Friday, 25 December 2015

Antarctica Voyage Day 7 - 25 December 2015, steaming along at sea

Leith Cove, Antarctica
Photograph taken by Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

This morning I was woken up in my bivi camping at 5.30 am and was warm and cosy until I had to get up.  We brought everything with us and took it all away, including waste.  The first thing to do was to fill our trenches back up with snow, to make minimum impact.

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Leith Cove, Antarctica
Photograph taken by Chris Craig

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Leith Cove, Antarctica
Photograph taken by Chris Craig

Once back at the ship at 6.30 am, I had a hot shower to warm up.  At breakfast we heard the terrible news that someone had become seriously ill, was alive but needed immediate and urgent medical  evacuation to South Shetland Island, to get a plane off back to Punta Arenas in Chile.  The boat was going full steam ahead back north and was due to arrive at the Chilean research station at midnight. The plane was due in at 3 am, if they could get hold of someone at the insurers to approve it. They needed the plane to take them to Punto Arenas for urgent treatment.

Then half way through breakfast there was an announcement that we were about to go past The Chilean research station, Gonzales Videla, at  Waterboat Point again where we had seen an Emperor Penguin yesterday evening. We dashed up 3 floors and almost immediately saw the penguin, this time standing up on a low lying bit of snow.  It was amazing to see it yesterday but unbelievable to see it again this morning.

Emperor Penguin, Gonzales Videla

This excitement and celebration came to an abrupt end when I heard the shocking news that the person who was ill was my friend’s dad.  We had been friends since day one here and our parents were spending all their time together.  I hoped we could get to the airstrip as quickly as possible, so that they could get a plane.  A really horrible Christmas Day for them.

As we headed back north, the amount of ice reduced, but still with large icebergs.  It was another sunny, still and glorious day.  Not good for finding our missing Snow Petrel. Simon, the ship’s ornithologist said that 20 years ago you would maybe have one half day of sunny weather, rather than everyday.  Clearly this was the change of weather patterns.

So far, I would say that tourism is having negligible  impact on Antarctica.  We have been leaving places as we find them and with very little impact.  Against this, tourists coming to the area and seeing how stunning it is, are keeping the place alive in people’s hearts and minds. There is an association for tourist providers travelling to Antarctica, with strict rules about what can be done and how.  This is so that the impact of tourism to the area can be kept minimal, though there does not really seem to be a way of dealing with ships that break their rules.  It is governments and corporations that will not care about trashing Antarctica, and the only way they can be stopped is by people visiting Antarctica and telling their friends and family about what a stunning and pristine place it is and why it needs to be protected.

During our fast journey, from the upstairs bar we saw an amazing Humpback Whale breaching and showing it’s tail. We also saw many more Humpbacks from the Bridge, probably there were about 60 over the day.  We also saw some beautiful icebergs and some smaller ice floaters with groups of penguins on them. No sign of any Snow Petrels though…

In the afternoon, birds were very scarce with very few birds. Then suddenly there were Southern Fulmar on the water and a single Antarctic Petrel.  It flew along one side of the ship and then back along the other side.  We were really lucky to see one.

Then less than 20 minutes later we saw a Soft Plumage Petrel, further south than you would expect and so really great to see.

Dad had seen a Snow Petrel yesterday morning before Mum and I were up, so we were even more desperate to see one now.  Dad had seen his bird miles away, so wanted to see one again.

After dinner, we sang Christmas carols in the bar and the me and a bunch of teenagers jumped into the icy plunge pool before warming ourselves up in the sauna.  It is traditional for people to jump into Antarctic sea water on their first visit. The plunge pool was filled with Antarctic sea water and was the same temperature, so we could take the plunge.

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on her way out of the antarctic water

Best birds and animals of the day:
Emperor Penguin
Gentoo Penguin
South Polar Skua
Antarctic Petrel
Soft Plumaged Petrel
Fur Seal
Humpbacked Whale

About the Writer

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig 

Mya-Rose Craig is a 13 year old young birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She loved seeing Mountain Gorillas in East Africa and Penguins in Antarctica over Christmas 2015, her 7th continent. 

Mya-Rose is a Bristol European Green Capital 2015 Ambassador along with Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Simon King, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Shaun the Sheep! See the full list of Bristol 2015 Ambassadors. She has also been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter

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