The Aitcho Islands are the best welcome to Antarctica

Aitcho Islands Travel Blog

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arriving at the Aitcho Islands

Date: 08-02-07

From: Ushuaia To: Aitcho

20:00 Position         60˚31’0.S         061˚02’3.W


Wind:                SW 6-4

temperature:     4


Nice day with sun breaking trough in the morning ending up in a beautiful day.

arrival at Aitcho Islands
Great to have every body on deck again even the greenest faces show some colour again.


Bart gives a lecture about whales and dolphins, with sounds of the whales. Tjalling gives an introduction talk on the land program in Antarctica. He also delivers the mandatory IAATO-lecture to each watch, and once more for new crew members. The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators regulates visits this unique continent with the aim to minimize the impact of tourism on wildlife. Every one of us has to be conscious of how to avoid disturbance and of a couple of rules for our own safety.


After dinner somebody thinks to see ice bergs which turns out to be land a ho, the ice and snow covered mountains of the South Shetlands pop up in front of us, many enjoy a beautiful sunset.


Beside the birds that we have seen the last days we see the firs Cape Petrels.

We made it!!! After crossing the Drake Passage with windforce 10: the Aitcho Islands.
We also see some Blue Petrels, Slender Billed Prions, Antarctic Prions, Northern Giant Petrels and a fully white Southern Giant Petrel with a wingspan of about 2 meter and 20 cm.


In the lounge the second showing of “life in the freezer” by David Attenbourough.


In the evening many people get right on deck for a little show. We are accompanied by a group of 5 Hourglass Dolphins. They play on the subsurface pressure wave on the bow of the ship. Some people who are still a bit nausea come on deck and find themselves with more energy afterwards.


Date: 09-02-07

Arrival to Aitcho islands, Barrientos island

06:00 Position        62˚24’7.

arrival at Aitcho Islands
S        059˚44’4.W on anchor by Aitcho Islands

19:00 Position        62˚31’7.S        059˚47’0.W on anchor Yankee Harbour


Bleu sky calm morning later cloudier

Wind:                SW2        afternoon SW6           

temperature:     2     


Happy Birthday for Pauline and Ron

Finally the fine smell of penguin droppings enters our noses.

an iceberg!
snow covered mountains big bleu glaciers and green moss covered hills of Barrientos island form the settings of our anchorage, topping it off with a nice blue sky. The dropping of the anchor for some people a relieving sound after a shaky crossing of the drake.


The crew prepares our first landing on Antarctic ground: preparing the  disinfectant, TPA’s and a bottle of water for everyone, lifevests, zodiacs… Everybody is excited to make the first landfall. We land on the East point of one of the Aitcho Islands, an island which was unnamed until last year when it was baptized Barrientos.


The sun is shining and the pebble beach allows for easy landing, and around us Gentoo and Chinstraps are landing too on the beach. They observe us as we organize ourselves, others do not seem to be interested and continue their daily occupations: gathering stones, feeding the chicks, defending their territory.

For the first hour we can more or less freely walk around on the East side.

Both penguin species either have big chicks. Life and death are always present: chicks running after their mothers and begging for food but the floor is also scattered by dead penguins eaten by Skua’s. There is a constant calling of penguins, since they recognize each other by voice. The Chinstraps are most vocal when they all engage in their ‘ecstatic display’, flapping their flippers and calling out loud all together, heads up high in the sky.

The relatively mild ocean climate influences vegetation growth on the South Shetlands. We are going to walk to the West side of the island, and there is one track we are allowed to follow, free of mosses and lichens. Prasiola crispa looks like a moss, but it’s a dry crusty layer of green algae rather than a real plant and is also very abundant on this island. Brown Skuas appear to have their nests here, and try to impress us with their call and display. We see two fluffy Skua chicks, we are attacked by their parents.

In the distance “Hawkeye” Bart spots a pod of about 15 Killer Whales! Amazing! This is our first landing and it couldn’t have been a better one! The leader of the pot, a large male, is clearly recognizable from it’s tall fin.

Once past the moss fields, we find ourselves up the hill where we have an excellent view of the West side of Barrientos.

Down below, a rocky tower is the favourite haul-out of Elephant Seals. The sounds they make echo against the cliffs. Sigurd spots our first Humpback Whale breaching (coming out of the water completely and splashing in again).

We continue our walk along the beach, where more Elephant Seals are moulting while burping and farting loudly. Antarctic Terns are flying around the beach. Some lazy Antarctic fur seals haul out on the whale bone scattered beach. The horizon view is impressive, a line of rocky dents determine the skyline. More curious Skuas are spotted, they do seem to enjoy bathing in the inner lake. At the extreme west point of this island Southern Giant Petrels are breeding on top of the hill. Big as they are, they disappear against the dark rocks they are breeding between. They are easily disturbed, so it is imperative we keep a good distance between them and us.

itravel1 says:
I'm getting exicted just reading about it!
Posted on: Nov 25, 2014
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arriving at the Aitcho Islands
arriving at the Aitcho Islands
arrival at Aitcho Islands
arrival at Aitcho Islands
We made it!!! After crossing the …
arrival at Aitcho Islands
arrival at Aitcho Islands
an iceberg!
an iceberg!
Aitcho Islands
photo by: xander_van_hoof