Antarctica: Retracing Shackleton's Journey travel blog

Monday, Feb 2

Day 7

Antarctic Sound & Weddell Sea

We rounded the northern-most tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and cruised through the Antarctic Sound around Cape Green, making our way to Vega Island and, more specifically, Devil Island, so named because of its two pointy volcanic peaks. Through binoculars, we could spy the orange tents of an Argentinian scientific team on the shores of Vega. We were headed for another penguin colony, this time the Adelies, which are identified by their tufted black heads.

These Adelies were feeding on fish, and their colony was dry, so we didn’t have to walk through the red, slimy, smelly stuff the Gentoos live in. We walked about a half mile down the beach and then up the hill among the nests. This colony had older, fat chicks who were chasing down their parents for food. Several grey pin-feathered chicks even climbed down the hill to the beach chasing for a meal, but the parents eluded them and the chicks wobbled back up to the rookery. Some naturalists described this behavior as the parents’ testing to identify their own chicks or selecting to feed only the stronger of their own two. We did see a lot of chick carcasses, and one poor thing was still in convulsions after being attacked by a Skua, which were very much in evidence circling overhead. In any case, these Adelie parents will reach a point when they stop feeding their babies and go out to sea without teaching their chicks to swim or fish. Presumably, the chicks will learn to survive with their creche and by instinct.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and we were all grateful to see blue sky and blue water. In the evening, we cruised around the Weddell Sea and even tried once or twice to cut a trail through the sea ice. A full moon came out that night, which we saw rise above some tabular ice.

Later that night, we entered the Bransfield Strait on our way north to Elephant Island. We had at least as much rocking and rolling as we’d felt crossing the Drake Passage, and the wind picked up, as well.

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