In late October, David and I, along with our friend Sami, headed to Antarctica for the very last voyage to Snow Hill Island. Snow Hill is home to the northern-most emperor penguin rookery in the world. Unlike other penguins who mate and raise their families on land through the Antarctic summer, emperors breed on ice in late fall, brood their eggs over the dead of winter, then raise their chicks through early spring. They do this because they need a stable, yet temporary platform to support their chicks until the little ones can go to sea. An ice sheet is perfect for them... it's there when they need it, then melts away allowing the chicks easy access to their real home, the ocean. It takes an icebreaker to reach Snow Hill before the chicks fledge. The only icebreaker operating in the Southern Hemisphere is the venerable Kapitan Khlebnikov, a thoroughly Russian ship. After this season, the KK is permanently moving north to the Russian Arctic where she will pick up where she left off years ago as an oil exploration vessel. The difference now is that she can do this all year long (much less ice these days), not just in the warmer months.
This was the first trip to Snow Hill for David and Sami, but my 3rd. In January 2004, I toured the Antarctic Peninsula with my friend Bertie, so all together this was my 4th visit to the far south. Each time was a unique adventure....poignant, exhilarating, heart-breaking.... all the emotions seem to hit harder in the extreme wilderness that is Antarctica.
NOTE: There are short video clips interspersed amongst the still photos. Hopefully, they'll give you a real feel for this trip. Each one is captioned "VIDEO".