As the leaves change color and fall from their branches, and as the weather above turns cold, windy, rainy and stormy, so too do the seasons shift towards winter below the surface. Storms and rains infuse fresh water with salt water. Kelp and eel grass beds retreat and all but disappear. Some species may go deeper to avoid the increasing levels of fresh water, while others may fall prey to those who remain. Just prior to our impending winter season can be the very best time of year to explore the cold, green depths of Pacific Northwest waters. Visibility may easily exceed 50 feet. Many species are at or near full size and maturity. Unfortunately, as the waters temps decline and the days grow shorter, far below the surface life sustaining light does not penetrate the depths. It's a fascinating time of year for Puget Sound, the Salish Sea, and all of its amazing underwater wildlife.
Water temp 54º salinity: 2.6%, no current, mostly clear with some sun.
Tiny Pacific Red Octopus video, shot with Canon R5 - 4K
I've been speaking out for years and working to inform people about the growing negative impact that pollutants are having on our Puget Sound waters and its wildlife. In this blog edition I'm posting images and videos of some of the pollutants and issues. Our amazing and gorgeous underwater wildlife is living on, under and around tire reefs, corrugated pipe reefs, toilets, and lots of other trash. When coupled with the changes in our climate, which is causing the waters to warm to extreme temperatures, the effects are becoming more noticeable. As more and more pollutants and trash are being dumped and spilled and put into our waters, they are stressing the wildlife that must survive these threats.
The Octopus below has made its home, for a short time, under a huge piling. Although dumping tires, old telephone poles, corrugated piping into Puget Sound is illegal now, there are thousands of these reefs that still remain. Arguments are on both sides about wether to leave or remove them.
The tire reef above is one of thousands that litter the bottom and are now home to a multitude of creatures. It's unclear how much damage they cause after so many decades, and like the pilings, groups argue continually about removing or leaving them so they can provide a haven for our wildlife. Water temps are averaging about 54º, salinity is about 2.5%.
These videos are of very old corrugated piping (above) and used tires banded together (below) forming reefs covered with wildlife. Many animals will use these structures for protection from predators. Unfortunately, they are leaching chemicals into our waters.
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This past week I enjoyed a few very pleasant dives on both Whidbey Island and a couple spots in central Puget Sound. Although the water temps are still very warm, up to 57º, the visibility was excellent. Salinity levels are normal for this time of year.
The Rockfish populations are continually looking very healthy. On Whidbey the Yellowtail, Copper, Black, Quillback, and Puget Sound Rockfish are all very plentiful. Large schools fill the water column. I also spotted schools of herring so think, the waters above me were darkened.
On Whidbey, I spotted and shot video of eight Giant Pacific Octopus on one wall. This is a very good sign since I'm not seeing large populations further south in the Sound.
Giant Pacific Octopuses in their respective dens.
The collection below is a mix from multiple underwater explorations. Each week I post more images from Puget Sound Underwater.
This week I took a little trip to Hood Canal to explore and research a wonderful area of the Pacific Northwest. During my two 60+ minute dives, I spotted and photographed 16 Wold eels, 8 Giant Pacific Octopus. I also shot stills of the many other species such as four different Rockfish, Squat lobster, a few Nudibranchs, Blackeye Goby's, and some healthy but small Sunflower Sea Stars. The water temp was around 50º, much colder than Puget Sound this year.
During my two dives in Hood Canal, I spotted 16 Wolf eels and 8 Giant Pacific Octopus
Rockfish populations are rebounding very well, one of the few good news stories of the past couple decades.
Water temps in the Sound this week were the highest I've ever experienced. 57º is far too warm for our delicate wildlife. Salmon fishers are hitting the shores of the Sound. Although I'm constantly reading reports on lower populations, efforts are not solving the problems. Increasing pollutants and toxins are also more visible.
Tube-snouts, Shiner Perch and Pacific Red Octopus regularly being spotted, while sculpin populations are down.
The occasional Spiny Dogfish are also appearing.
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This past week, far below the surface of our local waters, the water temperature is still warming. average was 55º, far above what it should be.
Wildlife spotted: Many small Opalescent and Diamondback Nudibranchs. Leopard and Heath's Dorid's common in our waters have been plentiful and spotted.
No Pacific Spiny Lumpsuckers have been spotted at any of the usual spots. Most likely they have been preyed upon.
