Tag Archives: Antarctica

Asado in Ushuaia, Argentina

Before setting off for Antarctica in December 2006, we expeditioners spent a few days in our port city, Ushuaia—the southernmost city in Argentina, and the closest in the world to Antarctica via the Drake Passage.

Ushuaia, asado, Argentina, lamb

It was here I had my first introduction to a lifelong obsession: the Argentinian asado. The traditional asado is a four-hour method for grilling meat that locks in the succulent flavor and moisture without adding much additional seasoning except salt. Here, they made lamb in an upright position, but most at-home asados take place horizontally, over a three-foot long grill, out of convenience. The one thing they always have in common? Open fire.

asado de cordero, lamb, Argentina, Ushuaia

The typical side dishes at an asado are other meats, such as chorizo or morcilla (blood sausage). Salad consists of chopped lettuce, cubed tomatoes and sometimes onions—in three separate bowls—each with vegetable oil drizzled over the top. Though potatoes aren’t as common, they were an accoutrement at this asado, likely to satisfy the tourists’ palate.

asado, Ushuaia, Argentina, cordero, lamb

Serve your asado with red wine or a stiff drink (may I recommend Fernet Branca and Coca Cola?) and spend all day at the table enjoying the company. (It will take that long to consume all that cordero!)

Tara for TKGO

Shot of the Week

penguins, antarctica, tara and karina go out, tkgo

…And this is why penguins are considered birds. Another snap from Antarctica. (Can you tell I’m jonesing for it?)

Tara for TKGO

Shot of the Week

Antarctica’s massive icebergs are literally floating eye candy, like this non-tabular gem caught at a rare sunset moment. (There are only four hours of darkness during the summer, so it’s hard to be awake at sunset!) Gran and I like to think of it as an igloo at the wrong pole.

Tara for TKGO

Antarctica: The Summertime Penguin Guide

In the peninsular and continental regions the National Geographic Explorer took us, summertime brings adelies, gentoos, chinstraps and the rare emperor penguin. How to tell them apart? Here’s a nifty guide. (Hint: It’s not hard.)

 

On board the National Geographic Explorer, a poster plots penguin species' locations. The Antarctic Peninsula (and colder temps) is at the bottom left.

 

The Adelie

At half the size of an emperor penguin, an adelie is one of the smallest penguin species. They are entirely black and white, and prefer colder climates.

The Gentoo

The easiest way to tell a gentoo apart from other penguin species is by the orange beak. They prefer moderate climates and can be found on the Falkland Islands and South Georgia as well as the Antarctic Peninsula.

The Chinstrap

Chinstraps are small like adelies, but like to hang out in sub-Antarctic climates like the gentoos. As adorable as they are, they are among the meanest penguin species.

The Emperor

Rarely seen on expeditions because they prefer colder inland climates, emperor penguins have a later mating period, making their chicks less likely to survive the winter and more worthy of their own Morgan Freeman-approved documentary. We were lucky enough to spot two emperors on different days, hunting alone near the water’s edge on the continent.

As Antarctica approaches summer, these birds will be making their appearances once again. TKGO’s Antarctica Week(s) may be coming to a close, but you’ll see plenty more in the Shot of the Week every Sunday. If you’re having withdrawal, just send me an email at Tara(at)TaraAndKarinaGoOut.com and we’ll see if we can make some of these photos into wallpaper for your apartment.

Happy exploring!

Tara for TKGO

Antarctica: What’s Eating that Penguin?

Boy meets penguin.

The Antarctic food chain is basic enough: Penguins rule on land. But they eat krill, and must venture into the sea to find it. Killer whales and seals feed on penguins, making the penguins’ necessary trips into the water dangerous.

Obviously this cycle misses the fish, predatory birds and krill-eating humpback whales, among other things, but you get the idea. But who’s bothering the penguins?

