— Dane Creek

Day 13: Danco Island and Port Lockroy

(This is part of a series of re-posts from my trip to Antarctica in 2009)

Brandon, our expedition leader, starts every morning wakeup announcement the same way: “Good morning. (pause) Good morning!” It’s become part of our routine.

This morning, deep in a very happy sleep, I hear “Good morning”. But no pause. And no follow-up “Good morning!”. It was not a good sign.

It was 4:15am. And it was Michael on the PA. The gist of the message? The morning light was awesome, get the hell out of bed. So I did.

At 5:20am I had 172 photos copying off my CF card.

I skipped the 5:30 landing today. I was just too tired, the scenery didn’t look that impressive, and we had some amazing narrow passageways to sail through later in the day. I wanted to have more than 3 hours sleep.

The second landing was at Danco Island (anchored at 64° 43.0822 S 62° 35.7870 W). It’s a small island where you hike to the top for 360° views and penguins walking on their superhighways in the snow. We were given the choice of walking or taking a 45 minute zodiac cruise around the bay. I started to hike, then saw two fantastic icebergs and turned around to take the zodiac cruise.

Best. Decision. Ever. And it gave rise to Neil’s law of Antarctic cruising: given the choice between a shore landing and a cruise ALWAYS TAKE THE CRUISE.

We headed out to a cool looking iceberg and to our surprise a leopard seal was lounging on a little berg in front of a massive berg. And there were beautiful clouds in the sky. And reflections in the water. Oh, and penguins splashing around. Sheesh!

Much shooting and videoing transpired then it was back to the boat to dump cards. I hung out on the bridge for a bit with First Officer George. He’s from Romania, smokes up a storm, and is absolutely hilarious. Somewhere in there I had lunch and watched an iceberg go by that filed the view from all the windows in the dining room. And there were penguins jumping around on it. Sheesh!

The light for the two narrow channels we went through wasn’t particularly fantastic. I took a few shots but nowhere near as many as I expected. Good thing: so far Lightroom has 6238 images (that’s 145GB of images for those keeping track) and 61GB of video.

Our third stop of the day was Port Lockroy (anchored at 64° 49.5851 S 63° 30.0723 W). It’s a combination museum/gift shop on Goudier Island run by a non-profit that helps keep the place running and in good shape. It’s also a very small island covered in penguins. For a non-wildlife guy like me it was easy shooting for goofy tourist videos/pics of Gentoos doing their thing. I was pretty bored though so I took a quick zodiac back to the ship to get Minky. Then the landing was fun! I got pictures of him watching Alex stamp illegal “Antarctica” stamps in our passports, as well as other shots from around the base. The ride back from the ship was funny too, since First Officer George came along to do some souvenir shopping.

Another surreal moment: I sat with Seth Resnick for at least 1/2 an hour going through 20 photos I’d tagged to show him. Many of them were ones that I’d already shown to JP, but I added a few “Seth shots” (more blue, more colour) to see what he would say. At the end we had 8 selects that we both agreed were great shots, 7 of which he would consider portfolio shots. He also showed me a few tips with Lightroom to really make a huge difference, and we spent a LOT of time talking cropping. In the end he, JP, and I all agree on a single shot from the 6000+ that is the shot of the trip. Rock on!