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Day 4 - January 21, 2009 - Cuverville Island And Neko Harbour, Antarctica

By Claudia Holgate

Weather: 2.6 degrees Celsius
Few clouds to overcast and light southwesterly breeze at 26km/h
Pressure: 979hPa, 60% humidity
Co-ordinates: 64 40’28’’ South, 62 38’17’’ West

This morning we arrived at Cuverville Island for our first landing of the trip. The weather had cleared up and the skies had clouds streaked across it. With absolutely calm seas, the water had a flat mirror-like surface that was great for our first Zodiac experience, especially for those who were a bit nervous about getting into and off the boats. Our ride in was great – going past Gentoo Penguins on an ice floe who kept us amused at their antics: trying to jump up onto the iceberg and flinging themselves off again. Their skilful swimming skills under the zodiacs were awe-inspiring.

The landing was dead easy and a choice of walks was offered around the different penguin colonies. One lonesome chinstrap penguin was spotted amongst the Gentoos, giving everyone a taste of two penguin species on our very first outing. One lucky Zodiac group also had a fleeting glance at a leopard seal patrolling the coast for an unsuspecting penguin that he could have for breakfast. Many of the penguins had small chicks, which we could watch being fed. The penguin antics were endless: stealing stones from other’s nests, beating each other up with flippers if they were too close, and collectively sending out the alarm call when the Brown Skua flew over. A whale was spotted from one colony, but this was just the first of many we were going to see for the day.

Back to the ship after a successful landing, we had a bit of time to change into cooler clothes, and have lunch before our next landing at Neko harbour. As we left Cuverville we had the opportunity to see some humpback whales and the Captain skilfully manoeuvred the ship to give us the best view. Eventually, we had to leave them, and go to lunch. However, humpback whales close to the ship constantly interrupted lunch, with three on the starboard side and another two from the port side. With the super design of The Restaurant, one can enjoy lunch and watch the whale performance without missing anything of either.

Our next stop was the very picturesque Neko Harbour with glaciers on one side and a penguin colony. We had a choice of three walks, one of which was a strenuous hike to a lookout point high up on the hill. The penguin colony here had chicks that were slightly older than at Cuverville and many of the chicks lay sprawled asleep at their parents’ feet, only occasionally stretching and yawning before flopping down again. On arrival we had a Weddell seal sleeping close to the landing site, only waking periodically to scratch before turning over and going back to sleep. A second Weddell was also further up the path, so we had some really good seal sightings. While embarking the first group of guests, we had another humpback whale close to the ship, however, he didn’t hang around for long and soon dived, giving us a beautiful display of his fluke before disappearing. To finish our last landing of the day, we were fortunate to have a crabeater seal sleeping on an ice floe, which just happened to be floating by. Wow, what a day. Stunning weather, tons of wildlife and spectacular scenery. All of this combined with exceptional food from Sean Emslie, our executive chef.

Dinner was another amazing whale watching opportunity, with Humpback whales ahead of the ship as well as close to The Restaurant, giving everyone an unforgettable whale and dining experience.

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