Day 7 |
Jan 09, 2012

Cape Renard and Port Lockroy

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist lecturer

Co-ordinates: 64º54’01”S, 63º37’36”W
Weather: On and off sun with some overcast
Air Temperature: 0ºC

I love Antarctica!!!

Days like today do not come along everyday! We woke up to bright sunshine and calm seas. As I climbed into my Zodiac and prepared for the morning Zodiac tours, I sat amazed by the beauty surrounding me – the brilliant white snow sparkling in the sun contrasted starkly with the black rocks of the mountains, and the blues and whites of the icebergs really stood out against the dark blue of the ocean. We were drifting off Cape Renard, just to the north of the Lemaire Channel, and were preparing for a Zodiac tour into a small bay called Hidden Bay. This is really one of my favorite places for a Zodiac tour because every time I am here we get lots of great seal and whale sightings – and it didn’t fail this time either!

Within the first couple minutes we had found a ice floe with 3 crabeater seals lying on it. They simply do not mind Zodiacs, and we floated nearby for quite some time getting some wonderful photos of these cute seals. Next, we found a solitary leopard seal. These are the largest of all seal species down here in Antarctica, and look totally different. Whereas the crabeaters have a very light coloured, almost silvery fur coat, the leopard seals are much darker and often splotchy. But its when the leopard seal lifts its head that you really see the difference – their heads are HUGE – big, heavy and very dangerous looking. In fact, they really DO have a huge mouth – and it can open about 130 degrees – which is why these seals are so good at catching and eating penguins and other crabeater seals. But the ones we saw today were placidly resting on the ice floes and barely took any notice of the Zodiacs and the millions of photos that were being taken.

As we headed back to the ship at the end of the last tour, Robin West, our Expedition Leader, announced that he had spotted a pod of orcas near the ship – so off we all went to catch a glimpse of these majestic animals. And we did!!! A pod of 8 Orca whales swam past us – with the dominant male easily recognizable with his 2m tall dorsal fin! Amazing!!!

During lunch the ship sailed on towards our next destination – Port Lockroy and Jouglar Point. Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated by the time we arrived and the winds were gusting at about 30 knots and the skies were grey. However, that did not stop any of the guests from getting out and visiting this quaint old station, with its museum and souvenir shop. And…of post postcards. Port Lockroy is the southernmost post office in the world!

Most of the guests, after their visit to Port Lockroy, then ventured across to Jouglar Point to see hundreds of gentoo penguins and even a few nesting blue-eyed shags. Overall, it was a beautiful day and there was a lot of good chatter and conversation later at Recap & Briefing, and at dinner!