Monthly Archives

December 2010

Best Photos of 2010

Best Photographs of the Year

Best Photos of 2010

A good friend once told me that his photography goal was to shoot two or three really good images each year. I’ve tried to keep that in mind in the years since. It is only on looking back over the last year’s photographs, having now removed myself from the emotion and excitement that was present when the images were made, that I can judge whether I have succeeded in making a small number of really notable images. I feel pretty good about what I produced in 2010. So in true shameless promotional fashion, here are my personal favorites, in no particular order. These are not necessarily the images that I feel will sell best (although I hope they do well in that regard!). Rather, these are the photographs that best recall emotion and remembrance of where I was and what I was feeling when I made them. I owe a big “Thank you” to my wonderful wife Tracy, to my daughters and to my friends for your support and encouragement!

Adelie penguins leaping into the ocean from an iceberg, Pygoscelis adeliae, Brown Bluff

Adelie penguins leaping into the ocean from an iceberg.
Image ID: 25005
Species: Adelie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae
Location: Brown Bluff, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Archangel Falls in autumn, near the Subway in North Creek Canyon, with maples and cottonwoods turning fall colors, Zion National Park, Utah

Archangel Falls in autumn, near the Subway in North Creek Canyon, with maples and cottonwoods turning fall colors.
Image ID: 26097
Location: Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Red gorgonian on rocky reef, below kelp forest, underwater.  The red gorgonian is a filter-feeding temperate colonial species that lives on the rocky bottom at depths between 50 to 200 feet deep. Gorgonians are oriented at right angles to prevailing water currents to capture plankton drifting by, Lophogorgia chilensis, San Clemente Island

Red gorgonian on rocky reef, below kelp forest, underwater. The red gorgonian is a filter-feeding temperate colonial species that lives on the rocky bottom at depths between 50 to 200 feet deep. Gorgonians are oriented at right angles to prevailing water currents to capture plankton drifting by.
Image ID: 25393
Species: Red gorgonian, Lophogorgia chilensis
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Giant redwood, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park.  The coastal redwood, or simply 'redwood', is the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379' and living 3500 years or more.  It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements, Sequoia sempervirens

Giant redwood, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park. The coastal redwood, or simply ‘redwood’, is the tallest tree on Earth, reaching a height of 379′ and living 3500 years or more. It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States, but most concentrated in Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, found close to the coast where moisture and soil conditions can support its unique size and growth requirements.
Image ID: 25795
Species: Coast redwood, giant redwood, California redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
Location: Redwood National Park, California, USA

Kelp fronds and pneumatocysts.  Pneumatocysts, gas-filled bladders, float the kelp plant off the ocean bottom toward the surface and sunlight, where the leaf-like blades and stipes of the kelp plant grow fastest.  Giant kelp can grow up to 2' in a single day given optimal conditions.  Epic submarine forests of kelp grow throughout California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Kelp fronds and pneumatocysts. Pneumatocysts, gas-filled bladders, float the kelp plant off the ocean bottom toward the surface and sunlight, where the leaf-like blades and stipes of the kelp plant grow fastest. Giant kelp can grow up to 2′ in a single day given optimal conditions. Epic submarine forests of kelp grow throughout California’s Southern Channel Islands.
Image ID: 25396
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Blue whale, exhaling as it surfaces from a dive, aerial photo.  The blue whale is the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth, exceeding 100' in length and 200 tons in weight, Balaenoptera musculus, Redondo Beach, California

Blue whale, exhaling as it surfaces from a dive, aerial photo. The blue whale is the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth, exceeding 100′ in length and 200 tons in weight.
Image ID: 25953
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: Redondo Beach, California, USA

Adams River sockeye salmon.  A female sockeye salmon swims upstream in the Adams River to spawn, having traveled hundreds of miles upstream from the ocean, Oncorhynchus nerka, Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

Adams River sockeye salmon. A female sockeye salmon swims upstream in the Adams River to spawn, having traveled hundreds of miles upstream from the ocean.
Image ID: 26161
Species: Sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka
Location: Adams River, Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

Wandering albatross in flight, over the open sea.  The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird, with the wingspan between, up to 12' from wingtip to wingtip.  It can soar on the open ocean for hours at a time, riding the updrafts from individual swells, with a glide ratio of 22 units of distance for every unit of drop.  The wandering albatross can live up to 23 years.  They hunt at night on the open ocean for cephalopods, small fish, and crustaceans. The survival of the species is at risk due to mortality from long-line fishing gear, Diomedea exulans