Lots of Rockfish. Copper, Brown, and
Few jelly's were spotted. The occasional Egg-yolk and Cross, but no Lions Mane were spotted.
Various Kelp looks very healthy and plentiful.
Pacific Red Octopus are seen and plentiful, mostly smaller ones though.
I'm not seeing the usual numbers of sculpins. Typically of the 39 different types, I will see at least four or five on a regular basis. This summer I've not been seeing as many as usual.
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Recently the Made In Puget Sound Live Stream Crew performed some vital, interactive, live streaming, non-invasive scientific underwater research, in real-time, far below the surface of Elliott Bay. As the water temperature hovered near 52º with a very mild current, we explored and revealed rarely seen wildlife on the sea floor, including Tubesnout eggs on Bull Kelp. Also spotted was a Lingcod resting on the boulders that make up this artificial reef. As usual our audience participated and asked important and interesting questions in real time. We will be returning to this area very soon. You may also watch this and other videos of our live underwater research on YouTube.
Shot on location in Elliott Bay, Seattle, Washington. Water temp: 52º, Air temp: 78º, Average depth: 43'.
Excellent day at the office this week with some of my favorite species and some rare wildlife. I rarely get to see and photograph a C-O Sole. While tot terribly colorful, they are gorgeous and a fabulous find. Tube-snout eggs on Bull Kelp, I've never actually this before, of course I've never really looked for this either. A few snouts were hanging around, seemingly guarding the egg mass. As I approached they swam away, but quickly returned as I was leaving the eggs, completely unharmed. I strive to never harm, or move, or disrupt the wildlife if at all possible. Nudibranchs of various types and sizes were everywhere. Note the amphipods on the kelp with the Opalescent Nudibranch.
The visibility was excellent, nearly 25 feet. the algae blooms have been horrendous this spring and summer. It was such a pleasant surprise to be able to see anything at all.
Our dedicated team, known as the Live Crew, is actively engaged in an ongoing effort to bring the captivating marine world of Puget Sound to educational settings such as classrooms and laboratories. Through our work, we venture into seldom or never explored, uncharted areas of the Sound, to uncover the extraordinary flora and fauna that inhabit the sea floor. Our pioneering approach employs innovative, non-invasive research techniques, allowing us to safely delve deep below the surface. By identifying the diverse array of species that flourish in the chilly, verdant, and occasionally turbid waters of our local estuary, we offer students the opportunity to uncover and gain knowledge about the remarkable inhabitants of their own local environment. We are always looking for enthusiastic young people to get involved.
Shot on location in Puget Sound, Live Streamed using 4K ROV. Air temp 67º, water temp 51º, salinity 2.5%, current minimal.
Our organization recently had to replace our existing ROV, although a fabulous machine, it simply wore out from an abundance of use. On the maiden voyage in our cold, green, extremely murky waters of Puget Sound this Spring, the ROV performed very well. As we each donned the VR headset to navigate the Kelp and seascape, we were all very pleasantly surprised by the richness and variety of wildlife in this spot. We remained focused on our task of mastering flying the ROV beneath the surface and enjoying some informal underwater research. We will be conducting a Live Streaming Event at this spot very soon.
Elliott Bay Marina Breakwater.
Water temp 52º, salinity 2.4%, wind 3 knots
This past Friday, on World Oceans Day, our Live Crew was hard at work attempting to conduct some proprietary research in the cold, very murky waters off the shores of Edmonds. The visibility was only 1 to 2 feet, which made our work extremely difficult. First, it’s nearly impossible to couple drone with diver. Second, it’s extremely problematic to find and video the wildlife when it’s nearly impossible to see the wildlife. Fortunately, we have a skilled and dedicated team of experts and volunteers who love their work and our goals. Thanks to Anson, Avery, Dylan, and Samantha for all your efforts in making this happen.
The video below is a combination of 4K, and HD videos shot on location, about 41’ below the surface of our fabulous Puget Sound Underwater. If you’re in interested in getting involved onboard with us, contact via our website. If you choose to watch and participate in our live streaming, interactive broadcasts, go to our YouTube Live Channel.
Research conducted at 41', water temp 54º, salinity 2.9%, winds 6 knots, Edmonds, Washington
Below are some of the amazing and gorgeous creatures living in our cold, green waters of Puget Sound.
