We made our last landings in the South Shetlands, at Half Moon Island and Aitcho Island. Half Moon is a rocky, narrow crescent covered in soft snow, so we had to use snowshoes to walk around. The island is the home of chinstrap penguins, who waddle or slide to the shore to pick up a pebble and then bring it back up the slope to place it at the feet of a prospective mate. Two large weddel seals were lounging on the beach as well.
After the snowshoe hike, it was my turn to kayak. I made the mistake of admitting that I have a lot of kayaking experience, so I was put in a group of expert kayakers, set to go out in the roughest conditions. We had to make an unscheduled landing on the beach, and my feet immediately got wet between my dry suit and booties, and they were freezing the entire time. Our group consisted of three single kayaks and three double, with our guide Pete in the lead, and two zodiacs following behind in case we run into trouble. I was in a single kayak and got myself out past the shorebreak pretty easily, but then had a hard time keeping up with the rest of the group in the 15 knot winds. We paddled around the shore of Half Moon Island, then crossed a sea of little icebergs to Livingston Island, where we jumped back on to the zodiacs and made for the ship. I was completely exhausted and freezing, but it was an incredible experience.
Our last stop of the expedition was Aitcho Island, which is inhabited by thousands of gentoo and chinstrap penguins and one weddel seal. I hiked around for two hours before heading back to the ship, which is now headed back to Ushuaia. It’s rough seas again in the Drake Passage, and they have announced several times that whales are near the ship, but it’s so rocky I can’t get out of bed without getting sick. Two days of this and we’ll be back.
antarctica, expedition, voyage