First of all ice, ice, ice and ice. We made our first Antarctic landing and we saw ice. Ice on water, ice on air. Ice on the mountains, ice on the brain. We opened and closed the day with a float through a tight passage… think soaring icy cliffs. In between we took a three-hour zodiac tour of an iceberg graveyard.
Gigantic gracefully floating whales of ice through perfectly still ice water; we were like flies in a giant bowl of punch. We could see and hear the ice cracking and crashing. This is one of the places where Antarctic ice after having spent decades crawling across the continent comes to a dramatic dive into the sea. They're quite nice to see; it's colorful the ice, different shades of white marbled here and there with veins of glowing blue.
Second thing, Gentoo penguins: Antarctica's little clowns. So here we were a bunch of adventurers making our first Antarctic landing and who's there to meet us but this troupe of rambunctious penguins. They spent the entire day chasing each other around the snow, sliding on their bellies and wrestling in the slush. When they got bored with that they started picking on us, staring us down; wouldn't let us enjoy the amazing icy mountain scenery. Even while we were cruising around the iceberg graveyard they'd be messing about in the water jumping around pretending to be dolphins. The thing with these penguins is that they're all over the place; we even spotted two of them creeping on the rocks behind a sleeping leopard seal. This land is definitely their land… but they're pretty hospitable. I'll try to get you some good pictures (from other people).
Other animals were not nearly as interested in us. Crab-eater seals pretty much just slept on blobs of ice. I'll have to show you pictures of these once we get back… they're quite funny looking. Leopard seals on the other hand are a bit more active. They're either swimming around by the beach snatching up penguins or lying around digesting penguins. Leopard Seals are a bit fearsome looking actually; they spend most of their time lurking right by where the penguins like to sit in the sun.
Last thing about Antarctica, the silence. Everywhere you turn there's a silence. And it's not that there isn't any noise. I mean the penguins are noisy, cawing and calling. Chasing each other on the snow. The gulls make their noises, the seals make their grunts. There's the sound of the ice as it's cracking; sounds like a mix of a tree falling and thunder. There's the sound of the Kuas as they zoom through the air by your head. There's even the humming of the ship in the harbor. There are plenty of noises… but the noises make sense. It's like when you go to a movie. Even though there is plenty of noise coming from the film, the two guys making jokes behind you can still break the silence; the noises from the film are not distracting. In this way Antarctica is silent; its speakers are on full blast but there's nothing there to distract you.
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