Wandering albatross in flight, over the open sea. The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird, with the wingspan between, up to 12′ from wingtip to wingtip. It can soar on the open ocean for hours at a time, riding the updrafts from individual swells, with a glide ratio of 22 units of distance for every unit of drop. The wandering albatross can live up to 23 years. They hunt at night on the open ocean for cephalopods, small fish, and crustaceans. The survival of the species is at risk due to mortality from long-line fishing gear.
Image ID: 24071
Species: Wandering albatross, Diomedea exulans
Location: Southern Ocean

Paraglider soaring at Torrey Pines Gliderport, sunset, flying over the Pacific Ocean, La Jolla, California

Paraglider soaring at Torrey Pines Gliderport, sunset, flying over the Pacific Ocean.
Image ID: 24286
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

King penguin, showing ornate and distinctive neck, breast and head plumage and orange beak, Aptenodytes patagonicus, Fortuna Bay

King penguin, showing ornate and distinctive neck, breast and head plumage and orange beak.
Image ID: 24581
Species: King penguin, Aptenodytes patagonicus
Location: Fortuna Bay, South Georgia Island

Southern humpback whale in Antarctica, with significant diatomaceous growth (brown) on the underside of its fluke, lifting its fluke before diving in Neko Harbor, Antarctica, Megaptera novaeangliae

Southern humpback whale in Antarctica, with significant diatomaceous growth (brown) on the underside of its fluke, lifting its fluke before diving in Neko Harbor, Antarctica.
Image ID: 25647
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Neko Harbor, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Eureka Dunes.  The Eureka Valley Sand Dunes are California's tallest sand dunes, and one of the tallest in the United States.  Rising 680' above the floor of the Eureka Valley, the Eureka sand dunes are home to several endangered species, as well as "singing sand" that makes strange sounds when it shifts.  Located in the remote northern portion of Death Valley National Park, the Eureka Dunes see very few visitors

Eureka Dunes. The Eureka Valley Sand Dunes are California’s tallest sand dunes, and one of the tallest in the United States. Rising 680′ above the floor of the Eureka Valley, the Eureka sand dunes are home to several endangered species, as well as “singing sand” that makes strange sounds when it shifts. Located in the remote northern portion of Death Valley National Park, the Eureka Dunes see very few visitors.
Image ID: 25249
Location: Eureka Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Racetrack Playa, an ancient lake now dried and covered with dessicated mud, Death Valley National Park, California

Racetrack Playa, an ancient lake now dried and covered with dessicated mud.
Image ID: 25264
Location: Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Cathedral Range peaks reflected in the still waters of Townsley Lake at sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Range peaks reflected in the still waters of Townsley Lake at sunrise.
Image ID: 25764
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Sandhill cranes flying, wings blurred from long time exposure, Grus canadensis, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

Sandhill cranes flying, wings blurred from long time exposure.
Image ID: 26225
Species: Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

A young girl has fun swimming in a pool

A young girl has fun swimming in a pool.
Image ID: 25291

Tabular iceberg, Antarctic Peninsula, near Paulet Island, sunset

Tabular iceberg, Antarctic Peninsula, near Paulet Island, sunset.
Image ID: 24778
Location: Paulet Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Two Adelie penguins, holding their wings out, standing on an iceberg, Pygoscelis adeliae, Paulet Island

Two Adelie penguins, holding their wings out, standing on an iceberg.
Image ID: 25050
Species: Adelie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae
Location: Paulet Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

See also:

Best Photos of 2009
Best Photos of 2008
Best Photos of 2007

There are approximately 2700 “keepers” that I made in 2010 and that are now in my stock photo library. The following gear was used to make them. These proportions come from the metadata filter tab in Lightroom.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III: 55%
Canon EOS 5D Mark II: 23%
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II: 21%
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3: 1%

Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye prime lens: 4%
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II zoom lens: 12%
Canon 24mm f/2.8 prime lens: 1.5%
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L zoom lens: 0.07%
Canon 24-105mm f/4 L zoom lens: 24%
Canon 70-200mm f/4 L zoom lens: 14%
Canon 300mm f/2.8 L telephoto lens: 26%
Canon 500mm f/4 L telephoto lens: 19%

Photography Expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands

Antarctica, Downloads, Falklands, South Georgia Island, Southern Ocean, Wisdom

I’ve finally gathered blog posts and select images into an informal report of my trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands in January 2010, which is available along with my other articles, reports and downloads. This trip was so much fun, and so rich in wildlife and photography possibilities, that I am already planning two more trips to southern waters to see more. The blog posts from which this article originates are filed under “Southern Ocean“.

