Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
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BT – Last Antarctic port of call and Cape Horn

We interrupt our photographs of ice/snow, icebergs and rocks to bring you some … grass! Our final port of call in Antarctica was Roberts Point on Robert Island in the South Shetlands (S 62°26.7′ W 59°23.5′). Here the ship’s botanist finally had the chance to get excited, with the presence of one of Antarctica’s two flowering plants, the Antarctic hair grass or Deschampsia antarctica (the other is Colobanthus quitensis, the Antarctic pearlwort). Global warming is increasing the spread of these plants, but having negative effects on the ranges and habitats of some of the fauna.

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There were colonies of both Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins here, and I captured a photo of a Chinstrap taking a small pebble to its nest. Penguins are also notorious for stealing pebbles from each other’s nests! The chicks were at a more advanced stage than we’d seen so far, out of their nests and starting to lose their juvenile down, although the penguin in the third photo below doesn’t seem too enthused about it (it’s so easy to anthropomorphise!).

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There was other wildlife to be seen too. A giant petrel was nesting on a nearby outcrop, and there were seals scattered all over the place in various poses (you can do the anthropomorphic attributions yourself!).

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Nah, actually I think I need to anthropomorphise that one myself: “Get off my lawn!”

Particularly notable here was the colony of elephant seals, their great hulking bodies appearing cumbersome when slothed on the beach. However, they can display a surprising agility, and there were some moments of aggressive argy-bargy where relations were a little less friendly than a good afternoon handshake.

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Adele got one last view of the Antarctic islands, and by this stage my knowledge of penguin species was sufficient to realise that Adele is not quite an Adelie, but a happy little peripatetic species all her own.

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And I couldn’t leave without taking a few more photos of some Gentoos and Chinstraps (pity there isn’t a fourth penguin in the Abbey Road shot!).

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We boarded the Zodiacs and the Plancius, then cleaned our boots and turned our “I’m back on board” tags for the final time. The next couple of days — returning north across the Drake Passage — were a little rough, quite a bit more so than the southward journey over a week before. I managed “carefully”, with the help of the anti-seasickness “patch” (side effects: a very dry mouth, but it seemed to work). We were treated to a bonus detour as we neared South America: on our final full day at sea we came in sight of Cape Horn, before steaming east overnight to get back to Ushuaia.

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When we berthed on the final morning it was a little startling to compare our now much-appreciated Plancius with some of the behemoths that cruise the Antarctic waters. There are, in fact, smaller tour ships than ours (we had about 110 passengers), but the Plancius is a great ship to be aboard: great food, quiet, comfortable, offering a range of places to visit, and the variety of things we were able to do was fantastic. If you’re interested, here’s the company: Oceanwide Expeditions, and ours was one of the “basecamp” trips.

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Next stop: South America.

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