Third time lucky?

Once we reach the edge of the fast ice between Snow Hill and James Ross Islands we park the ship in the ice. From there we need our helicopters to make the final push towards the colony. The past day was spent pushing southwards through the ice and having a practice run for the helicopter ops with the passengers (without flying itself that is). We’ve encountered several small groups or lone Emperor Penguins on our way, so we’re doing quite well in that respect. But, would it be possible to get to the colony? Before we make that decision, we first need to find the colony and see if it is possible to find a suitable landing site ca. 1km away and make a safe walking path from the landing site to the colony. For this, we sent out a reconnaissance flight.


Emperor Penguin colony at Snow Hill Island

For me, this is the third time I do this trip. The previous two times I never managed to be on this reconnaissance flight as it’s usually done by two pilots, the Expedition Leader and his/her assistant. And in both cases the result of the flight was that the ice was too rotten to land a helicopter safely, so no more flights were made. So even though I was close twice, I had never seen the colony (or any other for that matter).


This time, however, I was the assistant, meaning at least I would get the opportunity to be on this flight. And yes, it starts to look really promising: we found the colony and even better, the ice around it looks rock solid! Will it indeed be ‘third time lucky’ and will we finally pull it off again??? Now it’s mainly depending on the weather, cross fingers that we will make it this time!

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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