Visibility is pretty poor this week and the water temp of Pug. Sound is hovering around 54 degrees Fahrenheit, way too damn warm! The Nudibranchs are out nearly everywhere. It’s beautiful to see these amazing little creatures, with no head, no brain. I could make a joke but I’ll refrain.
We’ll be conducting some underwater research this afternoon, live and interactive. Please login to our YouTube Channel at 4:00 PM, and ask questions in real time, while we’re 80’ below the surface in the cold green waters of Puget Sound Underwater.
On one of the last days of our Antarctica expedition we visited Deception Island. This island, as part of the South Shetland Islands in the Bransfield Strait is close to the Antarctic Peninsula, is famous for a few reasons. First, it was an extremely prevalent fur seal and whaling station. For only a few years in the early 1800’s, millions of fur seals were slaughtered for their pelts to almost near extension. Fortunately, the industry was short-lived and extremely poorly managed. In the early 1900’s this bay was used for only a few years as a whaling station. Again poorly managed, this industry too was short-lived and soon abandoned. Extreme volcanic activity, with major eruptions in 1968 and 1970 once again curtailed the research work being conducted on the island. It is now part of the Antarctic treaty, making it a protected area and restricted to only human activity.
Below are images of juvenile male Arctic Fur Seals. The young males posing for my camera were the few dozens remaining in final preparations for their long journey northward to South Georgia Island. South Georgia is the primary breeding grounds for millions of Fur Seals. Every year their populations are growing. Without human intervention, that is not being slaughtered for their fur, populations are returning to extremely healthy levels. Eventually nature will take its course and their numbers will level off and should remain mostly stable.
Note the lowlands and hills. The lack of snow with the growth of so much grass, with winter rapidly approaching, is not a good sign. Every year unseasonably warmer weather, while comfortable for humans, is not beneficial to wildlife accustomed to cold and robust winds. More clear evidence of our warming planet.
Below you can watch and enjoy (as we did) the young males jousting for superiority. After a meal and a nap, they'll engage in this dance or play. While no one is injured or bitten, it's imperative they practice, for when they arrive at South Georgia everything changes. They will fight and bite and claw and scratch because - mating is serious business. Perhaps next year we can get some video of those behaviors.
Finally, an update from Happy Whale. Above is the latest record of the travels of the Humpback I photographed in Fournier Bay. I received an email from the very nice, but overwhelmed people at happy Whale. It seems there was another report of the whale being spotted. They are only now getting through the many, many images received on whales all around the world. I am enjoying this and hoping in a year or two there will be more sightings of this beautiful and massive creature.
Recently while exploring Puget Sound Underwater, I come across many beautiful small nudibranchs. We have at least 89 different identified types in our cold green waters in the Pacific Northwest. The Alabaster is common, while still very gorgeous. As they move across the sea floor of the Salish Sea, gobbling up their prey, their extremities expand and takes on an almost golden hue. Once completely stuffed to the gills, as it were, they must stop to rest. During these resting or sleeping periods the food digests. They lose mass and the cycle begins again. They can grow to nearly 7” and found almost everywhere locally.
Alabaster Nudibranch (Dirona albolineata)
To date I’ve posted many colorful still images, stunning 4K videos, and briefly discussed noteworthy topics like navigating the treacherous Lemaire Channel, Humpback and Fin Whales, Penguins, Seals and Birds, Icebergs, Pack Ice and more. Today I’ll discuss our crossing below the Antarctic Circle and trying to scuba dive in these formidable conditions. Few expeditions achieve or attempt to voyage this far south. Weather conditions are unpredictable and can pose many dangers, especially this late in the season. During our 14-day voyage, the MV Hondius sailed a total distance of 2547.5 Nautical Miles reaching our furthest southern position of 66°62.2’S / 067°29.7’W in Crystal Sound.
Shortly after our arrival at Detaille Island, many passengers went ashore to visit the historic and well preserved British “Base W”. It had been hurriedly abandoned in 1959, but many of inhabitants’ original artifacts, such as books, gear, clothing, coffee cans, etc., still remain as a monument. A few of us were extremely fortunate enough to scuba and snorkel the frigid ice filled waters nearby. The zodiacs were loaded down with our heavy dive and camera gear, and we headed through a maze of Icebergs and Pack Ice, with strong winds pounding the little boats. Winds quickly gusted to over 70 mph forcing us out of the chilly depths, fortunately though we were able to snorkel within the relative safety of a small bay nearby. As we approached the bay, a group of Gentoo penguins greeted us on the rocks, but remained safe and secure from the large teeth of hungry Leopard Seal lurking just offshore. The Crab-eater Seals resting on the ice must prepare for the impending winter.
