The first landing with the new company was also a shock. While the Cheeseman's staff was plentiful and emphasized safety at all times, the Oceanwide staff was sparse and there was no thought to safety demonstrated by anyone that I saw except the leftover Cheeseman's staff member. The zodiac landing was awful, with a very difficult clambor on the ice. It was quite hard to get out of the zodiac and climb up onto the ice without pitching into the water, hitting rocks, or stepping on a dangerous ice shelf. I am noooo athlete and always trying not to dislocate a shoulder or otherwise injure myself, but I was more concerned about a few of my fellow passengers from the S. Georgia trip who were a bit older than me. Since no staff was around to help with disembarking, once I got ashore I helped haul other people up onto the ice shelf, watching until the "S. Georgia people" who were like minded were all ashore (I also helped plenty of young Europeans, but I was less worried about their ability to make it). I was appalled at the poor choice of landing spot. While Cheeseman's had taken great care to ensure all passengers could safely get ashore (I once saw an elderly woman assisted by three staff until she got her footing, and one thereafter), you could basically fall through the ice here and no one at Oceanwide would notice. (A fact I later proved, unfortunately).
Another complication was that the landing site was so full of people, it was very challenging to try and get photos without people in them. It was also super, super annoying to see non-wildlife people in the middle of the penguins, who clearly did not care a whit about the penguins other than getting a selfie with a few. There was even a guy who was more interested in spreading a flag and taking photos of it laying on the ice (right in the way of the penguins) than anything else. Barf.
|A Gentoo penguin comes ashore in snow|
|Leucistic Gentoo in the colony|
I had not ever seen the equivalent of an albino bird, but in the colony of Gentoos there was a leucistic penguin, very pale. It did not seem to be ostracized by the others, but certainly stood out.
|The reddish stuff on the snow is penguin poop, colored by pink krill|
|A lone Gentoo heads up the slopes; perhaps an introvert|
|Penguins swam in a small bay below the colony|
|A blue eyed shag - the blue eyes really were stunning, even for a non-birder|
The Antarctica portion of this trip was quite a contrast. Music, lots of people drinking and talking, almost no one reading or processing photos in the one common area - the bar. Once again the contrast in the type of passenger was stark between the two journeys aboard the same ship. It was more like a library area the first trip and a night club the second. It was strange to see the staff remain largely the same, but the bartender did change as the original bartender had gone on holiday to the Phillipines, where he was from, for the second part of the journey. All the Oceanwide ship staff were very nice and efficient. I can't say the same for their expedition guides.
If we had not been to S. Georgia, maybe it would not have been so disappointing. However, given what we had experienced already, the landing was exceedingly disappointing on many levels. At least there had been some wildlife, even if species we had already seen. However, Antarctica seemed to be far more about scenery so far than wildlife, and the journey was far too difficult and expensive for me to justify for mere scenery.