While Som was way too hungover from the previous night's festivities, I was somehow able to pull myself out of my hungover bed to get out to see the phenomenal columnar basalt formations of Cape Stolbchatiy! These were perhaps the most impressive formations I haver seen.
Spectacular Pirchy Falls on Kunishir Island.
Iturup Volcano on Iturup Island. We spent the better part of a full day exploring this spectacular island with its lakes, calderas and massive shield volcanoes. Here we saw an amazing diversity of floral communities, including the subtropical Kuril Bamboo forests as well as Sakhalin Silver Fir/Stone Birch mixed forests.
Our spectacular approach to Urup Island. These three phenomenal waterfalls simply added to the unbelievable beauty of this island. Initially the seas were too rough here to land but as we arrived, everything magically calmed enough for our landing. Here we trekked for hours exploring this phenomenal wilderness. On the way back to ship, we were able to pace a moving pod of Kuril Orca. A sublime evening.
The waterfalls of Urup Island
The fog starting to envelope Urup Island. Perhaps more than the wildlife of the Kurils, which was outstanding, the scenery stood out as the most impressive aspect of our trip there.
Another shipwreck, this one on Onekotan Island. This was a great landing which allowed for some serious jungle trekking in the island's interior. I also spotted a quick Kuril Island Lemming heading back in to its den. During this delightfully sunny day, the weather turned ugly quickly and we had to have an emergency evacuation in order to get out safely without injury. Ironically, as the crew was screaming at me with their bullhorns, I ran back to the shore, tripping, injuring my leg, breaking my lens and nearly cracking a rib! Inexperienced crew can be dangerous and these blokes were grossly iniexperienced.
Photographers dream of this sort of light. This was the calm before the storm on Onekotan Island during our stay there. At least we had already experienced much of what the island had to offer.
After waiting a couple hours, the impressive shield volcano of Paramushir Island finally popped out of the low-lying clouds. While the weather during our Kuril Islands expedition was rough for a good part of the trip, we had daily moments of spectacular views. Perhaps the sour weather actually allowed us to appreciate these moments even more.
A foggy morning allowing spectacular images of the massive mountains of Paramushir Island.
Impressive shield volcanoes are the normal topography of virtually all of the Kuril Islands. These were seen in the late afternoon haze at Iturup Island.
The impressive landscape of Shimushir Island as we passed by on the way to Urup Island.
Cokie actually had some playmates during the Kuril Islands Expedition. The funny (or sad) part of this family's trip was that they actually thought they were booking a typical Carnival-style cruise, not an ecotour. While this Moscow family took some time to adapt, they finally got in to the experience and ended up enjoying themselves. There were several Russian tourists on this expedition who seemed to have been told the cruise was going to be different than it actually was. Some of them were pissed off the entire trip and even refused to do landings!
Our amazing treks of Urup Island rank as some of my favorite of the entire expedition.
Cokie and Som below the spectacular Urup Island falls.