Real Penguins Meet The Terrible Towel In Antarctica


My apologies for not updating these more often. Part of my procrastination was my lack of patience with the spotty internet service that far south, and the difficulty posting photos—which are the point, after all. I admit, with some embarrassment, that my mild seasickness crossing the dreadful Drake Passage made sitting down and doing close work on a computer less than appetizing. The Drake is not really that dreadful–just some of the roughest 600 miles of ocean on the planet. Imagine crossing it in a rowboat, which Ernest Shackleton and some of his men had to do in his famous, failed Antarctic expedition, starting in 1914.  During our crossing down to the Peninsula, the swells and winds were only moderate! I got queasy, nothing more, and, as you can see  from the photo above, we finally  made the crossing (eminently worth it), and got up close and personal with several species of penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula. This is a gentoo penguin, a species that is growing in numbers, as the region warms, filling a niche previously dominated by another species, the Adelie penguins. More on that in a later blog. 


And one of the scientific researchers, who is counting all these penguins, brought along our Trusted Towel. The Terrible One. Elise Larsen is working on her doctorate at the University of Maryland, and she is engaged to a Steelers season ticket holder from Pittsburgh. Of course, that makes her an automatic fan! Coincidentally (it is the coincidence that fueled their getting to know one another when they first met!), her parents have been living in Pittsburgh for several years , because her father is one of the deans at the University of Pittsburgh. She was doing research with John Carlson, who is  a wildlife biologist with the department of Fish and Wildlife in Montana. But both were on board the National Geographic Explorer as National Geographic-funded researchers for Oceanites, the non-profit education and science foundation. It’s major project here is the Antarctic Site Inventory. By the way, that is me in the orange hat. One of the other passengers gave it to me when mine blew off in some 90 knot wind gusts.


I will be writing a series of blogs over the next week. There will be more on Oceanites, its connection with Lindblad ,  and the important information it provides about the impact of climate and people on Antarctica.  Then, there are the stories about how the  National Geographic Explorer deftly handled a violent storm the day after the Drake Passage. And more on seals, icebergs, and PENGUINS! You just can’t get enough of them.


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