Searching for Polar Bears

19th century explorers pushing into the Arctic intrigues me. What causes a man to leave a warm hearth, willing to risk life on a ship trapped in ice? Imagine the horror. Ice burns like fire, but is insanely beautiful.

We flew to Spitzbergen and took a shuttle to Quark Expeditions new ship, Ultramarine. She’s a luxurious icebreaker that explorers from centuries ago could never fathom.

We saw Blue Whales, the largest animal on earth. Later–Minke, Humpback, and Belugas with dark calves. Hearing them exhale connected my breath with theirs.

Every day we viewed amazing sites from our balcony.

zodiac cruises and landings are intimate encounters.

Human’s caused destruction, but now they are gone and wildlife flourishes.

Try photographing speedy Kittiwakes, Arctic Terns, Brunnich’s Guillemots, Fulmar’s, Gulls, and my favorite Puffin.

Exciting to see a mated pair napping in the snow, the male crawling towards his beloved. How about a bear gorging on a seal? In the distance, a mother walked with two cubs who misbehaved, playing hide-and-seek.

Westpoint and Saunders Island Landings

Two days out of Ushuaia, Argentina enroute to the West Falkland weren’t spent sleeping, starting with 7:45 a.m. wake-up calls. The Marine animal specialist, Annie, did presentations on seals and whales while our ornithologist, Adrian, helped us identify birds of the Falklands and South Georgia Islands. Acacia, our photography guide taught us how to capture the perfect photo. Woody presented the history of the Falkland islands.

They tried to prepare us for the amazing experience on our morning landing at Westpoint Island and the afternoon landing at Saunders, which was quite the task. Westpoint has a booming summer population of four people and black-browed nesting Albatross and Rockhopper penguins by the thousands along the cliffs. We had to be careful walking to not step on these smallest (but most noisy) penguins or the endangered albatross that mate for life with their partners.

In the afternoon, the ship sailed to Saunders Island, site of the first English settlement in 1765. It is now home to 11,000 breeding pairs of black-browed albatross and five penguin species. The way I keep them straight:

Rockhopper–noisy and yellow brows

Gentoo–look like they have red lipstick and they are quite funny to watch as they steal rocks from other nests. They are quite animated.

Megellanic–live in burrows and bray like a donkey

Macaroni–Have a Donald Trump hairstyle and other mannerisms of the Trumpster.

King–tallest penguin in the Falklands (only the emperor is bigger) with orange markings. Juveniles are fluffy brown and must molt before they can enter the water to eat. Some of them are larger than their parents. Apparently, molting is a miserable experience as they seem to be shunned or perhaps depressed.


We also saw whale bones above the beach and two predators–the Skua looking so sweet with the baby chick (but they are quite vicious) and the Striated Caracara just waiting for a baby penguin left alone.