Although difficult to get exact numbers, the best estimates according to the IAATO* 2019 – 2020 season data show that annually about 55,000 to 75,000 people visit Antarctica, including scientists. Of those who dare to venture to the massive and amazing frozen continent, most will visit only a relatively small section of the Antarctic Peninsula known as Graham Land. Many will venture ashore, but not all. Of the roughly 75,000 visitors, fewer than 750 accomplish ‘Deep Field Tourism’. These are the individuals that actually walk onto land this far south. Even more impressive, the very best estimates are that fewer than 70 people in the world will scuba in the waters below 66º33,49.4' South as we did. Only eight were able to attempt a dive at Detaille Island, an accomplishment I will not soon forget.
4K Video Short of Scuba Dive and Snorkel at Detaille Island - below the Antarctic Circle.
Winds to 70 mph, Water Temp: 0°C, salinity 3.5%, Air Temp: 3°C.
Our expedition soon began to journey northward heading towards Fournier Bay. Stunning views with another opportunity to scuba on and below a massive iceberg. Besides the cold water, often at or below 32º Fahrenheit, choosing to scuba around an iceberg can be disorienting and deadly dangerous. Barely 10% of an iceberg is above the surface, most of its mass and weight are far below. Its constantly melting, even in freezing waters. The continual shedding of fresh water into the surrounding saltwater can wreak havoc with a diver’s buoyancy. The mass of a large glacier can attract a diver much like a magnet. Getting one’s sea legs, as it were, is challenging, even for the most experienced diver. Another unique danger of diving an iceberg is that it may roll over at any time. Depending on how close a diver is, it can roll over and crush a human with no warning.
4K Video Short Iceberg Scuba Dive at Fournier Bay.
Winds to 20 mph, Water Temp: 0°C, salinity 3.5%, Air Temp: 3°C
The sheer beauty of an enormous glacier seen from below the surface is spectacular. As the blue ice melts thousands of tiny air bubbles are released and escape toward the surface. The release of air and freshwater continually forms irregular lines and grooves and ridges. The visibility beneath the surface is deceptive as well. At first glance it may seem clear, allowing one to see quite far. In reality, because only minimal ambient light from above is able to penetrate a few meters of depth, it can be misleading and potentially dangerous to the unwitting scuba diver. Overall, a unique experience filled with beauty and wonder.
Shortly after the MV Hondius dropped anchor in Mikkelsen Harbour, I completed my 39 minute dive and chose to go ashore to join the land expedition. These very special Brush-tailed penguins include Gentoo, Chinstrap and Adélie Penguins. While following all of the strict guidelines like 'always give the right-of-way' to all penguins, keep at least 15' distance, or do not kneel or sit on the ground to avoid the spread of bacteria, etc., I had a wonderful time mingling with these adorable animals. Because our trip was the last of the 2022-2023 season, most of the adults had already headed out to sea. The Gentoo's still on land were the young adults molting and preparing for their trip into the sea.
While easily recognized by the white stripe extending across the top of its head, Gentoo's also have a bright orange-red bill. Their webbed feet are pale whitish-pink. They also have a fairly long prominent brush like tail - hence the name. The chicks have grey backs with white fronts as you can clearly see in my images.
Gentoo's can grow to 28 to 35 in, making them the third-largest species of penguin after the King and Emperor Penguins. Breeding colonies are usually located on ice-free surfaces. Settlements can be located directly on the shoreline or considerably inland. With the onset of global warming, which is making rain versus snow more common, it will have a negative impact over the next many decades.
On the morning of March 18th, many of the Oceanwide passengers went ashore to explorer Devil Island and mingle with the penguins and seals. The divers had our first opportunity to enter into the icy waters of Antarctica, complete our checkout or test dive, and do some underwater exploration. Scuba diving in Antarctica is extreme diving. Water temps are at or below 32 degrees, surface winds that can reach deadly dangerous speeds of over 100 mph, and visibility can be very poor. Overall, though, except for the high winds and super cold water, I’ve experienced many dangerous and extreme conditions conducting underwater research locally in the Salish Sea.
