Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Time of Whales.............

January 26, 2013 - Petermann Island, Antarctica
Good visibility, overcast
Wind: W 2: Sea: smooth; air Temp 5C (41F)

I was about to title this post "A Whale of a Time". Somehow that just seemed too crass for such a surreal wildlife experience.  Over the past couple of years I've been fortunate to experience some awesome wildlife viewing around the planet. It's impossible to state 'my favorite' when so many have been far beyond expectation, and all have been exceptional. This cold and wild morning with the Humpback whales will always be up there in the top five though. 
These whales are seen here only in during the Antarctic Summer having migrated from their calving grounds off Brazil. Although mating and calving take place in the warmer waters, they seldom feed in those areas, instead moving to the excellent feeding grounds in the cold productive seas around Antarctica.

As soon as we left the ship, the Zodiac ride became very exciting. We spotted several Humpback whales nearby. Global population is now only 30-40,000. Males measure up to 52 feet and weigh up to 32 tons, females 56 feet and 36 tons. These are really huge and their presence is exciting. Humpbacks live 70-80 years, their diet is krill, zooplankton and small fish. They breed every 2-3 years (gestation is 12 months), producing a single calf weighing in at 2 tons and 20 feet in length at birth, and which is weaned at one year of age.

Humpbacks are the most conspicuous of the Antarctic whales, often seen swimming on the surface or splashing about while feeding.  They will approach ships, putting on quite a show, frequently spy hopping, lobtailing, and breaching. Another of our Zodiacs in the distance with excited passengers standing up for a better view.

At the start of a deep dive (up to 577 feet) the whale will arch its back and stick its tail vertically in the air. This reveals the black and white pattern on the underside which is unique to each individual and useful for identification.

The Zodiac moved on toward the shoreline and some huge icebergs.........

 ....and a pod of five whales, one a mother with a calf, 
appeared close by.

As whales reach the surface to breathe, they forcefully expel 
air through their blowhole as above.......

...and the lovely turquoise is the reflection off the white pigmentation on the pectoral fin of an adult whale. These are very close to our Zodiac - a bit of which you can see at the bottom right corner...

....and continued to swim around us for quite some time, more blowing, even passing under the Zodiac. Could they have tipped us? Yes, but thankfully on this day they were gentle and playful. Whereas we eight passengers, plus our driver, were up and down like yo-yos positioning to get good shots without knocking someone overboard into that cold water!

This Humpback is spyhopping - it rises and holds a position partially out of the water - this can last for several minutes if the whale is sufficiently inquisitive about whatever, or whomever, it is viewing. 

The barnacles were easy to see this close up.

This is one of the Humpback's 18 foot long pectoral 
fins which they raise and then slap on the surface 
of the water........  

Paula getting a close-up shot of a very close up Humpback! 
Note more barnacles on the small dorsal fin.

Another Zodiac pulled up next to us to share in this awesome whale experience. I really think this shot shows how close we were to these huge, beautiful creatures. Another expedition staffer was able to record haunting whale songs underwater (only the male 'sings'), so that evening when we gathered for the day's summary of happenings, we had a great slide show accompanied by whale songs. Truly a day to remember.

Getting near the end of this wonderful journey......where I walked on the Seventh Continent and sailed the roughest ocean in the world - show you next time.

Remember, for more detail - click on one photo to enlarge and be sure to turn on Lightbox (in your Settings) to see all pics in a slideshow.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Philadelphia Story..........................

We managed a few hours walking in downtown Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. Weather was perfect. Company wonderful - my brother-in-law and sister-in-law visiting from Arizona.

We decided to take a little break together following a tough morning visiting the guys' mom at the nursing facility. We'd all seen the historic city sights many times, so just wandered the old streets in the lovely Spring sunshine, and enjoyed a coffee and long chat at a sidewalk table.

Fortunately I'd tucked my recently acquired little Nikon in my bag, just in case the opportunity arose to take a few shots...................

.............and you know me, lover of the written word, I was able to get a few signs too!  

Returned home yesterday.......ducking raindrops as we exited the airport. It rained all night, still is this morning. Soggy, but the brilliant green of Spring outside the window is glorious. My thoughts and prayers are with those of you who experienced terrible storms yesterday - I hope you are safe and dry.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Death in The Potting Shed.......................

NO, it's not an Agatha Christie novel you missed!
It's more a tale of metal fatigue - it occurs to 
treasures which have seen much better days 
and just can't hold up any longer! 

See her there, lounging in the old wicker chair, draped in a burlap wrap? (The potting shed awaits a good clean-out. Once the pollen has finally disappeared the garden knick knacks can go outside again).
Senorita Chandelier started life in Spain, many years ago, and over time her arms and curvy bits aged and weakened - kinda like ours I guess! Preventative medicine obviously had not been done.
Thinking this would be the year I could take her to a spa lamp repair shop for a check up and makeover, when lifting her last week, her metal bits started to fall apart, break off, and sadly she collapsed before my eyes. Deciding it would be such a costly job to bring her back, I collected her lovely cut-glass crystals, and a couple of bronze 'feathers' from her headdress, before sending her 'bones' to a better place.

Do you love crystals as I do? Not wanting to hide them 
away, I've piled them on a crystal plate for now 
and am displaying them on the coffee table.

etcetera - an amazing book by Australian 
stylist Sibella Court, one of my favorites 
when it comes to decorating with "the old and much-loved".  
This book is a work of art itself - I purchased it a couple 
of years back at Anthropologie.