The Whales

Humpbacks (above) and killer whales are common in the Drake Passage and the waters surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula and continent. Although humpbacks feed on krill and fish, not penguins, killer whales are the penguins’ most deadly enemy. But the whales don’t always win…

If you’re having trouble accepting penguin death, watch this gentoo penguin outsmart an entire pod of killer whales, from FailBlog:

The Seals

It’s no wonder penguins are speedy swimmers and slow waddlers. Seals are more vicious predators under water, but they’re even slower and lazier than penguins when on land. The Crabeater seal (above) looks violent but eats krill and small fish — leopard seals eat their pups! This Weddell seal (below) preys on the occasional penguin but looks harmless on land. This makes for quite an interesting dynamic: Penguins will waddle within inches of Weddell seals on land, but in the ocean? Swim faster.

The Airborne Predators

I know, I said penguins are safe on land. And they are — but their chicks have some trouble.

Skuas love dive bombing into nests to snatch a weak one or two while the parents are away. But not all Antarctic birds are penguin Godzillas! Petrels, sheathbills, shags and terns are the seagulls of the South, and feed only on krill and fish. At least you can smile when they fly past with a catch.

Last but not least, stay tuned for a penguin guide, coming Friday!

Tara for TKGO

Antarctica: The Research

That little red dot in the bottom right hand corner? That’s a hut.

Antarctica dwarfs all human activity. Even a Frank Lloyd Wright, in place of that little red shack, doesn’t stand a chance against these towers of ice and snow. And this might be the reason why marine biologists, naturalists, geologists, penguin researchers and explorers love Antarctica more than Heidi Montag loves plastic surgery.

 

December 22, 2006: The greatest igneous rock your 7th grade science teacher never showed you is actually a landmass, and a geologist's dream.

 

Our expedition offered a little of everything. Dennis, a marine biologist, reported his findings in videos and photos every day after scuba diving to the bottom of the ocean. Jason Kelley, a geologist and naturalist, explained how the results of volcanic activity can be seen most clearly in Antarctica, where land is relatively unchanged since its formation because of a lack of vegetation.

Mike Polito, one of the many penguin researchers and a grad student at the time, taught me how to count penguins (with a counter) and use the results to track each species’ migration patterns.

Sometimes counting penguins is hard…

…and sometimes it’s too easy.

On the other end of the spectrum is Soames Summerhays, a National Geographic IMAX documentary filmmaker, who was filming a documentary on the continent and its wildlife. (As far as I am aware, it has not yet been released.) The two of us co-wrote a daily expedition report (DER) for the National Geographic ship logs about our day in Brown Bluff.

Research bases

Research bases became a way for countries to lay claim over different areas of Antarctica in the 1800s and 1900s. Chile, Argentina and Great Britain fought for over a century over borders in Patagonia and on the continent, and all still lay claim to overlapping territories. But who’s counting now, when neither Chile nor Argentina have active research bases in Antarctica?

 

International graffiti on old silos near the 1920's-era Chilean base

 

As there is no one able to haul off huge metal silos (not to mention nowhere to recycle them), this abandoned 1920’s-era Chilean research station is left to rust and wear in the elements.

 

An abandoned boat in the volcanic crater

 

This once-thriving Chilean base sits in the bed of a volcanic crater. The choice was ideal because the sea is calm, the rocks break the wind, and icebergs and debris don’t generally make it that far.

Port Lockroy

The Chileans and Argentinians don’t have research bases, but the British do! Port Lockroy is an active British research station on an island in the Antarctic Peninsula, and it’s the only active base left on the continent.

 

Researchers bunk in this room at Port Lockroy.

 

The base has been declared a historical monument and is funded entirely by people like me who bought dozens of penguin keychains and Antarctica postcards in the gift shop. It’s run by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, a charity set up in 1993 to restore the station’s buildings and preserve human history in the Antarctic.

 

Beware the strong winds! (They blew a little kid right off this entrance ramp to Port Lockroy and into a patch of nesting penguins to left, below the frame. Oops.)

 

For more of what’s going on now at Port Lockroy, check out the UKAHT’s Port Lockroy Diaries, written by researchers and logged on the site as far back as 2003. Read the most recent Port Lockroy entry to find out how researchers prep for four months at the south pole. Now how do we get jobs on that base…

Tara for TKGO

Shot of the Week

On especially clear days in Antarctica, when the sky and ocean are the same color, the icebergs and their reflections look like floating islands against a blue background.

Tara for TKGO