I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday reflections

Here's a change of mood, and country: reflections in the Pre-Columbian Art Museum in Santiago.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The non-persistence of memory

I have many, many more pictures of snowy mountains and penguins and icebergs to review and eventually share. (The Cuverville Island pictures are from January 24th; we flew back to Chile on the 31st.)

On the 25th we crossed the Antarctic Circle, and had champagne on deck to celebrate. That afternoon, we landed at Detaille Island, which is seldom possible on this itinerary and which we were really lucky to be able to visit. (One of the expedition crew said that in ten years of coming to Antarctica, he'd gone ashore there three times.) I was looking for the pictures I took of the abandoned British station there when I came across this picture, which I must have taken not far below the circle -- somewhere after the champagne but before Detaille Island.

That's a pretty spectacular iceberg. And I had no memory of having seen it before finding this picture. Admittedly, I saw a lot of icebergs on this trip, hundreds of them, but still.

I think it shows just how extraordinary this trip was, the state of constant amazement I was in, that this iceberg didn't even register as something out of the ordinary.

A change in the weather is known to be extreme

If the weather in Antarctica was often more mild than you would expect -- I frequently went out on the ship's deck in just a fleece sweater and was perfectly comfortable -- it also could and did change in a matter of minutes.

On Cuverville Island, we had the option of going for a zodiac ride to look at the icebergs in the bay before heading back to the ship. While I was waiting for the next boat, I noticed that the wind had picked up and it was starting to snow. By the time the zodiac arrived, the scenic cruises were cancelled and we were all being taken back to the ship, where the now giant waves made getting out of the zodiac and onto the walkway steps even more challenging than usual. And just twenty minutes earlier it had been calm enough to make going for a ride on the water sound like fun.


The beach at Cuverville Island was littered with whale bones. Here's a Gentoo with two enormous vertebrae.

Penguin highway

These furrows in the snow are penguin highways. It's easier for humans to walk if the snow is packed down, and that's apparently true for penguins as well. We were told not to get between any animal and the water, and not to stand on penguin highways. If the penguin gets distressed because you're in his way, and he has to go around you, he's going to burn unnecessary calories when he may really need to get into the water and grab something to eat.

On Cuverville Island, the path to the colony we could observe was through the snow, and by the time I walked back, all of the human traffic going back and forth had created a nice firm path. Which was now full of penguins, who saw no reason not to use the new highway just because it had been created by the funny tall creatures in the red jackets.

I'm just resting

See previous post re: captions.

If penguins sometimes look a little silly to human eyes when they're vertical, they're a laugh riot when they're horizontal.

That's only when they're on land of course. In the water they're balletic, fast and graceful and occasionally arcing out of the water like dolphins.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gentoos at home

Go to your room!

I do try, not always successfully, not to anthropomorphize animals.

But it's harder with penguins for some reason. Maybe because they really do look like little people in funny costumes when they waddle through the snow, and they are often, to human eyes anyway, very funny.

So despite the purest of intentions, and wanting to let penguins just be penguins, sometimes the captions do just write themselves.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Why there is so much pink snow on Cuverville Island

The answer, not surprisingly, is because there are so many penguins, almost all of them Gentoos.

The expedition team went ashore before every landing to mark off the paths where it was safe for us to go -- safe for the wildlife, as well as safe for us. There were at least three enormous colonies that I could see from the beach where we landed, though we were able to get close to only one of them. One of the scientists who was working from our ship was focused on counting penguin populations, and he spent hours going through the colonies with a clicker. I'm not sure how many Gentoos he counted on Cuverville, but I would guess it was enough to color a large percentage of the Antarctic shocking pink.

Even pinker snow

The foreground is a little blurrier than I'd like, but I love the surreal splashes of pink on this otherwise typical snow-rock-mountain shot.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Astronomy Tuesday

This closeup of NGC 7331 from the Hubble made me smile because the galaxy appears to jumping out of the frame -- just like 99% of the birds I photograph.

 Image Credit & License: ESA/Hubble & NASA/D. Milisavljevic (Purdue University)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Pink snow

Fun fact: penguin poop is pink.

Of course it is, you're probably thinking, because any creature as adorable as a penguin obviously poops rainbows or a reasonable facsimile.

Their diet consists mostly of krill, which are basically tiny shrimp, which explains the color. And also the smell, which is -- noticeable. And hard to get rid of, if you happen to slip on one of those snowy slopes and get it all over your waterproof pants. Everyone smelled a little like penguin by the end of the trip.

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