Day 9 |
Dec 08, 2008

Pleneau And Peterman Islands; Dorian Bay

By Chris Harbard

Noon position: 64° 48’ 36” S, 63° 29’ 57” W

Weather: Sunshine!

The day started with a cruise down the Lemaire Channel (a very early beginning for many guests who had stayed up to see the sunrise at 2.25am). The real early-risers were treated to a Zodiac cruise from 2.30am around the ice-filled waters of Pleneau Island. It was well worth the lack of sleep as we were treated to a fantastic sunrise, with distant mountain tops turning orange.

With the temperature down at -2°C (28°F) it was cold even with many layers on! Over the water, there were Snow Petrels, South Polar Skuas and Antarctic Terns. Out on the ice floes, several Leopard Seals were discovered and watched eagerly by guests in the first group. One seal was waiting just offshore from a Gentoo Penguin colony, no doubt looking for a quick breakfast snack.

The second group cruised towards Peterman Island and were luckier as some saw a Minke Whale and Adelie Penguins. The shore of Peterman Island was completely blocked off by ice, which meant that the planned landing for later in the morning had to be cancelled and the ship headed back through the Lemaire Channel instead where a few lucky people sighted a Minke Whale.

Now it was time for Plan B or was it C? This involved a visit to Dorian Bay, just north of Port Lockroy. As we travelled along Neumayer Channel, a shout went up. Whales!! Two blows could be seen dead ahead, about half a mile away. The ship slowly edged towards them and suddenly a tail fluke was seen with a distinctive white underside. They were Humpbacks!! Over the next 20 minutes, everyone got great views of these giant beasts as they leisurely surfaced, spouted and occasionally breached. What a terrific bonus!!

We arrived at Dorian Bay at about 10am, and everyone was taken ashore. From the landing on a muddy beach, it was just a short walk ashore to where Utte and her team had set up a table of champagne to celebrate the last landing of the trip. Nearby, there were several Gentoo Penguin colonies with their attendant South Polar Skuas.

A short uphill climb took people to a wonderful panoramic view, and at the top, there was even a single Adelie penguin among the Gentoos, providing some with their only close view of this truly Antarctic penguin. With the sun beating down on us surrounded by snow-clad peaks, this was a memorable final stop.

Back on board ship, we then proceeded to sail down the Bismarck Strait past Palmer Station, a US Antarctic base, and then due north heading for the Drake Passage. The forecast from the Captain promised moderate swell and wind, which should not prove too challenging for everyone now that they have their ‘sea legs’.

By dinnertime, we were well out at sea accompanied by the usual Cape Petrels and lovely groups of Antarctic Petrels. After such a long day, everyone was looking forward to a peaceful night’s rest.