Visitation Middle School science teacher, Caroline Little, was named a 2020 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, a professional development opportunity in partnership with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic. Delayed by Covid, Ms. Little recently embarked on her expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands. Visitation will follow along on her journey!
Blog 3 - March 3, 2023
Atlantic Ocean - Second day at Sea headed towards the Falkland Islands
As I write this, huge waves are crashing into the bow of the ship, if you aren’t paying attention and keeping “one hand for you and one hand for the ship” you could easily fall. Yesterday the swells averaged 18 feet high, but today they are up to 30 feet with wind speeds of up to 70 knots or about 80 mph. It feels as if we are on a constant roller coaster ride; up, down, up, down, up, up, up, slammed down. When we rise you feel almost weightless, and then when the ship comes down, everything feels extra heavy, especially your legs. Everyday activities like showering, eating, drinking, and walking, have become increasingly difficult and require a firm stance and a stable part of the ship to hold onto.
Our adventure in South Georgia the previous few days has left me breathless and spellbound in more than one way. South Georgia is part of the Sub-Antarctic islands and houses no permanent human residents. Seven abandoned whaling stations dot the coast of the island, and it is home to numerous penguin colonies, as well as many fur seals and elephant seals.
We were fortunate to be able to explore one abandoned whaling station, Grytviken, up close. Grytviken was abandoned in 1962 and is littered with huge rusting iron chains, broken-down boats, and dilapidated buildings that give witness to a bygone era. Upon disembarking the zodiacs, we were immediately surrounded by fur seal pups in every direction who played and curiously waddled up to us. A King penguin or two strolled past us as we made our way toward the museum and learned about the history of the whaling industry and the impact it had on whale populations in Antarctica. I compared my wingspan to that of the wandering albatross that soars over the ocean, and my small frame comes nowhere near the 11-foot wingspan of these beautiful ocean birds.
We were dropped off in Fortuna Bay the following day and hiked across rough terrain as we followed the last leg of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s journey to Stromness Bay. Then it was off to Salisbury Plain, home to the second largest King penguin colony in South Georgia with an estimated 100,000 pairs of penguins. How can I even begin to explain what it is like to see and hear nearly a quarter of a million penguins? The air is filled with a cacophony of sound as the King penguins call to one another and the coastline is dotted with tiny dots up and down as far as the eye can see. As they lean their head back and call, I am reminded of the sound that comes from a kazoo magnified a thousand-fold. And the smell. Wow. You know you are in a penguin colony by the instant assault on your nasal cavities. I still can’t quite explain what it smells like; whenever I ask someone how they would explain it, they are as speechless as me.
We will land on the Falklands tomorrow, so today is another day filled with taking furious notes, as I try to scribble down as much knowledge as I can from the naturalists, historians, and National Geographic photography experts on board. The next lecture is on “Marine Mammals Acoustics” and is starting in ten minutes, so it is time for me to learn!