The day started with incredibly calm conditions but lots of ice in Neko Harbour under mostly cloudy skies. A scout Zodiac went out to check the feasibility of landing on the mainland and found that it was, indeed, possible to get the Zodiacs through the thick brash ice to reach a good landing spot on the beach. Gentoo penguins greeted us and almost immediately started to use the snow steps Travis created in order to get up of the snow ledges and off the beach.
Riëtte called for embarkation of the hikers and we were very surprised and pleased to welcome 95 guests to the shore for a short but rather steep hike up to the lookout point over the glacier and ice-filled harbour.
Just about everyone succeeded in reaching the top and conditions were so calm that many guests sat down on the snow and enjoyed the sweeping glacier views and the peacefulness until we were all delighted by two different glacier calving events. The first one dropped a large chunk of ice into the water, which created a small concentric wake. The other occurred on the portion of the glacier that had receded up onto the rock face.
Snow conditions were too icy for long sledding runs but Brad was able to find us a safe run in a short, steep section where it was actually easier to slide on your backside than hike down the hill. On the return to the landing site, we set the trail as a loop around the Gentoo Penguin colonies so that everyone had another chance to enjoy the penguins building tall nests of pebbles on rocky slopes and watch the amusing pebble stealing techniques used my various members of the rookeries.
Along the trail, we also viewed a variety of devices used by scientists and researchers in the area, including a glacier camera, an automatic weather station and penguin cameras.
After lunch, we were called out to the outer decks to see whales, which turned out to be 5 orcas, including one male. Those who were fast enough putting on their outdoor gear got an up-close view of the pod. Those who were a little slower getting ready had to be satisfied with Brad’s photos of the killer whales during recap. He also showed an outstanding video of the mind-bogglingly clever group hunting technique employed by killer whales. Unfortunately, we did not get to witness that amazing display today.
Our “Expedition Afternoon” continued with an attempt to be the first expedition cruise ship to successfully make it through the Lemaire Channel this season. All of the conditions were excellent and as we approached Booth Island, we saw that success looked quite possible.
Not only were we able to get through the entire 7-mile long and incredibly scenic passage, but the clouds lifted and we had gorgeous sunlight and visible peaks along its entire length. It seemed as though all guests were out on one of the outer decks and everyone remained there or glued to a window in awe of the glorious sea ice floes, glaciers, and majestic peaks.
In high spirits, the guests joined us for Recap & Briefing with bright pink faces from their full day out in the sun and the breeze in the Lemaire Channel. Kara explained that we were currently already at Port Lockroy, tomorrow’s planned morning destination, but that the ice conditions may prevent us from landing.
We ended our evening with memory cards full of images and with high hopes of continued great luck for 100% landing success and fantastic weather. Fingers crossed…