Antarctica Dream Adventure 04 – Off-road to Volunteer Point and Penguins

Falkland Islands a British overseas territory

We left Octantis by Zodiac and landed on the dock at Port Stanley. Port Stanley is the capital city of The Falkland Islands, an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean. As a British overseas territory, the Falklands have internal self-governace, but the United Kingdom takes responsibility for their defence and foreign affairs. This explained why Octantis took our passports as we checked in to the ship. At first we thought it unusual, but we were going to land in part of the United Kingdom.

The Drive to Volunteer Point

We then boarded the off-road vehicles in groups of four. The first third of the drive was on a finished road.

We had an excellent driver who gave us a good commentary during the drive. When we passed a curio, Louise asked what it was and he stopped so that she could take a photograph and he explained that when people leave the Falklands they come to this spot and, if they want to come back they leave one shoe and if they do not want to come back they leave two shoes.

Antarctica Dream Adventure shows a place where people leaving The Falklands leave one shoe if they want to return and two shoes if they do not.
The shoes curio

The second third was a dirt road. Not rough and definitely not true off-road, that was still to come. At the end of the dirt road there was a gate which just opened on the day we were there, 1st November, as the beginning of the visitor season.

Antarctica Dream Adventure signs for the beginning of the off-road section of the drive
Entry to the true off-road section

From this point the going was much slower and rather bumpy. Our driver very nearly got bogged, but made a good recovery.

First Sight

After the long and sometimes bumpy drive, the first strange or unexpected thing you see are sheep with their “this year” lambs grazing and completely oblivious to the penguins and their cacophony.

Antarctic Dream Adventure takes us to Volunteer Point in the Falkland Islands where sheep are grazing among the penguins
Sheep and lambs grazing in the Penguin colony

The Beach

The beach at Volunteer Point makes an excellent background for taking pictures of the King Penguins and the Gentoo Penguins. The sand is very light colored and can give the impression that the penguins are on snow. The very strong wind blows the sand at a low level giving the impression that there might be a ground mist.

King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus)

King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) are the second largest species of penguins. They walk very upright and at a steady pace. However, they do appear to have a problem deciding where they, as a group, want to go. Apart from individuals, they tend to be in smallish groups or in a very long line – following the self appointed leader.

To view Richard’s gallery of King Penguins click here

Antarctica Dream Adventure a King penguin on a mission
King Penguin a lone walker
Antarctica Dream Adventure a group of King penguins descending the sand dunes
Small group of King Penguins
Here we come, this is our highway!
Antarctica Dream Adventure a column of King penguins heading for the water to go fishing
King Penguin column
King Penguins to the sea then back again. A demonstration of their confusion.
Antarctica Dream Adventure a conference of King penguins
Where shall we go conference?
Antarctica Dream Adventure a group of King penguins with their orange feathers standing out
Which way did they decide we should go?

They are just so adorable and great fun to watch

The Threat- their only predator at The Falklands

Antarctica Dream Adventure a sea lion off the beach scaring the King penguins
A Sea lion was swimming up and down along the beach

A few times a long column of King penguins were marching to the sea, to find and eat their lunch. Then the dark head of a sea lion would pop up, they would hesitate, stop, then turnaround and head back up the beach to the sand dunes.

Occasionally a brave penguin returned by itself after being out feeding. The penguin would launch out of the water on its stomach pushing itself up the beach away from the water, then stand up and walk inland.

Antarctica Dream Adventure a King penguin shots out of the waves on his stomach
King Penguin returning from lunch
Antarctica Dream Adventure a King penguin stands and starts to walk after coming ashore
then stands up

After a slightly inelegant entrance, albeit avoiding the predator, after standing the walk is very nonchalant.


At this time of year the King Penguins are moulting. This process means that as their feathers are shedding their protection layer from the cold is being removed, thereby they cannot survive the temperatures of the water. This lasts for two to three weeks, but it means that the penguins cannot go to sea for food and that they are fasting for the entire period. It also means their chicks are fasting and do not really know why.

