We had arrived about halfway down the string of islands that are the South Shetlands. After our stop at the Aitchos in English Strait, between the larger Robert and Greenwich Islands, we cruised south-west, along the southern coastlines of the bigger islands. Our final destination lay to the south, the famous Deception Island, on the route to Antarctica proper.
The highlight of the South Shetlands is really the wildlife. The weather is typically wet and miserable, unlike the harsher but generally drier climate of the continent 100 miles farther south.
South Shetlands – Greenwich Island and Half Moon Island
This coastal terrain is only the façade for a large island with mountains rising beyond the glacier slopes. The low-lying cloud however was common, shrouding and obscuring the island interiors.
Leaving the Aitchos to the north, we rounded the south-eastern point of the much larger Greenwich Island, and headed along its south coast toward the next stop.
Europa had moved on a day ahead of us, and was anchored in Yankee Harbour on our arrival. She left a few hours later, and we were alone from that point on.
Yankee Harbour has a number of largish penguin colonies. The skuas spend their time circling above, looking for a stray chick or other easy prey.
The penguin chicks can only find safety in numbers…
…or the presence of a parent.
Other local inhabitants have little to fear.
The skuas however are incredibly aggressive, and show no fear. Approach them at your own risk.
They hold their ground and tempers flare, with constant screeching.
Leaving Yankee Harbour behind, we took a little detour to sight a famous rock formation in the area.
Edinburgh Rock is spectacular in the right light.
Our stop that night was Half Moon Island, a tiny rocky islet on which the Argentines have placed a summer base.
We were invited ashore to tour the base and also to join the crew for their evening meal. This photo was taken by their commander.
The South American presence in Antarctica is primarily military in nature, although obstensibly science is conducted. This Armada (navy) crew, posing here with ourselves, was preparing their base for the arrival of the actual residents. Their presence here makes sure to keep the Argentine flag flying, and they are well supplied with material from Argentina’s tourism office for the eyes of international visitors.
Late in the evening, it was time to return to the boat. This sunset photo is taken at about midnight.
Next day, we left the Argentines to their work, and headed to the next wildlife spot on nearby Livingstone Island.