weird Russian) girlfriend. Joe the Texan actually picked up a penguin. One of the guys from Arkansas (not Gerald the other one) has a screaming hisssy fit because someone took his boots and was standing in line at the dock ready to punch out the person who did it. The fat guy that Carmen observed with nasty eating habits was seen actually kicking a penguin out of his way! The other Carolyn meanwhile has a concussion, faints and demands that Juan takes her immediately to the pharmacy to get a morning-after pill. If you are feeling out of the loop, Don’t worry, I was too. We say goodbye to Bob who is staying to go to Iguazu Falls. To airport in 2 separate buses. NY and MIA. Unfortunately the NY flight is delayed until tomorrow. Some of the Canadians manage to switch to our plane and we are off around 1 AM for an 8 hr flight north. Connect in MIA but our plane is delayed finally we arrive to home sweet home around 7:15. Glad to be here.



Posted on

August 6, 2009