I truly love cold-water, but being physically and mentally ready is imperative. Being ill-prepared can put your life, the lives of your fellow divers, and lives of the crew at risk. Unfortunately, some divers were emphatically ill-equipped for the extreme conditions, and at the worst possible time. Swiftly extreme high winds and hazardous conditions ensued. Quoting directly from the ships log entry; ‘Minutes after the wind gusts suddenly increased, reaching 40 to 50 knots.’ The next day it was revealed the sustained winds were actually closer to 79 knots, for as long as 90 minutes. The high winds were pushing on the Hondius forcing it to drag its anchor across the sea floor. The captain could not allow anyone to approach or board the ship for well over two hours.
Once back aboard the four zodiacs, soaking wet in our drysuits, freezing from both the icy waters and subzero temperatures caused by the extreme winds, the zodiac drivers were forced to hunker down in the rough seas. The drivers attempted to shield us from the winds behind a few small icebergs but with little success. During this entire event no information was provided by the ships staff or crew. This was the only time Oceanwide Expeditions seriously dropped the proverbial ball.
The next morning, I had a chance to attempt my second underwater exploration. Blown Bluff is an impressive island. The variety of wildlife underwater is minimal compared to what I am used to in the Pacific Northwest. But I enjoyed the 30+ minute experience if for only having the opportunity of diving in Antarctica. After my dive, I went ashore to spend more than 90 minutes with extremely adorable and cute Brush-tail Penguins, and a lots of seals.
There are very strict guidelines when onshore with any wildlife, especially penguins. They always have the ‘right-of-way’. Penguin highways, as they are called, are clear paths for them to travel. When blocked we can stress them. We are invading their space. These animals must feed and rest up for the fast-approaching winter. A bunch of humans snapping phots causes undo stress. Also, of huge concern is the potential introduction of bird flu to Antarctica. This could devastate the penguin populations, some which are already in peril. All passengers must have their gear, clothes, dry-bags, boots, tripods, and anything else brought on shore checked and cleaned from contaminates. The transmission of bird influenza or bacteria is a very serious concern. Also, any seeds that might germinate and introduce a foreign species of grass, plant or tree is strictly forbidden. Below is a video short from my very first successful dive in Antarctica. Although I did see much, it was amazing just being in the extreme conditions.
Very first dive in Antarctica • Brown Bluff
Air temperature: -1°C • Water temperature: +4°C
Another entry in my photo / video series on my research trip to Antarctica. Today I'm featuring a few birds, as a true non-birder. As we steamed southward away from Elephant Island towards the Antarctic Sound and eventually the Weddell Sea, we not only spotted as many as 200 Fin Whales and a mixed group of Long-finned Pilot Whales and Hourglass Dolphins, but also Albatross, Prions, and Petrels.
For hours the birders on board were in heaven, and there were many who booked this trip just for the birds. I would never claim to be a proper birder, I have too much respect for them. Just thinking about the patience needed to find, shoot and then spend hours identifying minute differences between the species makes my head hurt. I did however enjoy a few hours working alongside some experts attempting to capture that one perfect shot (which I never did).
As with many animals, patterns of movement and hunting behaviors may be predictable. Out on the open ocean though, aboard a gently rocking ship moving at nearly 12 knots can provide an interesting challenge. Also, bright sunlight shifting quickly to dim cloud cover, ever-changing winds, occasional rain and even some brief snow, can all wreak havoc with photographing birds in flight.
As we were leaving Elephant Island, the first day after crossing the Drake, we spotted Fin Whales, lots of Fin Whales. These are the 2nd largest whales on the planet, Blue Whales are the largest of any animal. Both Fin Whales and Humpbacks are baleen or filter feeders. Their primary diet is Krill, a small shrimp like animal. Fin Whales can weigh as much as 80 tons and can easily reach 65' in length. Their blow can be over 25' making it easy to spot from a distance. While they are dark gray to brown, their lower left jaw is white, but the right jaw is gray.
There were two whale experts aboard. Ursula Tscherter holds her Masters in MMS from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and is Director of the Swiss-Canadian ORES Foundation. Her specialty and passion is Minke Whales, and she provided an excellent lecture on all whales. Second, Pierre Gallego is the only member of the International Whaling Commission representing Luxembourg.