Again, many thank yous to you, dear blog friends, 
regarding my dear mother-in-law, your good wishes 
and prayers are so appreciated.
 Yesterday we spent time with her in the 
rehab facility near Philadelphia - sadly she did not 
seem to know us, but hopefully she heard the loving 
words we whispered into her ear. 
Sorry - behind with comments due to travel and the busy 
weekend - will catch up with you soon! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Garden shopping...........A Favorite Thing

With the sun shining and warmer temperatures we 
did venture to Lowe's garden center last 
weekend, along with what appeared to be 5,000 other 
would-be gardeners hell bent on gathering new plants, 
and the many accoutrements required for digging and 
delving in the soil.

Bob needed a new garden fork having worn out one 
whilst digging holes for me to plant in - 
we do have heavy clay soil here. 
Of course his great sense of humor is always evident 
no matter where we are!
I was more interested in the pretty things - plants - and
bags of organic fertilizers to bring them along successfully.

Above, the plants I picked for my kitchen window box - always a favorite rite of Spring for me.

  • Small conifer
  • Variegated ivy
  • African daisy
  • Mixed petunias
  • Penta 
  • Spearmint
  • Sweet potato vine

I like a mix of short, tall and trailing which, when grown and filled in over the next couple of months, will give me an attractive box of color and interest when I'm on the inside of that window doing the mundane chores, such as washing dishes. 

It looks a bit wishy-washy right now but, wait another 
month or so, hopefully then it will be really pretty when 
full, and the trailers dangling and disguising the bare box.

I love these yellow petunias - have planted them in a 
large decorative pot in the front garden.

Linking to Claudia at Mockingbird Hill Cottage for 
A Favorite Thing Saturday.

We arrived in Philadelphia late this afternoon, welcomed 
by beautiful sunshine and comfortable temps. We appreciate 
your kind words and prayers wishing Bob's mother well 
again. She was discharged from hospital so we'll be 
visiting her in the nursing home section of her assisted 
living facility Saturday morning.

Green miracles........................

This week - just three of the small 
green miracles of Nature making their 
first appearance in the Spring garden.

I'll be in the Philadelphia area this weekend, a planned visit to spend time with family. Sadly, my sweet 94 year old mother-in-law was hospitalized this past week and we've been greatly concerned for her, however she's doing better and may be returned to her assisted living home by the time we arrive. 
Anyway, wherever we visit it will be a time of sharing precious moments with loved ones.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A stitch in time...................

I don't like watching television in the evening without 
having something to work on in my hands. I just can't 
pop a Netflix DVD in the player, or tune into a channel 
with a good movie which will run for two hours or so.... 
unless I'm creating a little something pretty, or useful, 
and feeling I'm not wasting precious time.

Last evening I decided to attempt some simple embroidery......having 
seen Lorrie of Fabric Paper Thread with pretty Spring 
colored threads recently doing similar. She brought back 
memories of my embroidery efforts as child......my mum 
was always giving me tray cloths, napkins, and table runners 
to work on having stitched some beautiful pieces herself.

So I started last night just trying some free form French 
knots, then other stitches, doing what I recall from 
childhood, nothing elaborate, just a corner from my garden.  

Last week I picked up a beautiful book at the 
used book shop - Glorifilia by two English sisters 
who have/had a shop in London.  
Does anyone know if it's still there? 
The projects, based on Venetian needlework, are way 
beyond me, however the book is beautiful and 
there is this......... 

.............tucked away in the back - instructions for 
some of the more elaborate stitches that I've forgotten 
over the years and which I'll have to practice. 
I've still got knitting projects to complete and I do 
want to teach myself to crochet, but right now I'm 
enjoying poking a needle through linen.....and it's going 
to be hard not buying up a whole lot of DMC thread - the 
colors are so beautiful!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Petermann Island welcome................

January 26, 2013
Good visibility, overcast
Wind: W 2; Sea: smooth; Air Temp.6C(41F)

..........the scenic majesty of the Antarctic ice.
The best way to see it is from Zodiacs....or sea kayaks for the brave. I'm kicking myself now for not being one of those brave souls who slid cautiously into the 2-person kayaks and paddled away from the ship on that cold water. If there's ever a next time I'll be doing it, if the sea is smooth like this.....

Afternoon in kayaks - cold but perfect sea conditions.

A rousing welcome from members of the Gentoo penguin 
colony on the island.

 This Gentoo colony is the most southern in Antarctica....

.....about 12% of the world population are found this far south, approximately 2,000 breeding pairs. As penguins go, they are the least aggressive and quietest. They feed close to shore, often within 2.5 miles of their nests. Male and female share incubating and chick rearing duties and for the first 25 days of a chick's life it will be constantly guarded by one or the other parents.

I love this shot I caught of the parent sitting 
on top of the chick with its little 
orange beak sticking out........

....and this is the back view with the chick's tail and 
orange feet just visible.

Feeding an older chick.

Arriving ashore - always so exciting wondering what's in 
store once you've clambered over icy banks and rocky ledges.

Looking back to the ship at anchor. 

Photo via Paula
The shags were nesting in with the penguins - their chicks 
large, downy and extremely hungry.

The other penguin colony on Petermann comprises of 
500 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins. The chicks were large, 
in the 4-5 week range, ravenously hungry so energetic and 
quite comical feeding chases occurred where adults would 
pummel chicks if they tried to take krill from the 
wrong parent.
Adelies are the fastest growing of the penguin species, 
reaching adult size, weighing 7 pounds, and becoming 
independent within 50-56 days of hatching.

Click on pics to enlarge - turn on Lightbox in your Settings to make it even better!

Next time - a stunning morning Zodiac 
trip with the giants of the sea.