Monday night we returned our second group of birds, 5 more this time leaving only 5 in the corral. The big storm that we had over Thanksgiving seems to have blown out a lot of the ice, so there was a very clean, stable ice edge when we arrived by helicopter near Beaufort Island.
Barry, our pilot. Thanks for an incredible flight Barry!
Ron, the helo mechanic, resting comfortably
We were able to walk all the way out to the edge, and it was truly a spectacular sight to behold. Adelie penguins were porpoising all around in the water, emperors were swimming around as well, and we even saw 3 snow petrels whizzing by in the air.
Cass at the ice edge with Adelie penguins behind her
Jessica with Beaufort Island in the background
Kozue conquers the ice edge
Brendan at the ice edge
Snow petrels are incredibly beautiful birds, and a bit more rare to see down here for us. The release went well, and by the time we headed back to the helo, our 5 birds had figured out where the food was, and started their march toward the open water.
Our 5 released birds head toward the ice edge, with some Adelie penguins tagging along as well!
We were all in very high spirits when we returned to greet Paul back at the Ranch, but unfortunately it was a bit sad as well, as after a goodbye toast and a bit of reflection on the season, Paul had to return to town to get ready for his flight departing the ice the next day.
Paul and I did our last dive out at the Ranch recently as well. As you can see from the photo of Cass in the Ob Tube, the visibility has really gone downhill as the temperatures are warming up and algae (and so on through the food chain) has begun to accumulate.
Cass in the Ob Tube
It was still a fantastic dive, as always down here, and we were graced by the presence of some our emperor penguins zipping through the water only a few feet away from us. I was quite sad before coming up, though, knowing that it was my last dive under the ice, at least for some time.
Here’s a self portrait of Paul and me that I captured to mark that moment, thanks again to Jerry’s fabulous underwater Olympus.
“The last dive”
It has been another spectacular season down here on the ice, and I am getting very sad knowing how soon I will be leaving, and knowing that for the first time in four years, I don’t have any definite plans to be back here soon. Thank you so much once again to Paul and to all of the present and past Ranchers for making this a truly exceptional experience, certainly the most remarkable in my life thus far.