Antarctica and Patagonia, Chile – Seals and Icebergs

Weddell seal in the snow.

There are several kinds of seals in this part of the Antarctic. This one is a Weddell seal. I shot it at a low shutter speed to blur the snow. We made several zodiac landings at various points on the peninsula on the northwest corner of the continent south of Chile. This is summer in Antarctica. The weather ranged from snow and rain to generally overcast and cloudy weather with temperatures ranging from the mid-20’s to the mid-30’s. As it turned out, it was generally warmer in Antarctica than it was at home in Kansas at the time. That’s not true today! There are also some fur seals, crab seals and the penquins primary predator, the tiger seal.

Tiger Seal
Weddell seal baring his teeth.

While we did see a few seals in the water, most of them were on floating icebergs.

This is a crab seal.
Crab Seal
Weddell seal

I liked the landings but I’ve seen penquins and seals on previous trips. I certainly liked watching them move around the land and in the water. What I think I enjoyed most was the unique forms that the icebergs took. Without putting something in an image to give some scale to the size of an iceberg it’s difficult to realize how large they are. For example, this image of zodiac from our ship with an iceberg in the background.

A zodiac between two large icebergs.
A zodiac moving between two icebergs.
These icebergs are thirty to forty feet high. These are reflections and not the under-the-water portion of the icebergs.

It’s said that what you see above the surface is only a small part of the iceberg below the surface. This next image was of an iceberg that was right next to our ship one evening. Looking down on it shows all that is below the surface.

Some additional icebergs…..

This iceberg has a pool in the center of it.
You can see the iceberg below the surface.

Following are a few images I shot with a GoPro. I held it below the surface beside the zodiac on an approximately 24″ handle. Most of these images are of smaller icebergs that we floated up to on our zodiac.

The mountains were equally beautiful.

Entering the Lemaire Channel. This is a 12-image panorama.

The Lemaire Channel is a fairly narrow channel. It is only about 1600 yards wide. It is one of the first passages we made into Antarctica waters.

On a rare sunny day I could see the reflection of the mountains in the ocean.
This panorama is made up of nine images.
The kayak gives some scale to the size of the mountain.

There was a group of kayakers who went out most days to move around the icebergs and to make landings on shore. There was also a group of snorkelers in dry suits who floated on the ocean. One group of snorkelers had a whale pass under them. I’m sure that was exciting for them to see!

I wasn’t among either of these groups but I did do a polar plunge off the stern of the ship. Yes, the water was cold but getting out in the wind was colder! I’m still waiting on a picture that the ship’s photographer took of all of us who went in the water. There were about 20 polar plungers!

We also saw several whales but most were too distant for me to get good images.

At the conclusion of our cruise, we headed back north to King George Island at the northern tip of the peninsula. We had cruised from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica but we flew back to Punta Arenas from King George Island. I was expecting a small airport but what we learned was that it was just an airstrip. We took zodiacs to shore. From there we had a mile and half walk up the hill to the airstrip. We passed between two research stations. One for Chile and another for Russia. Another Chinese one wasn’t too far away. There was no terminal, no seats, just a landing strip. Luckily, it was a beautiful sunny day. If it had been raining it would not have been pleasant. Three planes from Antarctic Airlines arrived. The red/blue group got on plane #1. Those of us in the yellow/green group boarded plane #2 and the three Covid patients boarded a third plane. We never saw them.

After arriving back in Punta Arenas, we spent the night in the same hotel we’d stay in at the beginning of our trip. The next morning I joined five others and our Russian guide, Daniel Kordan (his Americanized name) to start our week touring the Patagonian region of southern Chile. More on that in my next post. Thanks for following my blog!

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