Update from Antarctica

From the Clipper Adventurer in the Southern Ocean, approaching the Antarctic Peninsula, Kenn and Kim write: If you're reading this, we've just succeeded in connecting with the Internet again, and we were amazed to see all the comments posted regarding our bird puzzle feature! Thank you, everyone who looked at this puzzle and who commented on it. We appreciate your interest! Kim says we should make this kind of puzzle a monthly feature; does anyone else agree?

Anyway -- It appears that we won't be able to attach any photos to this message, so we'll just have to paint a picture with words for the moment. Today (Monday January 19) we were at sea all day, cruising south from the South Orkney Islands toward the Antarctic Peninsula. We saw no land today, but we saw hundreds of icebergs, some of them huge towering mountains of ice, others great flat tabular bergs more than a quarter of a mile across. Birds were not as abundant today as on some of our previous at-sea days, but we saw flocks of Cape Petrels and Southern Fulmars, scores of Wilson's Storm-Petrels and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels, and various other birds. Beautiful snow-white Snow Petrels were flying around many of the larger icebergs, and late in the day we were visited by a few strikingly patterned, fast-flying Antarctic Petrels. Most remarkable of all was a lone Emperor Penguin swimming in the open water, all alone, miles from any land.

Despite seeing such amazing birds, mammals stole the show today: the ship was able to maneuver slowly and respectfully close to several Humpback Whales and huge Fin Whales, and we watched some distant Orcas (Killer Whales) late in the day. At one point, passing a large area of floating pack ice, we saw several Leopard Seals hauled out on the ice -- these big seals are fast-swimming predators, the terror of all the smaller penguins, and the ones on the ice stared at us as we passed, their large reptilian heads frozen in permanent evil grins. We expect to see more Leopard Seals tomorrow, patrolling the waters just off the big Adelie Penguin colony on Paulet Island.

Internet access out here at sea is sporadic at best, but we'll write again when we can. Eventually (after we're back in Ohio, maybe) we'll post a lot of photos from the trip, and more descriptions of the birding highlights.


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