Day 14 |
Jan 26, 2012

The Antarctic Peninsula

By Shoshanah Jacobs, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 53o 00’ S, 063o 00’ W
Air Temperature: 3.5o C
Pressure: 1002 HPa
Wind: 15 km / hour
Weather: Sunny and warm

When we woke up this morning to an announcement at 05.00 with a weather report that included strong winds, cloudy skies, and high waves, I thought: finally! Our guests are going to experience a typical day in Antarctica. But no, it would not last. By the time we entered the Lemaire Channel, one of the most beautiful ship navigations ever, the winds had already begun to calm. There wasn’t a lot of ice to slow our progress and we slalomed around the large bits taking many photos of the spectacular mountains all around us. Once at the southern end of the Channel, we noticed some seals resting on the ice floes. Though the ice was quite thick, covering all of the surface of the sea, the pieces were quite small and our ship was able to make its way slowly to get a closer look at the crabeater seals that were enjoying the morning sun.

Then we were back up the Lemaire Channel and just around the corner to do a Zodiac cruise in and around the ice of Hidden Bay. The weather was glorious and only got nicer! What incredible luck to find even more crabeater seals on the ice. And this time we got a better view from the Zodiacs!

We packed up the Zodiacs quickly and headed back up north through the famous Paradise Bay and as we quickly hoovered food into our bodies, our guests were overwhelmed by glaciers, ice, calm blue skies, and heavenly scenery like from a landscape of Narnia… without the trees of course.

A sharp turn to the right took us closer to Neko Harbour and we prepared once again to drop the Zodiacs. This time we were offering a Zodiac cruise and landing combination. Though I didn’t get to land this time, I was so happy to hang out with guests in the boats. The weather just got better. We had seals and humpback whales and beautiful mirror calm conditions. What a pleasure it was to share this time with incredibly enthusiastic guests over a tiny glass of whiskey on the glacier ice rocks!

We were just about the clear the landing site and pack things up but then one of my colleagues, Uli, called in a Leopard seal spotted on the ice! And so off we were again bringing guests out to see the seal just before returning them to the ship!

Back on board was a bit of a blur. We had to order a separate meal to be eaten later than the crew mess was open so we wolfed all the food down rather quickly. Then, just as the last French fry was taken, a call came on our radios: orcas hunting humpback whales spotted ahead of the ship!

Unbelievable! One guest had told me privately that this was, apart from his wedding day and the births of his children, the best day ever. He told me that in the early afternoon. I could only imagine what he was thinking now. Of course dinner in The Restaurant was totally interrupted and I remember thinking how patient our restaurant staff are… but that is okay, because they came out on deck too. We watched for about thirty minutes as three humpback whales worked tirelessly to stay together – two large adults were protecting themselves and the small calf. By the end, the humpback remained safely in their group and the orcas moved off in the distance.

A truly perfect Antarctic day.