Antarctica Dream Adventure shows a molting King Penguin
King Penguin in the Molt

By this time the chicks are almost as tall as the adults and their fluffy fur coats make them look bigger than the adults. In a month or two the young will shed their “baby coat”, which has kept them warm during the harsh winter, and get their adult plumage. At this point they can go into the sea for the first time and start to feed themselves.

Antarctica Dream Adventure- King Penguin chicks in their "Baby Coats"
King Penguin chicks

Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

The Gentoo penguin is smaller than the King Penguin and is black and white with no other colored feathers. It has a bigger tail which swings from side to side as it walks.

To view Richard’s gallery of Gentoo Penguins click here.

Antarctica Dream Adventure a Gentoo Penguin walking up to the sand dunes  fighting the fierce wind
Gentoo Penguin walking up to the dunes

The King Penguin Colony

King Penguins huddle as a group to withstand cold
This year’s young wanting to be fed

Gentoo Nesting Area

The Gentoo Penguins build a nest for the incubation of their eggs, usually two eggs a season. The nest is usually built as a circle of small pebbles. However, at Volunteer Point the beach is sand and there are no pebbles so the Gentoo use mud.

Gentoo Nesting Area.
Nearly ever Gentoo Penguin is on their nest incubating the eggs.
Incubating the eggs.

Rufus-chested Dotterel (Zonibyx modestus)

Remembering that we are in the Southern Hemisphere, at the start of Summer, this is probably a breeding pair that have just arrived. They are not yet in full breeding plumage as the rufus on the front will develop down to the black band. The Falkland Islands are the southernmost and easternmost limits of their migration range.

Pair of Rufus-chested Dotterel

It is always great to see Shorebirds, wherever we are and it was somewhat unexpected here.

Gear: Nikon Z 8, Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S, Z TC-1.4x, iPhone SE

If you missed Penguins at West Point Harbour (Antarctica Dream Adventure 03) click here.

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Antarctica Dream Adventure 03 – Penguins At Last, West Point Island

Landing at West Point Island in the Falklands

The Falkland Islands are a remote South Atlantic archipelago.

Although the Falkland Islands are not deemed part of Antarctica, they are a British overseas territory, it was a thrill to be landing in such a famous place. West Point Island, situated on West Falkland Island, is owned by Roddy and Lily Napier and run as a sheep farm and a tourist attraction.

This shore outing had the promise to take us to view our first penguins and we were all excited. This was our first transfer from Octantis to shore in a zodiac boat. Each zodiac had adventurers and one expedition member as the operator. We transferred from the zodiac as a dry landing by getting onto the jetty.

Zodiac approaching West Falkland landing

We were greeted by Roddy and Lily as their first visitors of the season and they made us feel welcome. Seeing my cameras, Lily told me of the meadow lark with the bright red chest and if I was really lucky I would get the best shot of it perched on the top of the glorious gorse bushes that were now in peak yellow flower.

One hundred yards later ……..

Long-tailed Meadowlark on a Gorse Bush

J.J. the Expedition Leader had described this excursion as 1.2 miles each way and it would start with a steep uphill climb, after which it would level out and be easier. The hike was exactly as J.J. stated. The initial climb was hard, but then it was comfortable for the rest of the 2.4 miles.

As we set off Lily also said that the Upland Geese eggs had hatched the day before so we should look out for some little chicks on the way. We did note that there were lots of upland geese right at the start of our hike.

The View from the top of the hill

The beach almost looks tropical.
Gorse is non-native and considered an invasive species

The birds we saw on our hike to the breeding colony

Austral Thrush

Upland Geese

Photograph of a female Upland Goose on the grassland of West Point Island in the Falklands
Female Upland Goose
Striated Caracara
Dark-faced Ground-tyrant

We had now reached the entry point to the breeding colony having seen lots of Upland Geese, but no chicks!

