We swayed at anchor all night, tucked behind a giant iceberg that gave us a bit of respite from the violent storm. The night was long and noisy as the wind screamed hour after hour. We awoke to an uneasy detente and surveyed the damage. Blocks of ice bigger than cars were strewn ashore by the sea. The only sign of the night's violence was etched in temporary scars from being lashed for hours by carnivorous winds and eroded by salty spray. The sea put up a good fight, but the ice held fast.
We are forcing countless creatures to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Many of them will find a way to succeed, even thrive, but not all will. Extinction is a natural process yet right now it's happening at a startling rate. The future will not be devoid of wildlife because life, uh, finds a way. The richness and diversity we leave for future generations is what's at stake. (Now re-read it in @jeffgoldblum voice)
Penguins have mastered the frozen south using a variety of adaptations to keep themselves insulated from the frigid water. They are able to trap air within their interlocking, waterproof feathers to keep the cold at bay. They also possess a thin layer of fat and the ability to divert blood from their extremities. The result is a bird that's able to thrive in a place that would kill most other creatures.
Do not leave your camera gear unattended on the beaches of South Georgia. These elephant seal pups will investigate anything and everything that stands out on the beach as they deal with their forced independence from mom. The hungry pups were fattened up by mom and left for good on the beach where they now form roving bands of chubby toddlers searching in vain for something to feed them and show them how to be an elephant seal. With no parental care or oversight, they decided to take out their hunger pains on my tripod (which did not have a camera on it at the time). It's hard to stay mad at those faces.
It's time for my annual migration to the far south of our planet to share the rawness and beauty of Antarctica with people seeking more than just a vacation. New photos and new experiences are just a few days away, but it's always a bit of a bittersweet moment when I have to say goodbye to California and head off to far flung lands. The more that I travel, the more I appreciate my wonderful home state. Ribbons of amber kelp are currently holding fast during short winter days, getting ready for that burst of growth at the beginning of spring.
A large iceberg like this may extend under water hundreds of feet deep and once they get stranded on pinnacle or shoreline, they'll eventually start to break up. This berg has begun to collapse and break off smaller (but still giant) fragments. If the berg is large enough, its pieces will continue to drift around the oceans for months or even years to come.
Not long my little pudgy friend. Just a few more days before I get to heckle these dumpy little birds with the same sort of admiration that a big brother holds for a younger sibling. Sure, I make fun of penguins a lot, but they really are wonderful animals capable of enduring way more than I ever could imagine.
See those pinkish patches on the bottom and right coasts of this Antarctic island? Those are small penguin colonies that haven taken up residency on the very fringes of this small island. There are even yellow and orange lichens coloring the rocks and steep cliff faces at the center of the island, all fertilized by nesting sea birds. Without the excrement provided by these feathered travelers, Antarctica would be a very different and monotone place. So much of Antarctica is totally unoccupied due to its icy or inaccessible nature but life has found a way to cling to the edge of this frozen continent.
Everything is connected. Ice leads to krill which leads to penguins. The system in Antarctica is fairly easy for us to understand in theory but when you're standing there witnessing it with your own eyes, the scale and impact of the place is beyond words.
Despite all the seasons I've spent around glaciers in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Alaska, this was my first trip into a glacier. It's easy to get lost in the beautiful cerulean colors of the glacier's plumbing system. @cassliveshere snapped this awesome photo of me trying to figure out how in the world to capture this scene. After looking through our shots I realized very quickly that my photos were missing something. Cass nailed it by including my silhouette to an otherwise alien landscape. It's a timely reminder that we as humans are not independent players on this giant rotating stage. This cave is beautiful, but it's also part of a system which is facing increasing impact and peril due to human activities.