La Jolla Pelicans

California, La Jolla, Pelicans

I was recently contacted by a fellow from outside the country who would like to visit La Jolla to photograph, among other things, California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus), but was concerned about access to the bluff where these birds are best photographed. Since I had not been down to La Jolla for a while I decided to get out between storms and take a look. (We had a week-long rain end just 2 days ago, and another rain is due to arrive tomorrow.) I got up early this morning, looked out the window, saw the sky conditions were ideal, threw my gear in my car and got down there. There is no problem (as far as I can tell) about accessing the bluff area and photographing the pelicans as usual. There is a fence and a deck of course (both of which were built a few years ago) but no signage indicating that going beyond the fence is a problem. The signs simply warn about the dangers of falling off the bluff which, frankly, are self-evident. Special thanks to the city’s lawyers who insist on clarifying the obvious.

For general info see a Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

The pelicans have a ways to go until they reach peak plumage. I was able to find a few that had it all together — red and olive throat, yellow head and dark chestnut hind neck — but most birds were still in transition in some way. Here are some photos from this morning, all shot with a Canon 1Ds III and 300 f/2.8 with 1.4x converter.

California brown pelican, pre-sunrise, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, pre-sunrise.
Image ID: 26283
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat.
Image ID: 26287
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican in flight, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight.
Image ID: 26284
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat.
Image ID: 26285
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican in flight, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight.
Image ID: 26288
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican.
Image ID: 26289
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican.
Image ID: 26290
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, pre-sunrise, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, pre-sunrise.
Image ID: 26293
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, pre-sunrise, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, pre-sunrise.
Image ID: 26294
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull in flight, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull in flight.
Image ID: 26296
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican.
Image ID: 26297
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, pre-sunrise, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, pre-sunrise.
Image ID: 26298
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat.
Image ID: 26300
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican.
Image ID: 26301
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The Drake Passage, Southern Ocean

Southern Ocean

The Drake Passage is rumored to be the nastiest, meanest, toughest ocean crossing in the world. Many who round Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America relate the impressiveness of the Drake’s ocean swells. It is a crossing of the Drake, typically a two-day affair during which the Southern Ocean unrelentingly lashes a ship broadside, that affords one a full sense of how much the ocean can dish out. Or at least that is what I hear. In truth we did not experience much distress while crossing the Drake Passage from Antarctica to Tierra del Fuego. I think the swells topped out at about 5-8m (15-24′) on the second day, with a few that probably got up to 10m or so scattered throughout the day. The wind was a steady 25-35 knots, less than the prediction of a few days earlier had forecast. The real telling fact was that most of the passengers were present in the dining room for all three meals rather than in their bunks groaning and retching.

Icebreaker Polar Star, bow plunging through high seas during crossing of the Drake Passage between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula

Icebreaker Polar Star, bow plunging through high seas during crossing of the Drake Passage between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Image ID: 25949
Location: Drake Passage, Southern Ocean

So, in hindsight we were comfortable, moreso than expected, and we did not really have a crossing of which we could boast. I spent some time on the forward observation deck overlooking the bow, trying to photograph green water coming over a bow that was sunk deep into an oncoming swell. In spite of my efforts I managed just two frames that show any significant water over the rail.

As we gradually crawled north toward Ushuaia and our flights home, I thought about those seafarers of a century or two ago, those who braved the Drake Passage in small wooden boats, relying on sextant and grit to find their way, without any real knowledge of how far they had to go to reach “the other side”. Now those were men.

Next: Photography Expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands
Previous: Hannah Point, Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Bosque del Apache NWR

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, Video

Here is a short compilation of video clips I made with my dSLR while at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in early December. Most of these birds are snow geese, but there are some sandhill cranes in there too.

