Weather: Clear skies, bright sunlight, calm seas
Air Temperature: 4C
What a day!!! What a magnificent day!!!
Antarctica really put on the most impressive show for us today – from the early 5 am start to the final hours of the night. It is going to be nearly impossible to describe the utter beauty and splendor of the day, but I will give it my best attempt.
Today we were planning three main activities – an early morning (and I mean EARLY morning) landing at Brown Bluff, followed by a midday Zodiac cruise at Kinnes Cove, followed by a ship’s cruise of the tabular icebergs found near the Antarctic Sound.
Last night I had cringed at the idea of waking up at 4:30 am for a 5:00 am standby time, but as soon as my alarm went off I knew I was in for a splendid day – there were only slight winds, the sun was shining brightly, and the icebergs were glistening!! As the Expedition Team loaded the Zodiacs and headed ashore to scout, it became obvious that this was going to be an incredible outing.
We had the first couple of groups ashore by 6:00 am, and they were immediately surrounded by hundreds of cute and entertaining Adelie Penguins; this was what we had come to see – a large rookery of these small characters. It was only a short 5-minute walk along the pebble beach to the rookery where the Adelies put on a continuous comic show of waddling around, pecking at one another and many other antics that gave us a good giggle. There were hundreds of fluffy black chicks that were so fat that they were incredibly pear-shaped. We watched as they endlessly hassled their parents for more food, and when they got it, they stuck their heads right up and inside the mouth of the parent feeding them.
After about an hour at the rookery we then made our way over to the other side where Juan Restrepo, our geologist, led us on a steep walk over a moraine to the nearby glacier. He pointed out its many features and explained all about the glacier and how it formed. The views of the bay and the icebergs were breathtaking.
The last group was back onboard the Prince Albert II by 9:30am, but only for about two hours. By 11:30 I was back in a Zodiac picking up guests from the sidegate, and heading off for a 1½-hour Zodiac cruise of Kinnes Bay on Joinville Island.
The sun was still shining and it lit up the icebergs in shades of white and blue. Not more than 5 minutes into the cruise, I spotted the first seal of the trip – a Weddell seal hauled out on a rock and surrounded by penguins. But for me, the highlight was a long chain of floating salps – nearly 40 cm long. These jellyfish-like animals are part of the plankton and feed on phytoplankton in the water by drawing water in one side and squirting it out the other. The chain is formed by a series of individual salps that come together during their reproductive stage.
We saw some more Weddell seals and a solitary crabeater seal hauled out on the ice. But probably the most impressive sight was a huge iceberg close to a hundred meters high. It was absolutely beautiful and we must have taken several hundred photos just in our Zodiac alone.
On the way back to the ship we passed a large rookery of Adelie penguins and marveled at how they managed to climb up the steep rocky inclines to get to the high ridges – it must use up an incredible amount of energy every time that they make the trip from sea to nest and back!
Once we were all aboard, Captain Peter Stahlberg headed into the sound through a maze of HUGE – and I mean MASSIVE – tabular icebergs. Some of these icebergs were several city blocks in area. The outer decks were lined with guests gazing in amazement at the sheer size and beauty of these ice structures.
As the sun set I sat at dinner with several guests and reviewed the day – laughing and exclaiming at the memories that we made today.
What a day!! What a magnificent day!!!