(This guest post is from Sharon - our Client Services guru - who is traveling on the Polar Star on a Antarctica Circle trip from Feb 4 - 15, 2010.)
Well, it will be hard for the expedition staff to top yesterday. We began at 5:00 am outside the Lemeire Channel with Minke whales, and they were all throughout the channel - at least 6 in the biggest group. The sun was shining and it was a glorious day.
Petermann was quite slick as we landed after breakfast, and empty of the amazing snow depth that we had in 2005. The chicks are large at this point.. Many of the Adelies are almost fully fledge, and the Gentoos are almost there. There were only a few Blue-eyed Shags around, and I didn't see any of their chicks. We were able to walk to the back side of the island where there was a leopard seal on an ice flow and lots of grounded bergs. It was hard to pull myself away, and I ended up in the staff zodiac back to the ship.
It was so warm on shore that I was stripped down to one layer, and I was still soaked. My feet were roasting in my boots, but I was glad for them later that night in the zodiac cruise. The gentoos chicks were hot as well - thy were standing around in their down coats with their mouths open and their wings flapping.
I found a comfortable spot just outside the bridge door after lunch to watch the icebergs sail by as we made our way to the Fish Islands and Prospect Point. Just as I was contemplating getting chapstick for my lips and something to drink we sighted humpbacks! We had about 20 close to the ship bubble net feeding. The ship stopped and we spent 2 hours with them. The cool thing was because you were above them, you could see the bubbles forming which was the early warning for a head, back and/or fluke to appear. After two hours, I went to get a cup of tea and brought it out of the observation lounge. As I stood there watching, I was treated to the only whale that breached!
After dinner we put everyone in the water for a cruise of Adelie colonies and one good group of nesting shags as well. We all got a 15 minute continent landing - not much more then rocks a we weren't allowed to go up on the snow slopes to get near the birds - conditions wouldn't allow it. Still on day one everyone had their feet on the continent of Antarctica!
This morning, we navigated the Gullet and were treated to snow petrels flying about the ship and both crab eater and leopard seals on ice flows. Suddenly, there was a spectacular avalanche just forward of the ship. The snow cloud spread across the Gullet in a snow flurry.
We are anchored now and the first group is doing a zodiac cruise. They are splitting us into two groups to lower the numbers for the cruise. I am in the second group, and then we are off to Detaille for an afternoon landing.