We could scarcely believe our good fortune to wake up to another gloriously sunny day in Antarctica. The Captain had positioned the Prince Albert II in the shadow of Booth Island at the southern end of the magnificent Lemaire Channel - a narrow passage of water with high overhanging, snow-capped cliffs that had offered us a spectacular sunset cruising experience the night before.
Conditions were perfect for Zodiac ventures in the vicinity of Pléneau Island, which is named for Paul Pléneau, the photographer on Dr Jean Charcot's French Antarctic Expedition of 1903
-05. As we set off in Zodiacs, the sun rose over the jagged peaks of Booth Island, and clouds of snow billowed off the summits to form stunning shapes. Our expert Zodiac drivers took us close to the shore of Pléneau Island where we watched groups of Gentoo penguins plucking up the courage to dive into the water before porpoising by on a fishing foray. A Weddell seal hauled up on the rocky shore and, for some, an outstanding encounter with a Leopard seal swimming around the Zodiac, set cameras clicking furiously. All around us were icebergs sculpted into the most fantastic shapes, dappled here and there with brilliant blue and green, some sporting rows of shining icicles. Cruising in amongst them, we came across more seals sunning themselves on shelves of ice. Unconcerned by our presence, a Crabeater and later a Leopard seal blinked and look up to see who these red and blue creatures were before closing their eyes once more to continue their nap. As we returned to the ship, catching sight of Humpback whales blowing in the distance completed our action-packed morning Zodiac adventure in the gorgeous Bay of Pléneau.
Just after 11.00am, with the Zodiacs back on board, the ship left its 'farthest south' anchorage at 65o 06S to make its way back into the Lemaire Channel for an equally spectacular midday journey northwards towards the Neumayer Channel. Most took the opportunity to go out on deck to marvel at the dramatic scenery bathed in sunshine, some enjoying a dip in the hot tub, a glass of champagne or lunch under a clear blue sky at the same time.
In the early afternoon, the Prince Albert II sailed into Dorian Bay, an inlet on the west coast of Wiencke Island. A landing was made at Damoy Point where we walked up past two British and Argentine refuges to the top of a saddle-backed ridge that provided us with a breathtaking 360o panorama taking in views westwards to mighty Mt Français on Anvers Island and downwards to Port Lockroy where we had been the day before. The sun still shone, and before boarding the Zodiacs to return to the ship, some hardy souls stripped off and had a dip in the ice-cold water of Dorian Bay as terns flew by overhead. This was certainly a very special day for all of us to talk about as the ship headed northwards towards the Gerlache Strait, the occasional sighting of a whale adding extra excitement under a slowly setting sun.