Today on our expedition we had our first full day in Antarctica!! It was a long-awaited and bucket-list dream for many of the guests aboard National Geographic Resolution. Following the guidelines of IAATO and the Antarctic Treaty, we made our first landfall at Barrientos Island which is a part of the Aitcho Islands (pronounced H-O Islands). These groups of islands make up the South Shetland Islands in the Northwestern Peninsula of Antarctica.
Our morning landing at Barrientos was our first time ashore to visit Antarctic penguin colonies. Expedition staff set up cones to help navigate guests through “penguin highways” from the beach and over the hill. The shore landing consisted of a gentoo penguin colony; we observed many penguins collecting rocks for their nests, some sitting on eggs preparing to parent new chicks, and others squabbling and moving about.
Over the hill was a chinstrap penguin colony; the distinctive black line running under their chin resembles the strap of a helmet.
After a delicious lunch on board, we made our next landing ashore at Half Moon Island, also in the South Shetlands and Aitcho Islands. At this point in the day it was snowing! Now we really felt like we had made it to Antarctica. Guests had a choice between a long hike to explore the island and a short hike to visit a few more penguin colonies. The combination of the snow and penguins made this day an unforgettable first impression of Antarctica.