Half Moon Island
The morning is spent cruising the Drake Passage as we sail ever closer to the Antarctic Peninsula. The Drake, by the way, stays calm - we are so lucky!
In preparation for our first landing, we go to the boot room to select our Muck Boots. These are really comfortable rubber boots that we'll borrow for the duration of our voyage. They hang on boot pegs showing our cabin numbers. We already have our MV FRAM expedition jacket, so we're ready to explore. As part of the environmental regulations we also need to vacuum any belongings that we propose to take ashore to ensure we don't inadvertently deliver plant seeds or any other matter that may damage the Antarctic environment. Watching everyone vacuum their clothes and rucksacks is quite fun.
Later, Simon gives a lecture on penguins - so there will be no excuse if we can't identify the species we're about to see for the first time.
Our first landing is at HALF MOON ISLAND, a 2 km crescent-shaped island in the shadow of the mountains and glaciers of nearby Livingston Island. It is a favourite stop to visit the large chinstrap penguin rookery. The serrated and crevassed cliffs are also home to Antarctic terns, kelp gulls, snowy sheathbills and Wilson's storm petrels. The FRAM passengers are split into eight boat groups to make landings easy. Each boat group is called in turn and we transfer from ship to shore in rigid Polar Cirkel boats (similar to Zodiacs). For this first landing, the Furlongs family are first to go ashore! Richard and Dawn are in the boot room to help everyone with boots and life jackets.
Once ashore we see the expedition team have planted flags and cones along the route that we are able to follow, and we head off to find our favourite penguin. This time of year you are able to see larger chicks and chick crèches where some of the adolescent chicks hang out while their parents are in the sea feeding. The chicks are moulting their downy feathers before they are able to head off to fish for themselves. When the adults return, the chicks chase their parents for food.
We also see a young Giant Southern Petrel, a Skua enjoying a meal, and some fur seals. It's a great first landing with plenty of photographs taken and many first memories retained. Back on board we enjoy another excellent buffet dinner before some of the officers, crew and expedition team treat us to a fashion show of clothing available in the ship's shop!