After three days of pretty rocky sailing, it felt like absolute bliss to arrive in the more sheltered waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. The ‘drake shake’ was finally over, and I could not have been more excited to get off of the ship, and out exploring beautiful Antarctica.
Our first landing was at Cuverville Island.
Cuverville doesn’t have a hugely exciting historic background, but it has been identified as an ‘important bird area’ as it is home to its main attraction…
…over 6000 breeding pairs of gentoo penguins!
As it was the first landing of the trip, getting ready to go exploring took more than a little bit of effort. Getting into snowshoes for the first time can be pretty fiddly, and when combined with wind speeds greater than 40 knots, the fiddliness (not a word, I know) is compounded further.
In addition to the struggle of getting kitted out for the first time, this landing at Cuverville was easily my biggest photographic struggle of the entire voyage.
I am not a stranger to shooting vast expanses of snow and ice, but this was the first time I have ever needed to do so in seriously windy conditions. Visibility was extremely poor, the snow was falling very steadily and always seemed to be following the direction of my lens.
I spent more time cleaning my lenses than I did actually using them!
In the end, massively over exposing my shots and giving my cleaning cloths a massive workout was all I could do. The results from this day are certainly not my usual photographic style, but I actually don’t mind them; and furthermore, it made me so much more thankful for the periods of clear weather.
If I could do it all over again, the only thing that I would do differently would be to pack huge lens hoods to minimise the ridonkulous amount of snowflakes that ended up on my lenses.
What I loved about this landing was the freedom that came with it. I got to explore at my own pace and take my time making my way up the hill towards the huge colony.
Taking my time meant that I got to photograph and watch lots and lots of curious gentoos along the way!
I had hoped that being on the slope of a hill would provide some relief from the battering of wind, but alas, this was not the case.
However, the less than stellar weather didn’t seem to put off the penguins in the slightest! In this next picture you can see a small example of the thousands and thousands of penguin footprints that could be found all over Cuverville – evidence of how hard these gentoos were working to ready their nests for their expected offspring.
Eventually I came to the the peak of the hill, and what a truly wonderful sight was waiting for me.
Look at all those pinguinos!
Thousands and thousands of gentoo penguins all in one spot; what an amazing thing to see on my first day actually in Antarctica!
I honestly could have just sat there watching these penguins all day. When people tell you that penguin watching is hilarious, they are not exaggerating at all!
All these gentoos were hard at work building nests, and nest building requires lots and lots of rocks.
The rocks they like to use can be found by the water, but because they like to build these nests so far from the beach, obtaining the necessary amount of rocks would be an incredibly arduous task…
…which is why pretty much all of these cheeky buggers resort to blatant thievery!
Back and forth they waddle, conspicuously stealing rocks from nearby nests and then being completely outraged when other penguins deign to do the same.
Penguin soap opera is real, and it is bloody entertaining!
If you look closely at the next photograph, you’ll be able to see the two penguins (front and centre) fighting over a precious rock.
Eventually, it was time to say goodbye to these strange birds and head back to the warmth and comfort of our vessel.
My first landing in Antarctica had been absolutely unreal, and I sailed away from Cuverville even more excited about the adventures to come.
Getting to Ushuaia: Ushuaia is well connected to Buenos Aires and El Calafate
Oceanwide Expeditions: An 11 night Basecamp Ortelius voyage starts at around $9650 USD
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: Bring extra large lens caps!