Today was GLORIOUS!
We were awoken at 5:15am and told over the loud speaker that the weather conditions were cold, clear, and crisp — perfect for the helicopters. (If too cold, the helicopters need to warm up for a couple hours (!) for the oil to perform properly.)
Starting at 6:30am, the helicopter groups were called down to muster — lining up in an orderly way so that each of us is checked off the ship and tracked by an ID number we were each given. By ~7:15, my group was boarded and by 7:30, we were on Snow Hill Island and only about a mile away from the penguin colony. This was my FIRST helicopter ride ever! I approve of this mode of transport
We landed at Basecamp — a makeshift heli pad, a large tent full of supplies (should we need them), and a toilet without any kind of screen/privacy. The setting was actually quite pretty as we were up against a wall of blue ice. Basecamp is set up about a mile from the penguin colony so as not to disturb the penguins.
We grabbed our backpacks/camera bags and met with Woody, the Expedition Leader for this trip. He gave us the run down: stick to the flagged path the staff have created for us to reach the penguin colony, don’t approach the penguins, keep a good distance from the penguins though the penguins are allowed to approach us, no touching penguins, no food allowed except lunch served at Basecamp, and use the toilet at Basecamp or the one nearer the colony.
And so we all started down the flagged path towards the colony, taking in the scenery around us. We’re not technically ON Snow Hill Island, but instead on the “fast ice” that is fastened (hence “fast”) to the land. We’ve been told the ice we’re on is probably 2-3m thick. While here, we all need to wear a PFD - personal floatation device - a red lifejacket that will self-inflate if submerged. Luckily, they’re fairly thin over our big bulky jackets and not like the thick, boxy orange lifejackets we have to use on the ship in case of emergency, so they’re not much of a nuisance.
And while walking down the snowy path, we were greeted by some tobogganing emperor penguins! Seems they like to use our path too.
Top photo: helicopter landing at Basecamp
Middle photo: our first up-close penguins!
Bottom photo: tobogganing penguins