Melinda and I woke at 5:25a, dressed and showered, and joined everyone on the bridge for a slow ship cruise through Drygalski fjord. I went up a little early, too, just enough to catch a rainbow that went above the horizon and below – in the sea mist. Double rainbow and more than 180 degrees. The fjord was neat but not incredible – Alaska has more impressive high cliffs and tidewater glaciers, and we’ll see a lot more ice in a few days. The weather was breezy and at times a little snowy but not enough to prevent me from standing on the bow for a bit.
We ate a (meager 8( ) breakfast while we floated back to Cooper Bay in search of a sound anchorage. Remarkably, we found one, and we managed a landing of about three hours. Cooper Bay hosts a Macaroni colony that’s accessible over land as well as a chinstrap colony that’s off limits because it’s been hit by avian cholera in recent years (the colony’s doing okay now but I imagine the government wants to reduce the risk the disease spreads). Reaching the Macs required a bit of scrambling through steep tussock grass but nothing worse than what we did on the hike yesterday. The reward was a vantage just above the colony, and at the 10m limit we’re asked to stay back. Melinda and I end up staying there about two hours, taking photos and watching. The penguins are brooding chicks, and we see several pairs of penguins with a chick under one of them. Occasionally a penguin would walk through the colony and get squawked at by all the nearby penguins on its route. The place is pretty noisy – all penguins make calls, but the Macaronis may be the most harsh to listen to. King penguins sound like kazoos, but Macs sound like plastic bugles. I’m hopeful one of my videos picked up the sound. Unlike all other colony visits, the wind at this site is pretty minimal. From near the colony and one place I shot video, I also could hear the eerie howls of the seals from along the beach and in the tussock.
Back aboard ship we had lunch as we weighed anchor and motored out of the Bay. The seas are very rough this afternoon and evening as we’re going through some very low pressure regions. Swells are 4-5m, and waves are routinely crashing sea mist 10-15’ above the bow. No blue water has crashed over us yet, just mist. I finally gave in to take a scopolamine patch because I was feeling a little unsettled in my stomach. I had no trouble with the crossing to South Georgia (I felt a little queasy but I managed) but want to try it out now as practice in case I need something stronger for the return across the Drake. I napped several hours this afternoon, and between those two things I’m doing all right.
While we headed out of the bay some people sat on the bow to watch the waves. We in the bridge watched them as the waves crashed about, and several people got good video as finally one big one soaked everyone on the bow, sending them back inside. We watched a few sea birds, too, and spotted some decently sized icebergs already.
We expect to arrive in the South Orkney Islands overnight at the end of Saturday or possibly Sunday morning, depending on how fast we can plow through the seas. We’ll make a brief stop there and continue another day to the Antarctic peninsula. After the “South Georgia Marathon” where we made all the landings, it’ll be nice to have a few days of being just on ship. The schedule we got at dinner tonight shows only the meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – and no scheduled events or talks. They’ll be announced as we go depending on the seas, how people are feeling, and whether the lunch room can be made into a lecture room. (The lounge, where we’ve had lectures so far, is apparently a crazy bad place for lectures during these seas. It’s on the deck below ours, just above the calm-water line, and has no windows).
I’m off to the bridge now to check the barometer (rumor is that it’s at 960mmHg), to see who’s in the library or lounge, then back for perhaps an early bed time.