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Antarctica Travel Blog Nov 22: Penguins and Preparing for McMurdo Dry Valleys

Emperor Penguin - Photo by Laurie Allread
Emperor Penguin - Photo by Laurie Allread

November 22, 2011

Last evening, we headed toward an area further close to Taylor Valley in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in hope to make a helicopter operation. About 2am the Kapitan Khlebnikov's engines were shut down as the captain could not get the ship closer to the valley due to the thick ice. The goal was to park as close to Taylor Valley as possible to make the helicopter ride shorter to the valley.

Visibility was poor so the departure time of 8 am was delayed until the skies cleared until about 3 pm. It is quite an operation to get 100 people off the ship for a 60 minute excursion. The McMurdo Dry Valleys are the largest ice-free region in Antarctica. Parts of the Dry Valleys have not seen rain for over 2 million years. It one of the world's largest desert with a approximate mean annual temperature of -19C. During our excursion we will land to walk around on a designated area and view the mummified seals that are over 1,500 years old.

During our waiting time, we've been off the ship walking around on the pack ice and watching penguins jump and in out of the water near the ship. The Emperors walk among us and gaze up at the ship with curiosity. They seem to be quite entertained by our presence.

Anyway my group is scheduled to fly to the Dry Valley about 11 pm tonight so it will be another late night in the midnight sun!

(This is Laurie's fourth visit to Antarctica. She is blogging her way through this epic month-long Antarctica cruise; the Kapitan Khlebnikov's Ross Sea Centennial Voyage. Tune in for daily updates from the field. Pictures from Laurie's past Antarctica travels are found on her website.)

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