— Dane Creek

Day 7: Aitcho & Half Moon Islands

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

I slept through the night easily and was woken up by the morning announcements. While sleeping the ship chugged along to Aitcho (pronounced H.O.) Island. We dropped anchor and were in zodiacs by 8:30. I was in the first zodiac again, and unlike last night I remembered to bring my rain cover and tripod.

The island had several chinstrap and gentoo penguins. Since the island is so far north most of the chicks were already off on their own. They’re pretty cute and puffy! Except for the ones covered in penguin poo. The island is unique because it has grass on it. There were entire swaths of hills that looked like early summer Mount Rainier. We also saw elephant seals. They’re big and they make amusing fartingburp sounds. The inside of their mouths are insanely disgusting though. I’ll try and get a good shot sometime during the trip but they are just filthy gross.

Did I mention penguins stink? Because they do. Watching them crap is rather entertaining though. It’s no little dribble. Oh no. They go for distance. I wonder how many more landings before the entire ship smells penguin poo. Our room is already starting to funk up.

I shot another roll of B&W, but again the lighting is overcast and very flat. I’m so glad I did film testing to find N+2!

After lunch we went through a passage between two islands and it really started to feel like we were in Antarctica. There’s blue ice on the cliffs and small chunks in the water. Very cool. But it’s raining again, so our shore landing on Half Moon island in the afternoon was quite wet. I found some little icebergs near shore away from where everyone else was and took some shots with the 6 stop ND filter on. It blurred the water but the composition is pretty bad. It was also raining far too hard to get out the black and white film. It was a shame since the scene was exactly what I wanted to shoot on film.

In other news, my main harddrive for the trip is busted. I don’t know what’s wrong with it exactly but it’s S-L-O-W. I’ve tried everything I know to fix it and have given up. Jeff (not Schewe) lent me one of his extra 320GB drives. WOOT!

The weather’s been pretty crappy so far. Always overcast, sometimes rain, and sometimes heavy fog. We’ve scrapped plans for tomorrow morning (it was going to be another landing) and instead we making a dash for the Antarctic Circle. Our expedition leader has done 80 Antarctic trips over 7 years and has only made it past the Circle twice. Assuming the ice cooperates we’ll get there sometime late tomorrow night and have 24 hours of daylight. Crazy! On the way we’ll go through a fancy channel that has sheer cliffs on each side and (hopefully) tons of icebergs.