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Half­moon Island

Hoor­ay – Land! We have been at sea for just two days, very calm days, not­hing com­pa­red to the long legs that are to come later in the trip. But it is always gre­at to arri­ve some­whe­re. „Some­whe­re“ is th South Shet­land Islands in this case, a group of islands off the nor­thwes­tern Ant­arc­tic Pen­in­su­la, neigh­bou­ring the Dra­ke Pas­sa­ge. As you might ima­gi­ne, the wea­ther is usual­ly sh … here, and opti­mism was limi­ted last night as I went to bed and the islands were most­ly hid­den behind curtains of snow.

And inde­ed, the wind was a bit adver­se when we approa­ched Half­moon Island in the midd­le of the night, so Cap­tain deci­ded to drop anchor not in the usu­al by of the island that bears its name for a rea­son, but behind it – the dark side of the moon, as one might say. Tur­ned out it wasn’t the grea­test posi­ti­on for our Zodiac ope­ra­ti­ons when we star­ted: a lon­gish ride into the waves, and my col­league Dima and I spent qui­te some time in (mode­ra­te) surf, hand­ling Zodiacs while we were get­ting ever­y­bo­dy ashore. At 5 a.m., as shouldn’t go unno­ti­ced. Well, sleep is gene­ral­ly over­ra­ted, and so is bre­ak­fast. But who cares about slee­ping and eating when you can spend the ear­ly morning wal­king around on an ant­arc­tic island in the vicini­ty of Chin­strap pen­gu­ins? They are the lou­dest, dir­tiest, live­liest and bad­dest-tem­pe­red amongst the ant­arc­tic pen­gu­ins. Ama­zing crea­tures, like all the wild­life down here. Very enter­tai­ning!

And a lonely Mac­ca­ro­ni pen­gu­in in the midd­le of one of the colo­nies. Wha­te­ver he was doing the­re, he must have been fee­ling like a hor­se in the midd­le of a herd of cows, but he did appear­ent­ly not mind, as he was stan­ding the­re hap­pi­ly with his big, red beak and his lovely yel­low-gol­den hair­cut. Good for us, as we are unli­kely to see this spe­ci­es again on our trip, and we would cer­tain­ly have mis­sed some­thing we we hadn’t seen this pecu­li­ar, rather sub-ant­arc­tic pen­gu­in. All this with the grand sce­ne­ry of the islands of Living­ston and Green­wich in the back­ground. Hard to lea­ve … but then the­re were rumours about bre­ak­fast on the ship, some­thing that came as the icing on the cake of a gre­at ear­ly morning. Don’t belie­ve anyo­ne who pre­ten­ds bre­ak­fast isn’t important.

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On the rare occa­si­ons when Living­ston Island is strip­ping off its usu­al cloud cover, it is just gre­at. A few small clouds for deco­ra­ti­on pur­po­ses near some of the hig­her peaks, most­ly blue ski­es over Brans­field Strait, war­ming sun­rays on the skin and the blow of Hump­back wha­les qui­te regu­lar­ly not too far from the ship. A mother with calf, swim­ming their way in a rela­xed man­ner, hard­ly taking noti­ce from us. Unf­or­gett­able hours!

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last modification: 2015-01-14 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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