Hannah Point, Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands

Southern Ocean

Our final land visit was at Hannah Point in the South Shetland Islands. The crossing to Livingston Island from the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula was, in a word, snotty. Decent swells, snow and rain, and high winds. Not drama-queen rough, but rocking and rolling enough that I preferred to sit down with a tea and watch the world go by through the big windows in the upstairs salon than spend my time on deck with a camera. It also meant that the prospects of making a landing were not looking good. But Hannah Point was on the lee side of Livingston Island this morning, and once in the bight of the island (formed by a portion of a volcanic caldera) that makes up the approach to the landing, the seas settled down somewhat and a landing was made. On the point itself are, surprisingly, more penguins. Notably, however, there is also some vegetation, something we saw very little of over the past week in Antartica. A long, curving black-sand beach in the distance showed some juvenile southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina), so I passed by the penguins and headed down to watch the elephant seals mock-fighting in the water.

Southern elephant seal watches gentoo penguin, Mirounga leonina, Pygoscelis papua, Livingston Island

Southern elephant seal watches gentoo penguin.
Image ID: 25915
Species: Southern elephant seal, Gentoo penguin, Mirounga leonina, Pygoscelis papua
Location: Livingston Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Southern elephant seal, hind flipper detail, Mirounga leonina, Livingston Island

Southern elephant seal, hind flipper detail.
Image ID: 25918
Species: Southern elephant seal, Mirounga leonina
Location: Livingston Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

The bulls had by this time of year all cleared off the beach and were out at sea foraging for food. Only younger animals remained, wallowing on a bluff 50’ above the water or down on the sand beach. I tried to make some images of them in the water, wrestling and tossing water about. Occasional blasts of sand-strewn wind would howl down the beach in an effort to bowl us over. Gentoos would regularly swim in to the beach and waddle on the sand to their rookeries a few hundred yards away. Twice I witnessed wind blasts topple the small but sturdy birds, only to see them pop up a moment later and continue on their way as if nothing had happened. I am continually impressed with their hardiness. My final attempt at a photograph on land for this trip was to lay down in the blasting sand, which was growing worse by the hour, and try to illustrate how the sand raked over the seals. I got a few shots that I am reasonably happy with but may be picking sand out of my camera for months. About noon we depart, heading off for what promises to be a fun-filled two days in the Drake Passage.

Southern elephant seal, juveniles mock sparring, Mirounga leonina, Livingston Island

Southern elephant seal, juveniles mock sparring.
Image ID: 25923
Species: Southern elephant seal, Mirounga leonina
Location: Livingston Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Next: The Drake Passage
Previous: Humpback whales in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctica
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Humpback Whales in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctica

Antarctica, Humpback Whale, Southern Ocean

As we sailed north from Neko Harbor to the South Shetland Islands, we came upon a large assemblage of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) feeding in the Gerlache Strait. They were on krill, as evidenced by the color of their waste, but the water was too rough to make out patches or balls of the invertebrate stuff. At one point Jim estimated we had seen over 45 humpbacks in the area about 2 miles long by half the width of the strait. One group of five whale provided some excellent examples of surface lunge feeding. While not the coordinated bubble-net feeding that is normally associated with Alaskan humpback whales, the behavior of these whales did include some bubble displays.

Humpback whale lunge feeding on Antarctic krill, with mouth open and baleen visible.  The humbpack's throat grooves are seen as its pleated throat becomes fully distended as the whale fills its mouth with krill and water.  The water will be pushed out, while the baleen strains and retains the small krill, Megaptera novaeangliae, Gerlache Strait

Humpback whale lunge feeding on Antarctic krill, with mouth open and baleen visible. The humbpack’s throat grooves are seen as its pleated throat becomes fully distended as the whale fills its mouth with krill and water. The water will be pushed out, while the baleen strains and retains the small krill.
Image ID: 25648
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Gerlache Strait, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Humpback whale lunge feeding on Antarctic krill, with mouth open and baleen visible.  The humbpack's pink throat grooves are seen as its pleated throat becomes fully distended as the whale fills its mouth with krill and water.  The water will be pushed out, while the baleen strains and retains the small krill, Megaptera novaeangliae, Gerlache Strait

Humpback whale lunge feeding on Antarctic krill, with mouth open and baleen visible. The humbpack’s pink throat grooves are seen as its pleated throat becomes fully distended as the whale fills its mouth with krill and water. The water will be pushed out, while the baleen strains and retains the small krill.
Image ID: 25649
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Gerlache Strait, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