As we made our way south toward the Lemaire Channel, our Captain and expedition leader made a slight divergence off the Gerlache Strait toward Fournier Bay. While not the first area we spotted Humpback Whales, it was where we got our closest and best views. Fortunately, numbers of these mighty and amazing creatures have been rebounding as they've been mostly protected since 1966.
Among the many interesting facts we learned, Humpback Whales are positively buoyant. Therefore, they can rest on or very near the surface, but need the thrust of their entire fluke to dive for food. The lifespan can be 80 years, and pregnancy in females can be 12 months. They may weigh as much as 40 tons; the calves may weigh up to 1 ton and 4 1/2 meters long at birth. The mother’s milk is extremely fatty, as much as 40% to 60%. They spend the Antarctic summers feeding for their long migration north.
There are so many other fascinating facts I won’t bore anyone with here. One of the most is that Humpbacks can be identified from only the underside of their Fluke, much like fingerprints. My images of these whales have been logged onto - https://happywhale.com/home. If you capture images of a humpback, please submit it to HappyWhale. You may be able to track your whale around the world.
Update Notice: My submission to HappyWhale.com has been paired with those of a photographer from a decade ago.
Heading south along the Antarctica Peninsula, our ship passed through the Lemaire Channel. The Lemaire Channel extends between Booth Island and the Peninsula. It measures less than 7 miles long, is nearly 500 feet deep, and at its narrowest point is barely 2000 feet wide. You can hear clearly as the many small icebergs and berglets crash and bang into the port and starboard sides of our ship’s hull. An ominous sound to those choosing to sleep in a little.
Turn up the volume to get the true experience
Throughout this narrow stretch of Antarctic wilderness, we witnessed rugged snow- and ice-covered peaks rising to 3,280 feet. Calving glaciers can send their icebergs into the channel, and can possibly block it completely, we were fortunate. A calving glacier would've assuredly caused huge waves within the channel, possibly damaging the rudders or propellers.
In 1898, Adrien de Gerlache, a 19th century Belgian explorer first navigated this treacherous channel. He named it in honor of Charles Lemaire, who never actually explored Antarctica at all. Lemaire’s late 1800’s explorations were mostly the tropical forests of the Congo.
The Antarctic Sound is a passage separating the Bransfield Strait and Weddell Sea. Centuries of extreme winds, snow, ice, icebergs, and glaciers have scoured and gouged the landscape and shorelines leaving remarkably high peaks and deep valleys. I’m providing two images so everyone can attempt to grasp the distance between the ocean, seas, islands and peninsula being referenced. Upon my first views passing through towards the Weddell Sea, I was awed at how insignificant I am, we are, and how intimidating this world can be.
Sailing on this advanced 107.6 meters long steel hulled Polar Class 6 vessel was at times almost like riding a cork bobbing on the vast treacherous waterways, moving at 12 knots. Only briefly in the beginning though, for about five hours, did we actually experience some ‘rough seas’. Exiting Beagle Channel and entering the dreaded southerly trek across the Drake Passage, we encountered sustained winds of 35 knots. Frequent gusts up to 55+ knots made for a somewhat rocky ride along the 8' to 12' seas. Much more on the seas, winds, swells from the bridge will be presented in a future Blog. Fortunately, with modern stabilizers and an excellent crew, it was mostly a pretty smooth ride. Unfortunately, a number of passengers were stricken with a severe bout of sea sickness.
The NASA satellite shot included below is of the entire white frozen continent. Note in the far-left upper corner, a thin red line marks the Antarctic Sound. The other image from Google Maps is the Drake Passage. Spanning about 500 nautical miles from Argentina to Elephant Island, our first sighting of land. It is about a 48 hour voyage to cross the Drake. The next day we sailed through the Antarctic Sound into the Weddell Sea, with mostly calm chilly winds hovering around 20 knots or so. Mild ocean swells with mostly clear, sometimes blue skies. I was able to capture still images and a little video.
Between zodiac filled shore trips for passengers onto the Antarctic Peninsula and my few dives into the icy waters of the polar region (much more on this soon too), everyone aboard was treated to a host of amazing lectures. Many leading authorities on birds, whales, penguins, icebergs, and a myriad of other relative topics were absolutely invaluable. I’d like to say I had a favorite lecture, but they were all excellent. Even the Chief Engineer, with his strong Romanian accent, unassuming personality, and delightfully dry sense of humor provided an entertaining and informative oration.
