Noon position: 65° 00’ 58” S 63° 46’ 35” W
Temperature: 3°C, 37°F
Wind speed: 5 knots
The weather gods were smiling on us again as the day began with brilliant sunshine and almost no wind. We anchored just off Cape Renard and embarked on a one and a half hour Zodiac cruise into Hidden Bay.
Mountain peaks towered above us and were topped with thick icing-like snow cover, made even more brilliant by the backdrop of deep blue sky.
A couple of Leopard Seals were sighted, lazing on ice floes and they allowed us quite a close approach. A Weddell Seal was also found hauled out on the ice and it looked up at us with its puppy dog face and cute whiskers. Some lucky guests had a glimpse of a Minke Whale that remained well hidden – perhaps that is how the bay got its name.
All the time there were creakings, crackings and poppings coming from the nearby glacial faces … when suddenly Aiello, in a feat of prescience, announced that a calving would take place about 10 seconds before it did. Occasional small avalanches were also seen on the nearby mountainsides.
When we arrived back for lunch, the Captain announced that we would be sailing down the Neumayer Channel on our way to Cuverville Island for our one landing of the day. In mid-afternoon, the Expedition Team treated us to a Briefing & Recap with a look at krill, seals and the secret life of penguins.
We reached Cuverville for a 5pm landing. The almost cloudless blue skies were still with us and most guests walked up the snow-covered hillside for a fantastic view across the bay, many opting for an exciting slide down. The nearby Gentoo Penguin colonies provided a close-up view of penguin life – pebble thieving being the most popular pastime.
No chicks were present and skuas were patrolling the colonies trying to snatch a quick egg snack. Occasionally, Antarctic Blue-eyed Shags flew by and some Antarctic Terns were feeding along the shore.
The towering cliff that dominates the skyline to the left of the landing site was carpeted in bright green thanks to its covering of moss. Skuas nest on the top slopes, looking down on their potential food source. On some rocks, another green growth was found – this was Antarctic Hairgrass (Deschampsia antartica), one of the two flowering plants found in Antarctica. These occur as far south as 68°. Occasional avalanches were seen on the slopes of nearby mountains, with clouds of snow pouring down.
We returned to the ship by 8pm, all ready for dinner after a fantastic day both for weather and wildlife.