This was our last day of onshore adventures before headed back across the Drake Passage. Today we traversed through the LeMaire Channel – 7 miles long and 1 one mile wide. It was a little dicey as there was a huge iceberg in the middle of the channel. But we did make it through and made an early morning stop at Petermann Island which was full of nesting birds and penguins and an old abandoned Argentinian expedition shack. It was an exceptionally gorgeous day with white fluffy snowflakes dusting the ship, our balconies and jackets. It does cause some challenges for the penguins who are keeping their eggs warm and need clear ground for their nests formed with small rocks. It was fun watching some of the penguin couples fighting over the limited number of rocks back and forth. On a side note, interestingly but not surprising, the Argentinian government does not maintain these outposts and structures, but they refuse to remove them to indicate they are not dominant as pseudo owners of Antarctica.
In the afternoon we went into Niko Harbor which is on the actual continent where we were able to do some more snow hiking and perform a little snow sliding. It was a nice .5 mile hike to the top where you get great views of the glaciers and bay. And to end the day and shore expeditions, we slid down the side of the mountain a few times to enjoy the great weather.
Antarctica is 10% of the land mass on Earth. When an iceberg melts, it creates fresh water around the iceberg which stuns some of the sea life around the iceberg. This is why birds flock around the icebergs to take advantage of and eat the stunned prey. Algae goes into a resting state in the winter months. The Krill live off the algae under the sea ice. The whales live off the krill. If there is global warming and no sea ice…many species and animals will die off.
Did you know that there are 850 species of mollusks in Antarctica? In actuality, there are more unique species of life in Antarctica than the Galagopos.
From here, we head north back across the Drake Passage to Argentina to conclude this first phase of our journey.