West Point Breeding Colony

Rock-hopper Penguins (Click here to see complete gallery)

#Southern Rockhopper Penguins
Look you have made our son dirty!

See their rock hopping here

Black-browed Albatross (Click here to see complete gallery)

#Black-browed Albatross

Then to see part 1 of their SHOW click here

Then to see part 2 of their SHOW click here

Exiting from the trail to the breeding colony we finally saw the upland geese with their 5 one day old chicks.

Female Upland Goose with her five, one day old chicks

Our Just Rewards

At the end of the hike Roddy and Lily invited us for a nice cup of tea and their vast selection of home made cakes and biscuits. It was great to sit and enjoy a cup of real English tea. The cakes were just delicious.

Roddy and Lily Napier’s Home

View of Viking Octantis on our return

Crossing the downs on our way to the cup of tea
Viking Octantis at West Point Island from the top of the hill climb

Bio Security

As we were getting ready to get on the zodiac we walk through a scrubbing machine with a cleansing liquid in order to kill anything that might be on the soles of the boots.

When we returned to Octantis the bottoms of our boots were power washed and then we walked through the scrubbing machine again. The bottoms of the boots were inspected and if there was remnants from the hike, replacement boots were issued.

Gear: Nikon Z 8, Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S, Nikkor Z TC-1.4x, iPhone SE

If you wish to see Antarctica Dream Adventure 04 – Off-road to Volunteer Point and Penguins click here

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Antarctica Dream Adventure 02 – A Day at Sea and About Bio-Security.

Sailing from Ushuaia to West Point on West Falkland Island.

Continuing our pursuit of the No. 1 item on the Bucket List, Viking Octantis left its berth on the dockside of Ushuaia and headed to West Point Island in the Falklands.

Our first sailing in Viking Octantis was very smooth

We will be at sea for a day and anchor in the bay ready for our landings the next day, this is truly exciting as we approach the first destination on our adventure. That evening and overnight the ride was very smooth in Octantis. There was a swell of about 12 feet, but it was hardly noticeable especially as it was a following sea, so sleep was sound.

We woke up to early light in a very cloudy sky. The excellent design of Octantis allowed os to lower the top half of the window so we could see clearly the sky and I could take pictures without the window glass in the way.

Early morning sun on the first morning on Octantis

First Nature Watch

During the day at sea we spent a lot of time at the bow, the sharp end. It was windy as the ship was making 14+ knots, the light was poor and the ocean was slate grey. However, we did see some birds flying around the ship.

Black-browed Albatross getting lift from the waves and air currents

We saw a black-browed albatross. It was gliding over the surface of the ocean, using the waves for uplift and hardly flapping its wings. This is the flight style that all albatrosses are famous for. It was said that an albatross could circumnavigate the World with only flapping its wings four times.

The giant petrel was our most common visitor of the day. Flying over the waves and coming directly up and over the bow. it was close enough to see the details of the feathers across the top of the wings. Unlike the black-browed albatross it did flap its wings, but not too often, again using the air currents being created by the waves.

Giant Petrel riding the waves of the South Atlantic Ocean
Southern Fulmar

The southern fulmar was our third species keeping us company during the day. There were fewer of them than the giant petrel, but they are known to fly among the giant petrels.

What and Why is Bio Security?

Bio security are mandatory measures to prevent us introducing Avian Influenza to these most perfectly preserved regions on the planet.

Avian Influenza has now reached the Antarctica region and it is a very serious threat to the bird population. If introduced to the area, the results are very severe. In fact some of the areas that were planned for excursions had already been closed.

Avian Influenza Potential Impact

As a member of the International Association Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) Viking must provide us with a briefing of what is required and checks to make sure the procedures are followed by us.


The IAATO was founded in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic.

So, on our first day at sea, we had to attend mandatory briefings on Bio-Safety.

