Welcome to Antarctica

I'm skipping any lengthy accounting of Friday. Suffice to say that the seas were still quite rough, and things were quiet on board. The high points were the briefings on Zodiacs, as well as rules of engagement for Antarctica proper (basically, don't touch anything; don't leave anything; don't take anything).

The weather calmed down considerably overnight as the ship entered the Bransfield Strait, which runs between the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. The first thing I saw out our balcony door was a huge iceberg. It was official - we had arrived! So far, it has been a beautiful clear day, and we have spent the better part of the morning on the foredeck, where we have seen lots of ice - in bergs and in pack ice. The ice is simply beautiful - like nothing I've ever seen before. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish water from ice from clouds from sky - the landscape is just variations on texture and reflection. Other times, the bergs sit like blue topaz in the water and you can't miss them. We had our first penguin sightings, including seeing a bunch of them swimming and leaping like dolphins in the sea off the pack ice. They are considered flightless birds, but they really just fly in a different element than other birds.

We will make our first excursion on land this afternoon, to Brown Bluff in the Antarctic Sound. This is a continental landing, and it will be our first encounter with some of the natives - Gentoo and Adelie penguins, to be specific.

I'll try to post more later, but now that we have a good satellite signal, I wanted to bring this blog up to date. I hope to be able to post pics, as well. Time to go put the big boots on.

Vital statistics for 12/13/14:
Sunrise - 02:58
Sunset - 22:56
Location (approx) - 63 degrees and 20 minutes S, 56 degrees and 45 minutes W
Current temp is 36 degrees F
Wind is blowing at about 35 knots