Today we awoke to some more stormy seas. While I was sleeping, I heard some crashing sounds. I am not making this up! In my dreams, I believed we were crashing through ice. I kind of assumed that when I woke, I would see nothing but floating ice – gently passing by the ship. No. Such. Luck. I still don’t know what those sounds were, and I wasn’t the only one who heard the crashing noises. Even more, there was one point in which I felt like I was standing while I was sleeping in bed! The boat was defiantly rocking back and forth.
The morning started off with a mandatory meeting for everybody visiting the white continent. We have to respect that this is the last region that has been virtually untouched by man. No trash. No smoking (not that Mr. S. would ever do that!). And absolutely no disturbing the natural wildlife. They announced that we would be making trips and touching ground on Antarctica today! You could sense that excitement as the room gasped.
Our first footsteps would be on Barrientos Island (Aitcho Group) – a part of the South Shetland Islands. As we got closer to the islands, you could feel the waters begin to settle. Then, clank, clank, clank… the anchor descended into the water! We were no longer doing our funny balancing dances to get around the boat.
Mr. Sanders and I found out that we were going to be in the morning exposition party to go out! We put on our long underwear, thermal pants, wool socks and finally our outer layer garments. Before we stepped on the zodiac boats, we had to have our clothing checked to “decontaminate” it. We wanted to make sure there weren’t any seeds or anything else that could harm the Antarctic environment as a result of our visit. Geared up, we stepped into a special solution and carefully stepped into our boat. The water was spectacular. The air had a brisk chill but nothing worse than Chicago at all. We were boating in the English Strait to the islands.
We landed and made our way to the base camp where they explained some basic rules and that helped us keep safe but observe the nature. There were penguins immediately to the right of our boat! Immediately, there was a sour odor in the air. The ground was covered in this reddish colors goop. Yes, it was Penguin poop! The naturalist explained that it was a good thing that the color was red. The red indicated that the penguins had a very healthy diet of krill – the major food supply for the penguins. Good or not – it smelled HORRIBLE. There were penguins nesting, penguins walking, penguins falling and penguins just lying around. There were many penguins sitting on their nests. I saw them try to steal rocks from one nest to another. Sometimes they were successful; other times, they were not. At one point, there was a giant bird flying overhead and I heard naturalist Andy say, “Ut oh…” I was quick and got my camera out. There it was – a bird stealing a penguin egg! It was exciting and sad. It is what happens in nature.
Look close! Can you see the penguin egg being taken?!?
Mr. Szymanski is a 1st grade teacher at Walt Disney Elementary School in Chicago, IL. He is bringing the world to his classroom with the help of National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. Here, he chronicles his adventures to Antarctica and South America in December 2014.