Saturday, February 16, 2008

Antarctic Photos Posted

I have posted 70-80 photos from trip. I used the album feature rather than simply posting them inline in a blog post. I’ve broken them into seven albums based on a category. 

I tried to add some useful comments and descriptions so that you can understand what the image is and get some background information.

When you click on an album or “View Full Album”, by default you will leave this blog and be taken to the Microsoft site hosting the photo albums.  To return to this blog post, you’ll have to navigate using the “go back one page” button.

Alternatively, you can open the album in another tab or window (your options will depend on the browser you are using) and keep this tab/window showing this page.

Once at the Microsoft photo album site, you can view the photos individually or as a slide show.

  • Penguins that we saw

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We're Back

We arrived today after flying from Brisbane to LAX on Qantas (12 hour flight), then from LAX to Seattle on Alaska Airlines. One of our two checked bags went MIA on the LAX-SEA leg of the trip. Fortunately, Alaska found the bag and dropped it off at the house this evening.

I've copied the 785 pictures from the camera's memory cards to our computers. With digital photographs that only exist electronically, I take great care to protect them. They are stored on three separate devices. That should be safe from virtually all software and hardware problems. I still worry about a fire or break-in, though.

2008-Antarctica-556x I'll try to get more photos posted this weekend. Until then, here is one photo I took, a pair of cute King Penguins.

Monday, February 11, 2008

"But it's a warm rain"

To ease us back into PNW weather, it is raining today in Brisbane. It isn't a torrential tropical rain but more of a Seattle misting.

The natives seem to have decided you're better off ignoring the rain and wear your normal summer time attire of short sleeves and sun dresses than trying to beat the rain by using rain gear and perspiring underneath it.

We rode the "City Cat", a fast catamaran ferry that runs up and down the Brisbane River. It took us nearly two hours to make the complete loop. After lunch at a downtown food mall, we called it quits for the day because Marcia still feels under the weather on account of her cold.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Brisbane & Expedition Mode

We're in Brisbane now, our final leg before we head back home. The trip has been wonderful but I'd say we're both ready to be home.

Don McIntryre, our friend who was the Antarctic expedition guide for the cruise, would often end his near daily briefings to the ship's guests by telling everyone to be in "expedition mode." For Don, this meant that you had to always be ready for changes in plan based on conditions. In a sense, our entire trip, even the non cruise portion, has been "expedition mode."

The Antarctic cruise was very expensive (although not one we regret).  The airline tickets, on account of the last minute booking during peak season, the most expensive we've ever purchased. To compensate we've economized on our in-country touring by staying in hostels and taking public transit whenever possible.

This means that when we arrive in a city Marcia has to fuss with finding how we get to the city while I retrieve the baggage. Also, because we are hauling gear we needed for the Antarctic cruise, our baggage is more than what it would have been if we were simply traveling in Australia. Hauling our gear from air terminals to bus stands or bus stations to hostels becomes a bit tiring at times. Expedition mode can be fun but it does wear on you after a while.

Lastly, Marcia has come down with a cold. It isn't a bad one but a summer cold (we are in the Southern Hemisphere after all), always drags you down on account of the heat and humidity.

Now to our Brisbane touring. Today was a short day, we walked the mile or so to the botanical gardens (we've seen the gardens in every city we've stayed in). They are right next to the Brisbane River and are bordered by a grove of Mangrove trees.

Tomorrow we're buying a day pass which will allow us to ride the "City Cat" ferry which cruises the river up and down its length, boarding and reboarding as we choose. The river is tortuous through the city so a lot of river covers only a short distance as the crow flies.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sweet Adelaide

Adelaide turned out to be a delightful city. It is very easy to navigate, well laid out and with a free bus that circles the core.

On Thursday, we did a wine tour to the Barossa Valley, the largest wine region in Australia. We bought a couple of bottles of wine to have over the next several days.

Friday morning we visited the central market, a farmers market that lacks the tourist spin of Seattle's Pike Place Market. Friday afternoon we rode the bus a 100 miles SW of Adelaide to the ferry that took us across to Kangaroo Island. We'll do a tour of the high points of Kangaroo Island today.

Sunday will be a travel day. First back to Adelaide and then a flight to Brisbane, our final stop in Australia.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Snares, Invercargill & a Blur

The Snares Islands were a fabulous collection of birds and seals. We saw Snares Island Penguins (very similar to Rock Hopper penquins), fur seals and more petrels, albatrosses than we can remember.

The next day we landed at Invercargill (Bluff, actually). We rode the bus into town, checked into a hotel and wandered around. As with so many NZ towns, there is a lovely park and botanical garden in which we wandered. We bumped into several other folks from the cruise who also were spending the night in Invercargill.

Tuesday, February 5, was the usual travel blur. First we flew to Christchurch. It was a long wait until our afternoon flight to Melbourne. Clearing customs, immigration and quarantine was a lot easier this time than when we flew in 3-1/2 weeks earlier. We then caught an evening flight to Adelaide.

We were a day earlier into Adelaide than expected so Marcia and the airport travel information people found us a hotel that didn't break our budget too much.

Today we wandered around Adelaide including a visit to the botanical gardens. Dinner was at an Italian restaurant that was an unexpected treasure.

Tomorrow we do a Barossa Valley wine tour. The next day is a two day visit to Kangaroo Island.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Final Full Day of Cruise

We are currently anchored off the east shore of Snares Island, about 150 miles from our disembarkation port of Bluff (Invercargill) New Zealand.

Snares Island is a wild life sanctuary and no landings are allowed. We'll be doing zodiac cruising around The Snares looking at the abundant bird life. The Snares islands got their name from their propensity to "snare" unlucky ships along their shores.

Yesterday, February 2, about 150 miles south, we visited Auckland and Enderby Island. The weather was stunning! Mostly sunny with just enough clouds to add interest to the photos.

In the morning guests had a choice of three trips. We chose the visit to a coastal watch station established in World War II. Because Auckland Island has a very protected anchorage, the watch station was intended to catch any enemy ships that might have been using the anchorage as a shelter or forward base. The forest through which we walked was very different from those we are familiar with in the Pacific Northwest. The Rata tree was the predominant tree canopy in the forest.

The afternoon was a zodiac cruise along Sandy Bay. A yellow-eyed penguin "posed" for us on a low rocky cliff as we motored by. On the beach were hundreds of sea lions soaking up the sun shine with which we were blessed.

Further along, we passed below the nests of the resident commorants (aka "shags"). Their body shapes were very similar to the commorants we see in Seattle but their colors were a striking pattern of black and white rather than the solid black that we have at home.

Tonight we'll repack all our gear in preparation of disembarking in New Zealand tomorrow morning. We'll spend one night in Invercargill than fly back to Australia via Christchurch.