Day 6 |
Jan 12, 2010

Paradise Harbour, Neko Harbour

By Fritz Jantschke, Zoologist

Co-ordinates: 64 o 54.2’S 62o 51.6’W

Weather: Sunny, warm - beautiful

Air Temperature: 5º C

Pressure: 1005HPa

When I wake up around 5 o’clock, we are already well in Gerlache Strait, and I hurry out on deck as quickly as possible to see all the marvelous scenery and hopefully also wildlife. On the Bridge I am informed that only one whale was seen so far, resting peacefully on the surface. Many fulmars are flying around the ship and also some other seabirds. However, during the next hours I can spot only two Minke whales passing us. Great scenery of course, but not much else to talk about.

At 7:30 we arrive at Almirante Brown, an Argentinean station. It seems to be deserted this year. We are getting ready for action quickly, and at 8:15 the first Zodiac with guests is leaving the ship. In the end, seven of them are roaming the area. After observing a small rookery of gentoo penguins at the station, with some kelp gulls and Antarctic terns flying and the notorious Sheathbills milling about, we come to many nests of Antarctic shags high up in the cliffs. Their brown chicks are eagerly begging for food.

After admiring some fantastic icebergs in great shapes and colors I am searching the bay for greater things – and detect some seals lying on ice shelves. Zodiac driver Chris steers us gladly to the scene: Three crabeater seals are happily resting on the cold ice. In the distance I see another seal lying on a small ice flow. It turns out to be a leopard seal, the top predator and major enemy of the penguins in the Antarctic. It has absolutely no objection against posing for some nice photographs.

We are hardly finished with this photo session, when Expedition Leader Rich informs us that he is with some Minke whales. Of course we rush to that scene and can follow a couple of these smallest of the baleen whales for quite a while. At the end we are in vain trying to find “our” leopard seal again. We have to return to the ship and take on the next group of guests for another exciting tour of one and a half hours showing great scenery and wonderful wildlife (this time also the third seal species, a Weddell). All of our guests are happy about their morning excursion in one of the most beautiful areas of the Antarctic.

The cruise to our next destination is only short, but very scenic. And Neko Harbour presents itself in all its splendid grandeur in brilliant sunshine. The gentoo penguins breeding there apparently are very much behind schedule. Most chicks are still young, and there are even some eggs under the devoted parents. Most of the guests venture up the steep slope to enjoy the marvelous view over the bay with the gentoos breeding in various places. The brave ones even dare to do the sleigh-ride down a steep descent – and then have to wade almost knee-deep in soft snow. Others prefer to stay down at the beach to enjoy the warm summer day. They are rewarded by a Weddell seal that hauls itself out on the beach and has a leisurely rest there.

After this great landing, Captain Peter decides to give us another treat by cruising through beautiful Gerlache Strait again. It is such a lovely day that it is almost a shame to go to The Restaurant to have dinner. But thank goodness the dining room offers an excellent view, and so we have a most enjoyable finale to a great day with much more sunshine than anybody ever expected in the Antarctic. guests as we watched the Southern Ocean wash by, now that over half of our passage to the Antarctic Peninsula is complete.