Robin's Adventures

Antarctic Expedition
A Party with Penguins

Surrounded by Whales

We didn't have to wait for long before we spotted a pod of Humpback whales. The whales would pop up for a breath every 600 to 900 feet and we would see the telltale blow as they exhaled.

As they got closer, we could see the small dorsal fin on their backs and their distinctive tail flukes. Specific whales can be identified by the markings on their flukes, which are like fingerprints for Humpbacks.

Bubble Feeding

Humpbacks have developed a unique form of cooperative hunting called bubble feeding. Several whales will dive below a large group of fish and begin to slowly rise to the surface, swimming in smaller and smaller circles around the fish while blowing air bubbles.

The bubbles cause the fish to move toward the center of the circle, which keeps getting smaller and smaller. Finally, the whales swim up through the center of the circle with their mouths open to capture the fish.

Not only is the bubble pattern visible at the surface of the ocean, but also it attracts large numbers of sea birds that enjoy the opportunity to catch any fish near the surface that the whales may have missed.

Hungry Humpbacks

Humpback whales have about 15 to 35 throat grooves that run down their chin to the top of their belly. These grooves allow the throat to expand when the whale takes in large quantities of fish and water.

The whale then uses its tongue to push out the excess water through a series of large baleen plates that hang from their upper jaw.

We could see the whales with their lower jaw and throat sticking out of the water just after they reached the surface. Then, as they prepared to dive, we saw the small dorsal fin on their arched back followed by their tail flukes. The feeding process was an interesting spectacle to observe.

Heading for Home

Meanwhile, on the bridge of Le Lyreal, Captain Le Rouzic and his crew set a course for Ushuaia. It would take two days of travel through the rough waters of the Drake Passage before we would see land again.

About Town in Ushuaia

Now the city of Ushuaia is a jumping off point for visitors who want to go to Tierra del Fuego National Park or depart on an Antarctic cruise, but the city itself has an unusual past that involves convicted criminals that were "one step shy of the death penalty."

A federal penitentiary was built here in 1902 and the prisoners did most of the building. In fact, most of the town infrastructure was built by the forced labor of the convicts, who were first taken by train into the forest to chop trees into lumber.

Carbajal Valley

A bus brought us to a scenic overlook with a wonderful view of the Carbajal Valley. The valley is mostly a peat bog filled with sphagnum moss and is surrounded by spiky snow dusted peaks.

We stopped at a facility that was a summer residence for sled dogs and saw lamb roasting by a fire at a nearby restaurant.

Second Star on the Right and Straight on Until Morning

When you decide to visit the ends of the earth, it is going to take a long time to get back home. Our journey took us from Ushuaia to Buenos Aries, to Dallas, then to Los Angeles.

The trip took 26.5 hours to get from Ushuaia to LAX. About 18 hours of that time was in the air, the rest of that time was spent waiting in airports. We enjoyed our adventure, but it was good to be home!