The Aitcho Islands are the best welcome to Antarctica
Aitcho Islands Travel Blog› entry 5 of 19 › view all entries
From: Ushuaia To: Aitcho
20:00 Position 60Ë31â0.S 061Ë02â3.W
Wind: SW 6-4
Nice day with sun breaking trough in the morning ending up in a beautiful day.
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.
In the lounge the second showing of âlife in the freezerâ 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.
Arrival to Aitcho islands, Barrientos island
06:00 Position 62Ë24â7.
19:00 Position 62Ë31â7.S 059Ë47â0.W on anchor Yankee Harbour
Bleu sky calm morning later cloudier
Wind: SW2 afternoon SW6
Happy Birthday for Pauline and Ron
Finally the fine smell of penguin droppings enters our noses.
The crew prepares our first landing on Antarctic ground: preparing the disinfectant, TPAâs and a bottle of water for everyone, lifevests, zodiacsâŚ 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.
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 itâs 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 âHawkeyeâ Bart spots a pod of about 15 Killer Whales! Amazing! This is our first landing and it couldnât have been a better one! The leader of the pot, a large male, is clearly recognizable from itâs 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.
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.