We had to report to the landing area to be fitted for boots, similar to Wellington boots, and waterproof trousers. At the same time we had to bring everything we would wear as an outer layer when we landed on West Point in the Falkland Islands the next day. The outer items were inspected and vacuumed to ensure we would not take contaminants onto West Point.

Gear: Nikon Z 8; Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S; Nikkor Z TC-1.4x iPhone SE

If you wish to see Antarctica Dream Adventure 03 please click here

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Antarctica Dream Adventure 01 – Ushuaia Southernmost City in the World

The Adventure starts – Circling to Land at Ushuaia

First Impression of Ushuaia

My initial impression was “I could easily spend two weeks here before embarking for the cruise!”. The view was stunning.

I just love snow covered mountains, they are so irresistible.

Ushuaia with Monte Olivia dominating the background

However, strangely, they would not delay the cruise for two weeks to accommodate me.

Where is Ushuaia?

Ushuaia is an Argentinian city set on the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego, an island at the tip of the South American continent, which is part Argentinian and part Chilean. It is the starting point for most Antarctic cruises, separated from the Antarctic peninsula by the notorious Drake Passage.

We had all spent the previous night at the “gathering grounds” in Buenos Aires and then flown down to Ushuaia the next morning in a series of flights. Being on one of the early flights, there was time to embark on the Viking Octantis Exploration ship, settle in and get to know the layout of the ship. It was curious that they immediately collected our passports – did they worry that we might try to escape mid cruise?

The weather was overcast and grey, but that said “Black and White” to me, which I just love for landscapes anyway.

Monochrome images from Ushuaia on Tierra del Fuego

Click on image to see larger format

Monte Olivia showing the folds in the strata
Shafts of sunlight through the heavy clouds
This is the beginning of Summer for Antarctica
Snow capped Andes mountains of Tierra del Fuego
Looking across The Beagle Channel
More snow capped Andes mountains of Tierra del Fuego

Viking Octantis

Viking Octantis docked in Ushuaia
Our Stateroom

To see all of Richard’s images from Ushuaia please click HERE

Gear: Nikon Z 8, Nikkor Z 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 VR S, Nikkor Z TC-1.4x, DxO Nik 6 Silver Efex, iPhone SE

If you wish to catch Antarctica Dream Adventure 02 please click here.

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Muskoxen in Nome, Alaska

Muskox (Ovibos Moschatus) – the bearded one (umingmak)

Woods Cree name “mathimos” means “ugly moose”

Muskox live in herds of 12 to 24 in the winter and 8 to 20 in the summer. Although they do not migrate, they will range about 50 miles between summer and winter. They have a distinctive defensive behavior: when the herd is threatened, the adults will face outward to form a stationary ring or semicircle to surround the calves.

This amazing stocky, long-haired, hoofed mammal with a slight shoulder hump has a life span of between 12 and 20 years. It is noted for its thick coat and for the strong odor emitted by the males during the seasonal rut, from which its name is derived.

Mature bulls can weigh from 600 to 800 pounds while mature cows are between 400 and 500 pounds. Both sexes have a thick skull and horns used for defense, however the horns of the bulls are larger and heavier. Calves are generally born from April to June and grow to 250 pounds in their first 6 months.In modern times, muskoxen were restricted to the Arctic areas of Northern Canada, Greenland and Alaska. By the late 1800s Muskoxen had been over hunted, leaving populations only in Eastern Greenland and Arctic Canada. Through restoration and conservation efforts they are once again found throughout the Arctic.

In Alaska there are now about 4,300. Both male and female muskox have long, curved horns and a small tail that is often concealed under a thick layer of fur. Their coat, a mix of black, gray and brown, includes long guard hairs that almost reach the ground. The wool, called qiuviut, is highly prized for its softness, length and insulation value.

We saw quite a few muskox during our wonderful visit to Nome, Alaska – some near the town but most out on the tundra visible from the “highway” roads we drove each day while exploring the area. What magnificent creatures.

Qiviut or Wool is highly prized for softness, length and insulation factor
Signs of damage to boss (horn base) during battle

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