In fact, it was easy to know when the group of five was about the surface since one of the five predictably produced a subsurface blast of air a few seconds before surfacing. With a little practice it was possible to put the camera near the spot at which the whales would surface and then it was a matter of luck, firing the frames as quickly as possible and hoping the whales would surface with open mouth and full, pleated throat in the frame. We watched the whales until at least 10:30pm, when I finally got a shot of them coming toward the boat. One shot in particular illustrates the baleen, tongue and fully-engorged throat of a krill-feeding humpback. It would have been inconceivable to get this image 10 years ago when I was shooting film, at such a late hour in dim, overcast light, but the modern cameras allow for this sort of photo with relative ease. ISO 1600, lens wide open at f/4, hand-holding a stabilized 500mm lens on a rocking boat at only 1/500, and yet three of the four frames of that sequence are sufficiently sharp for publication. Wonders never cease. About 11pm we finally leave the whales and continue north through the Gerlache Strait, leaving the Antarctic Peninsula in our wake about dawn. Alas, Antarctica is now just a memory.

Scenery in Gerlache Strai.  Clouds, mountains, snow, and ocean, at sunset in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctica

Scenery in Gerlache Strai. Clouds, mountains, snow, and ocean, at sunset in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctica.
Image ID: 25680
Location: Gerlache Strait, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Next: Hannah Point, Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands
Previous: Neko Harbor, Antarctica
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Neko Harbor, Antarctica

Antarctica, Humpback Whale, Southern Ocean

Photos of Neko Harbor, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

I awoke this morning to find us in the calm anchorage of Paradise Bay. The water was glass, and bergs were slowly drifting by the boat, riding tidal currents. I set up a time lapse sequence on the stern of the boat and went below for breakfast. An hour later the sequence was finished, and it turned out to be pretty good when viewed in HD. The gentle swing of the boat on its anchor combined nicely with the slow movement of the berg and the passing clouds. Soon after breakfast we motored for about an hour to Neko Harbor, passing a smaller ship (with 250 passengers, crowded!) on our way into Neko Harbor. What a spectacular place. This was one of my favorite spots on the entire peninsula because we finally had a full day of encounters with mammals. (I had had my fill of penguins well before this morning). Light rain and some snow eventually cleared to broken sunshine lighting up the peaks that tower about the ice-filled bay. Two glaciers calved large bergs periodically, including a large snow avalance that blew apart into a cloud of snow late in the afternoon.

A glacier fractures and cracks, as the leading of a glacier fractures and cracks as it reaches the ocean.  The pieces will float away to become icebergs, Neko Harbor

A glacier fractures and cracks, as the leading of a glacier fractures and cracks as it reaches the ocean. The pieces will float away to become icebergs.
Image ID: 25654
Location: Neko Harbor, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

On my morning zodiac outing, Al picked out some good ice for us to inspect, and Patrick took us in for a close look. Huge columns of fractured blue ice defined the leading edge of a glacier. We took a lot of pictures of those formations, and also simply motored by them admiring them. Once back on the big boat for lunch I learned that another group was blessed with an inquisitive minke whale which stayed right next to their zodiac for 90 minutes, spyhopping and circling the 9 lucky viewers. One of the group mentioned to me, in a somewhat reverential tone, that it was a “life moment” for her. I recall some of my earliest, best encounters with whales at close range, and I understand what she must have felt. Good for them. Throughout the day most of the us were fortunate to see scattered crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophagus), Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) and leopard seals resting on bergs, along with an occasional minke whale and many good views of humpback whales. I managed to take a few nice photos of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) fluking up in front of ice, a shot which I had tried for years before in Alaska with no luck. At 4:30pm it was time to wrap it up and head out, too soon to leave Neko Harbor but we had to begin the long sail north through the Gerlach Strait and on to Hannah Point.