As you watch my video shorts of our expedition, rest assured our ship’s Captain and his First Officers perfectly navigated and eluded the thousands of icebergs and small berglets that populate the chilly waters. Remember that over 90% of an iceberg is below the surface. The seemingly small, yet massive structures can be formidable and deadly dangerous. Just ask the Captain of the Titanic.
Much more images and videos to come shortly.
Shortly after our arrival in Ushuaia, Argentina, we commenced on a tour of a most wonderful and important Argentine National Park - Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. This area which borders with Chile, is the southernmost west section of Argentina. It is the beginning of the Pan-American Highway and affectionately known as ‘The end of the World’. They do a lot of ‘The end of the World’ talk down here, it’s delightful marketing. My video short was shot near the shores of Beagle Channel in the falling snow. The map below also demonstrates our close proximity to the Chilean border on the island of Tierra del Fuego.
Video Short - T'he-end-of-the-World'
Our guide was marvelous. Well informed, very good command of the English language, she provided an entertaining and very informative tour. My interest is typically viewing and photographing wildlife first, but on this tour the landscape, nature, and snow provided dramatic images. I hope everyone enjoys viewing this as much as we enjoyed experiencing it. In my video entitled ‘llaullao and Mistletoe’ our guide explains an interesting parasitic, yet edible growth on the trees.
Video Short - 'llaullao_and_Mistletoe'
While there are no large or dangerous animals like lions or pumas, the park is filled with delightful birds, waterfowl and even the significant Glacier King Salmon. In 2021, the Argentine government took the essential action of banning salmon farming. I strongly commend this action!
Parque Nacional is home to the massive Andean Condor with a wingspan up to three meters, Albatross with a two-and-a-half-meter wingspan, and the Magellan Woodpecker. The Common Goose, Kelp Geese, various other ducks and waterfowl, and even beaver are found here. Beavers were introduced in the 1900’s for their pelts. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, they were deemed nearly worthless, and with no natural predator have been wreaking havoc on the slow growing forest and grass’s ability to develop and survive. In this rugged extreme environment, a minor disruption can take years or decades to recover. Park rangers and locals are encouraged to hunt and kill the beaver in order to slow or halt the destruction they cause. Often see is the Red Fox, the largest four-legged land predator in the park and may grow to 12 kilos. While often spotted, we did not any on this day.
This is a many part series by 'Made In Puget Sound' on two weeks in the
'Frozen White World of Antarctica'.
Soon after the MV Hondius left Ushuaia, Argentina, we headed through Beagle Channel towards the dreaded Drake Passage. More to come later on our incredible crossings of the Drake later. Our first sighting of land was Elephant Island, named for its once huge population of Elephant Seals. Unfortunately, weather proved too dangerous to attempt an approach of the shores of Elephant Island.
For those not familiar, if you’ve not read about or seen documentaries about the explorations of Ernest Shackleton, watching restored old color movies and stills from the early 20th century do not do justice to what these men endured to survive. Resting in the comfort of your warm living room, on your cozy couch, with your TV remote and refrigerator nearby, one cannot possibly appreciate the conditions of this isolated island in the Southern Ocean. The extreme cold, exceedingly high winds, blinding snowstorms, being forced to cross deadly and unfathomable glacial crevices were only a few of the challenges these men faced. And they considered themselves very fortunate to survive long enough to get off the ocean and to the safety of dry land.
My images were shot from a distance of a mile or more, with bitter cold and harsh winds, and occasional freezing rain or snow pelting our ship, me and my camera. We were scheduled to make landfall and visit the memorial, but it was impossible to attempt a landing.
An excellent day to record Plumose Anemones at more than 80 feet beneath the surface of Puget Sound Underwater. This is the largest species of anemone in the world. They may grow to four feet tall and live longer than 400 years. They can be white, red or orange. This is a filter feeding animal not a plant, capturing small organisms floating past. They attach to rocks, pipes, old submerged sinks and toilets.
I've included shots of a Mottled Sea Star and a Graceful Decorator Crab. Our waters are filled with beautiful, colorful amazing creatures. The goal of Made In Puget Sound is to protect, promote and save our delicate wildlife.
Below is a 4K Video Short of Plumose Anemones.