A Presentation of Images of the Antarctic Peninsula and Southern Oceans

On Thursday, February 6th, 2003, Scott and Claudia Hein will present a program on their recent trip to the Antarctic Peninsula and the Southern Oceans to the Mt. Diablo Audubon Society .  The program begins at 8:05 PM in the Heather Farms Garden Center in Walnut Creek, California.  Directions and the full meeting schedule can be found on the Mount Diablo Audubon Society web site.

Program Description

King Penguins on South Georgia Island
Photo by Scott Hein

Although Antarctica is most often associated with ice and penguins, it is arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth. In addition to the spectacular scenery, Antarctica and the surrounding Southern Oceans are home to outrageous penguin and seabird colonies, wonderful marine mammals, and a number of historic sites. We will present a photographic tour of a voyage we took during November and December of 2002 that started and ended in the beautiful port city of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego (the southern-most city in the world). Along the way we visited the Falkland Islands, rugged and historic South Georgia Island, and Elephant Island where Ernest Shackleton’s men were marooned. After fighting our way through the pack ice, we were also able to spend several days exploring the spectacular Antarctic Peninsula. The emphasis of our program will be to present images of the birds and mammals that we encountered. However it would be impossible for us to ignore either the scenery or the history of this wonderful part of the Southern Hemisphere.

Penguins were certainly one of the treats of our trip, whether they were porpoising along the surface of the sea, resting on floating icebergs, or standing shoulder to shoulder (flipper to flipper) in enormous breeding colonies. Ranging from a lone Emperor Penguin on the pack ice, to a small colony of Adelies on our last landing on Petermann Island, penguins were always welcome companions.

Birding and photography upon the Southern Oceans can be quite challenging due to the strong winds and rough seas. However, the rewards were great for those who persevered and kept watch from either the bridge or the open decks. Many of the 26 species of “tubenose” seabirds that we observed and photographed on this trip were found on the open sea. Albatrosses, including the “heavy” Wandering Albatross and the beautiful Light-mantled Sooty Albatross would wheel around the ship in the company of Pintado and White-chinned Petrels, while diminutive storm petrels and prions would criss-cross the bow.

However, everything changed once we entered the pack ice. Not only did the seas flatten (mercifully), but the wildlife also changed. Gone were the albatrosses of the open ocean – replaced by seabirds like the amazing Snow Petrel, which is only found in close proximity to ice. Snake-like Leopard Seals basked on small icebergs (bergie bits!) when they were not lurking around nearby penguin colonies waiting for a meal. Natural ice sculptures reflected on the glass-like surface of the Lemaire Channel providing a calm respite before the chaos of our two-day crossing of the infamous Drake’s Passage (often referred to simply as “The Drake”) past Cape Horn and back to Ushuaia.

From the subtle graduations of gray, blue, and white in the landscape to the sometimes-overwhelming sights, sounds, and smells of the penguin colonies, Antarctica has much to offer anyone with an interest in the natural world.

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