Hey! My name is Kyle Donnelly, a recent graduate from Texas A&M. This is my first time in the Antarctic, and I am stoked to be here. It’s also my first time south of the equator. This whole experience is crazy. The Antarctic is fascinating; It’s such a strange otherworldly environment, nothing like anything I've seen before. When I woke up, I looked out the porthole and saw icebergs for miles. After weeks out at sea with nothing on the horizon, the icebergs are a very welcome change. Earlier in the day I was out on deck working when I saw a decent sized iceberg approaching with some small black dots on it, and when it floated closer I saw that it was penguins! I wish I had a camera on me. Seeing penguins made my day. People here tell me that I’m going to get bored of seeing them but I don’t believe that’s going to happen. Its crazy seeing them for real, in the wild instead of in a zoo or aquarium. At the beginning of 2020 I would not have guessed I’d be seeing wild penguins by the end of the year, but here I am! It’s been a blast.
The trip down here was full of different experiences. Sailing down here I was able to see the stars on cloudless nights, and the stars were the brightest I had ever seen them. The zodiac constellations in the sky at the time were beautiful and in full view; Capricornus the Sea-goat, Aquarius the water bearer, especially Sagittatius, the centaur hunter with his giant bow stretching across the night sky. Saturn, Jupiter and Mars were all visible as well; I was able to watch them slowly move across the night sky, seeing them in different positions each night. They say the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas, but that doesn’t hold a candle to the beauty of the ocean sky at night.
The change in the weather has been fun; A few weeks ago I was standing out on the bow in a t-shirt and light pants, now out there I need to get all bundled up if I’m spending any long period of time out there. It really started getting cold once we entered the straits of Magellan, which was easily the most beautiful scenery I’d ever seen. Beautiful white capped mountains accompanied by glaciers and clouds; we could not have asked for a more beautiful day to sail through the Straits.
Last night we went through our first patch of sea ice, which was a much louder experience than I was expecting! It sounded like a giant white noise machine was outside the boat. I was in the galley eating when it happened the first time, and when I heard it I wasn’t quite sure what was happening, I assumed someone on the boat was moving heavy equipment across the floor. When it happened again the boat rocked a little bit; I got up and went to the porthole. Outside I saw a sea of ice chunks surrounding the boat.
Sampling is going very well, we're seeing such fascinating creatures. There is a wonderful biodiversity here in the Antarctic, I've added some photos of my favorites like a large stony coral (Flabellum) we found, along with some very orange anemones and these neat snails (Harpovoluta charcoti) that have anemones (Isocisionis alba) on their backs! We're finding more neat stuff every day!
I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the Icy Inverts expedition. This whole experience is one I’ll remember the rest of my life.