Antarctica, Day 18: Yankee Harbour and Half Moon Island

March 21, 2022 • 11:15 am

We had an unheard-of two landings today: stopping at Yankee Harbour on Greenwich Island in the morning and at Half Moon Island in the afternoon. In between, I gave a lecture on adaptations in Antarctica.

Today we land again at Yankee Harbor, and I have previous posts on visits from 2019 (another one here) and from earlier in this trip. You may want to consult them to see other maps or photos.

If you’ve been following this website, you’ll recognize some of the names of nearby islands from the map below.

The weather on Greenwich Island was dire. Although the temperature was not inordinately low, the wind was fierce and it was raining. Plus the seas were high, so the Zodiac trips to and from the island soaked every bit of my body below the waist (I had a good waterproof on), inundated my glasses so I could barely see, and soaked my gloves. The rain also left drops on the lens of my camera, and a thorough drying was in order when I got back to the ship.

I did manage to take a few snaps, though. Here’s an Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri; not a “true” seal because it has external ears).

And the familiar gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua):

A conga line of gentoos. I wonder if this has something to do with the wind:

A gentoo molting:

And the mosses, of which there are about 100 species in Antarctica. You can see that already, after about 20 minutes, there were raindrops on my lens. Holding your hand over the top wouldn’t work: the rain was blowing water everywhere.

And so off to Half Moon Island, where there were rumors of chinstrap penguins, one of my favorite species, as they’re small and cute. The island map It’s a small island (420 acres), but lots of species call it home, The great bulk of Livingston island is visible nearby.

Chinstraps at last( Pygoscelis antarcticus)! They are small (27-30 inches or about 0.7 m), vociferous (though their call is not as raucous as that of the gentoo), and very curious.

The small black marking under its bill gives this species its name

A curious chinstrap encounters a member of the expedition team.

And a group of them on the hillside. Most of them were facing the same way—toward the mountain—and again I suspect this is to avoid facing the wind.

These ones looked as if they were doing a ballet:

In repose, these birds are quite dignified, especially in their formal tuxedo garb:

This visit was the first time I’ve seen the remains of a penguin. I don’t know if this one was killed or eaten post-mortem (skuas are everywhere), but size of the remains tells you how small these birds are. The flippers and feet are obvious inedible

Another ex-penguin. Feet not edible, but everything else seems to be.

This is the closest view I’ll get to a penguin foot: The toenails are remarkable, almost like talons:

Penguins and the Roald Amundsen from shore. As you see, it was foggy, though the sun came out later in the day:

A view of the north and south sides of the harbor at Half Moon Island. Those tiny figures at the bottom are passengers. Livingtone Island looms in the background.

This photo from Shutterstock shows Livingstone Island behind the tiny Half Moon Island.

Tourists on a zodiac boat approach Half Moon Island, Livingston Island mountain backdrop, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica, Polar Regions. Robert Harding World Imagery

After I got back to the ship, the sun came out: the weather is absolutely unpredictable here, and had I know this, I would have waited a while to land.

And the north side of the harbor, magnificent with a huge, snowy mountain on Livingstone Island behind this small one:

It was an exhausting day but invigorating day involving two cold and wet landings, with a lecture in between. That makes you hungry, and since I skipped almost all breakfast (no excreting of any sort on the continent, which is a problem with early landings), and had eaten no lunch, I had a hearty dinner.

I decided to have wine for dinner, and the house white, a Chilean sauvignon blanc was pretty good, though a bit too sweet for my taste. Nevertheless, I had three glasses:

Dumplings: chicken, pork, and shrimp:

Chicken tortillas:

Hazelnut cream waffle: “Homemade hazel chocolate spread, powdered sugar”:

And so good night from Antarctica, where the mountains are often indistinguishable from the sky.


14 thoughts on “Antarctica, Day 18: Yankee Harbour and Half Moon Island

  1. Terrific pics of the mountains… particularly on Livingston Island. So did you order two mains from the menu or was the main a dumpling/totilla combo?

    1. Things are different south of the equator. Winter becomes summer, democracies change to dictatorships, so why not cabernet changing from red to white?

  2. Ah – sadly, Nature is red in tooth and claw – or, just disease or unfortunate circumstances – but still a bracing, enlightening adventure … magnificent views…

    1. “nature red in tooth and claw…” what an apt description given the photos! And so much more enlightening than the poetic “Desiderata”-type pablum about the protective, loving character of the Universe and one’s “right” to be here, in Nature’s “bosom”.

  3. “It was an exhausting day but invigorating day involving two cold and wet landings, with a lecture in between.”

    This brought to mind pre-school snowy days at an unimpressive sled run in our backyard. I’m sure our lunchtime “lecture” wasn’t nearly as interesting as yours is, however. 🙂

    Not to be tedious about this, but your online site is usually the first I visit every day, and I’m sure my sentiment is the majority opinion here- thanks for your good work, Prof CC, and please never die! 🙂

  4. It looks like your second trip is off to a great start, and I hope it will continue in full, unlike the first. WEIT is one of the first websites I check in the morning and the wildlife photography and scenery from this trip are a great start to the day.

  5. How often are those Zodiacs forced to stay on an island for awhile, when unexpected weather comes up?

    Also, how often is an island like Half Moon landed by humans in a season?

    And the molting gentoo looks like it was seeking privacy in its embarrassment.

  6. So, there’s that photo of your wine glass, and in the distance is…the sun? or is that the moon? That photo should be used as an advertisement. Definitely makes me want to be there, drinking wine and simply looking…

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