My fingers are frozen, and it’s making typing really, really difficult. Our last day in Antarctica, and there’s been a little of everything. We successfully landed at Bailey Head this morning, and I was recruited to help with the zodiacs in the rough surf. It was a blast — landing was a piece of cake, but when leaving we had to grab the zodiac, swing it around, hold it while people rushed in, and then push it out before the next big wave came in. Jim Davis and the other Alaskans loaded in about six seconds — when we had the boat stable Jim (who must be in his mid-60’s) barely touched the beach as he ran and jumped into the boat while fully loaded with camera gear. It was the most impressive performance of the day.
When not loading zodiacs Bailey was a great place for chinstrap penguins. There is only one route from the beach to their colony, and the “chinstrap highway” was loaded with thousands of birds in motion. Oddly enough they followed American driving rules, and I’ve got photos that clearly show the birds walking on only the right side. After Bailey we headed to Hannah Point, a place that is simultaneously one of the most beautiful and revolting places I’ve ever been. In one wallow there were over seventy elephant seals all piled on each other, but the reek was beyond words. When the beasts would rear up the stench that was released from underneath of them could have been used in chemical warfare. The seals didn’t seem to mind it though, nor did the thousands of gentoo and chinstrap penguins (and one macaroni penguin, who I think was very, very lost). Carter also gave me a quick zodiac driving lesson, although that was cut short in order to chase two humpbacks that dropped in on us.
Tonight folks are hanging out together for our last seasick-free night of the trip. Kaiyote, Marlene, Rod, Hugh, Carter and I were having drinks on the stern until Ted decided to lead another landing, and for the first time I’m skipping a landing — a forty-five minute return trip in high swells and wet clothes wasn’t the ending I wanted for this trip. It will be good to end it socializing about how great the month has been, and there’s a good group of folks that I’ve been lucky enough to share the experience with.