Southern humpback whale in Antarctica, with significant diatomaceous growth (brown) on the underside of its fluke, lifting its fluke before diving in Neko Harbor, Antarctica, Megaptera novaeangliae

Southern humpback whale in Antarctica, with significant diatomaceous growth (brown) on the underside of its fluke, lifting its fluke before diving in Neko Harbor, Antarctica.
Image ID: 25647
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Neko Harbor, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

A crabeater seal, hauled out on pack ice to rest.  Crabeater seals reach 2m and 200kg in size, with females being slightly larger than males.  Crabeaters are the most abundant species of seal in the world, with as many as 75 million individuals.  Despite its name, 80% the crabeater seal's diet consists of Antarctic krill.  They have specially adapted teeth to strain the small krill from the water, Lobodon carcinophagus, Neko Harbor

A crabeater seal, hauled out on pack ice to rest. Crabeater seals reach 2m and 200kg in size, with females being slightly larger than males. Crabeaters are the most abundant species of seal in the world, with as many as 75 million individuals. Despite its name, 80% the crabeater seal’s diet consists of Antarctic krill. They have specially adapted teeth to strain the small krill from the water.
Image ID: 25650
Species: Crabeater seal, Lobodon carcinophagus
Location: Neko Harbor, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Next: Humpback whales in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctica
Previous: Cloudy Morning in Paradise Bay, Antarctica
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Cloudy Morning in Paradise Bay, Antarctica

Antarctica, Southern Ocean, Time Lapse, Video

Last night we sailed down the Lemaire Channel a second time, after a visit to Peterman Island. This morning we awoke in Paradise Bay. We would remain here for a few hours while we ate breakfast. As I was below in the galley enjoying eggs, cheese, fruit and coffee (the food was great on the M/V Polar Star), I left my camera alone out on the deck shooting one frame every 4 seconds. I slapped them together into a time lapse video, which you see below thanks to Youtube!

Next: Neko Harbor, Antarctica
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Peterman Island, Antarctica

Antarctica, Southern Ocean

Photos of Peterman Island, Antarctica

Soon after passing through the Lemaire Channel we arrive at Peterman Island. Peterman Island is a relatively low-lying, somewhat flattish granite island with scattered gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) colonies and some small ponds. Rounded rocks along the edge of the island are awash with small waves, and I make my way to one attractive point away from the penguins (I have had enough of photographing penguins by this point) to make pictures of the water swirling ashore with peaks and clouds in the distance. I stand about thigh deep in the ocean water, but its not as cold as I expected – my boots and pants keep me dry.

Waves rush in, sunset, Antarctica.  Ocean water rushes ashore over the rocky edge of Peterman Island, Antarctica

Waves rush in, sunset, Antarctica. Ocean water rushes ashore over the rocky edge of Peterman Island, Antarctica.
Image ID: 25610
Location: Peterman Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

After about 15 minutes, I hear a rustling behind me. A gentoo penguin has snuck up on me, standing on a ledge at my shoulder only about 3’ away, watching me and nosing my backpack lying next to him. We both stand still for a few moments, checking one another out. Is it making sure there is nothing to be fearful of? Perhaps. Eventually, the gentoo starts nibbling some clean white snow next to me. I go on with my picture taking. When I turn around a few minutes later, it is still there watching me, now joined by another gentoo. I set one of my cameras on the granite and put a self timer on it, and let it take a few photos of the two little birds (see next image). Soon they waddle down to the water and swim off.

Gentoo penguins, Peterman Island, Antarctica, Pygoscelis papua

Gentoo penguins, Peterman Island, Antarctica
Image ID: 25613
Species: Gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papua
Location: Peterman Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

I pack up and hike about the island, past many more penguins on their nests feeding their pairs of chicks:

Gentoo penguin adult tending to its two chicks.  The chicks will remain in the nest for about 30 days after hatching, Pygoscelis papua, Peterman Island

Gentoo penguin adult tending to its two chicks. The chicks will remain in the nest for about 30 days after hatching.
Image ID: 25601
Species: Gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papua
Location: Peterman Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Before returning by zodiac to the ship, I visit a lonely memorial to three BAS (British Antarctic Survey) scientists who were working at the small research hut on Peterman Island some years ago and trapped there by partially frozen seas with insufficient provisions. The ice conditions were such that the three BAS staff could not safely walk out, nor could a boat reach them. They waited weeks for help. Eventually a BAS ship reached Peterman Island, but instead of finding the researchers only a note was discovered. It is believed all three BAS scientists perished after attempting walk across the thin ice to another research station 9 miles away, likely falling into the strait through the thin ice. The memorial is a poignant reminder of the unforgiving nature of life on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Argentine research hut on Petermann Island, Antarctica, Pygoscelis papua, Peterman Island

Argentine research hut on Petermann Island, Antarctica.
Image ID: 25605
Species: Gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papua
Location: Peterman Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

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