Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Days 42-45

After two days of mildly rough seas (but not as rough as I had hoped to witness) across the Drake Passage, we arrived in Stanley, Falklands, on the morning of March 7, 43 days after we had set sails. To stretch our sea legs, four of us decided to walk to Cape Pembroke lighthouse, which took us 6 hours back and forth.
The next day, we visited a remote penguins colony, accessible only by 4-wheel-drive vehicles. It was another amazing experience ! The penguins were not at all afraid of us, and we could approach them almost to arm-reach length :

A singular view : a Magellanic penguin in company of a sheep !

But the most beautiful ones were the King penguins :

An entire colony of them, with the adults feeding their chicks :

"Do you fancy a swim, darling ?"

"Brrr, no, the water is too cold !"

A Magellanic penguin was posing for a picture :

And some Gentoo penguins were gossiping...

Finally, a curious penguin came toward us. He chased after Kjersti, then bumped into Rich's legs and stayed there for a while, as if he was looking for some cuddling. I was shooting the scene with my camcorder, and kneeled down in case he would come toward me, which he finally did. I extended slowly my finger toward his head, and he approached his beak, and grabbed gently my finger ! He was not trying to hurt me, but was rather playing, like a cat gently biting your finger. It was a magic moment !

The next and last day, I did some shopping in Stanley and visited the local museum, but two cruise ships had arrived during the night and the town was flooded with tourists.
We left for the airport on the morning of March 10, and arrived in England this morning, after 16 hours of flight, thus ending the most amazing and enjoying cruise of my life, so far !
I was sad to say goodbye to my new friends, but I am glad to see again Marion and Margot very soon now !

Friday, March 6, 2009

Le floc

Les paroles de cette blague me sont venues en français.
Sorry for the non-french-speaking people !

Hep-la, M'sieur !

Papiers, si'ou plaît ?

OK, circulez !

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Days 40-41

We arrived in the South Orkney Islands on March 3rd. Despite the bad weather, the landscape was breathtaking, with mountains and icebergs competing for majesty.

The ship anchored near the Signy Island research station, and the next day the crew took us onshore aboard a zodiac. We were greated by a group of elephant seals peacefully sleeping together. They are not the most graceful animals on earth, especially when taking into account the smell and noise !

Then we went for a walk through the wildlife. First encounter with a fur seal, which walk on their flippers, like sea lions, my favorite animal when I was younger.

Then we litteraly walked among hundreds of them. It was an amazing feeling for me, an old dream realized !

While Helge was taking a picture of me next to the seals, I was keeping an eye on them...

... in case one would decide to attack ! The one below was aiming for me, and I did not wait any longer to run away after this shot...

... like my friend Helge !

We also walked among hundreds of penguins :

Chin-strap penguins :

Gentoo penguins :

The youngsters moulting :

The fur seals were ruling proudly over these turbulent penguins !

An elephant seal was trying to keep me from approaching him...

... but we finally became good friends !

Just as I was thinking I had seen almost everything interesting to see on that cruise, this walk through so many wild seals and penguins, living in their natural environment, almost devoid of human presence, made a strong impression on me. I almost came to regret having become a physical oceanographer making CTD casts on a ship rather than having become a biologist studying and living with these animals !...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Day 39

We have finally deployed the PIES today.
Mission accomplie !
Although it was not accomplished perfectly, since we did not deploy it where we had intended to, this is often what happens in field work... And we may even find amazing results where we deployed it, who knows ?

Below, John is rigging the PIES once again :

Then I programmed it to set up the sampling scheme and other parameters, while the others were installing the last mooring of the cruise. Finally, it was ready to go :

Tonight we do the last CTD section, for which I am fortunately not on watch, and tomorrow we start packing everything back into the containers, while the ship is heading to Signy Island. Then, we will have some free time to enjoy until the end of the cruise, hopefully...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Days 34-38

On February 27th, I did a CTD watch from 11 pm to 3 am. When waking up for lunch on the 28th, I got a first surprise on the white board near the mess :

En français s'il vous plaît !
Then at the end of the dinner, I got a second surprise : a birthday cake, made by the Halley cook !
Since reaching 30 years old is like a new birth, I got only 2 candles, like my daughter Margot.

I also got a red wine bottle from John, and opened the sparkling wine bottle I won at a game a week earlier. It was a very lively party this night, and definitively the most original place where I have ever celebrated my birthday !

Now it is my turn to make presents : below are a few pictures of icebergs and penguins taken over the past few days.

The one below looks like a giant puzzle :

During a CTD station, a Macaroni penguin swam next to the ship :

When dry, they have nice yellow crests over their eyes, but when wet the crests are pushed against their feathers on their head.
A chin-strap penguin also joined in :

And dived in search of food :

This is when we can really realize that penguins are birds, but flying under water rather than in the air :