We all had to prepare for the coming landings by being taught about bio-security. It’s important not to introduce bacteria, viruses or seeds of any kind into this environment. It could wreak havoc on the eco-system. We had one vacuuming session, prior to any landings, to rid our outerwear of any offenders. The ship provided rubber landing boots, since we would be getting off the Zodiac and stepping into the water on shore. These boots had to be dipped into two kinds of disinfectants before and after excursions. Also, once on land, we could not kneel, touch the ground or place anything on the ground, at all.
Up until 11:00 today, the ship was really rocking, but it suddenly became noticeably calmer, a welcome relief, and it meant we could attempt a landing.
Our first landing was at the Aitcho Islands, specifically Barrientos Island, which is part of the South Shetland Islands. Due to fog, we couldn’t cruise, but we could land and have first contact with a penguin colony. My initial impression was that penguins smell bad! Their pink poo is everywhere! And the way they do it! When they’re ready to let it go, they lean forward and projectile poop out their butts! It’s something to see.
We were instructed to stay 5’ away from any wildlife. Even if they come toward you, you have to back away. The Avian bird flu recently decimated wild bird populations in Ireland and chickens in the U.S., so we couldn’t take a chance passing that on to those adorable little penguins. Secondly, these birds and other creatures are struggling to survive in a very hostile environment, so stressing them further in any way is not acceptable.
Someone spotted a Fin whale from the ship today. Of course, I missed it. Fin whales are the second largest whales, the Blue whale being the largest. There are only about 100,000 of these beautiful creatures left.
Tips for Excursions on a Zodiac
- If you wear glasses, opt for contacts under ski goggles to protect against the biting wind. Zodiacs cruise fast. Antarctica is windy to begin with, and on a speed boat, the wind doubles.
- Wear a scarf over your nose and mouth. The wind is dry and cold.
- Don’t try taking photos while the boat is moving. It’s better to alert the driver that you want to take photos. Usually, they are conscious of this anyway and will stop for photo opportunities.
- The rubber landing boots that the ship gives you might not fit perfectly, so wear as many socks as needed until you get a tight fit. The snow and ice on land are easier to navigate with tight fitting boots.
This post is part of a 10-post series of my adventures on the White Continent. More to come…