Jack's travelblog

Exploring Antarctica

Monday 27 February. Breakfast at 7:30 h and our first landing. First a zodiac tour through Paradise Harbour. Beautiful blue icebergs, see Gentoo penguins and crabeaters in the water. After an hour and a half it’s our turn to go ashore. Gentoo penguins all around. They are totally not afraid. So cool. Enjoy the view on the glaciers and the boat in the bay. Everywhere snow and ice. Woow. Back to the boat for lunch. After lunch we have spare time and from the deck we see two humpback whales in the bay. At 14:30 h back in the zodiacs and explore Neko Harbour. More crabeaters on icebergs. And so close. Penguins swim in the bay and jump out of the water while swimming. On land a huge colony of Gentoo penguins. Again a fancy diner and a drink on Nautilus bar. The pool on deck is filled with hot water, so we have to jump in. The snow completes it.

Tuesday at 8:00 a talk about the British station on a small rock called Port Lockroy. Here a penguin colony came after the buildings. Four ladies live here in summertime to keep the history alive. We visit the station and the post office. Sarah form New York wrote 30 cards to send back home. Sorry I didn’t. Probably the cards will be delivered November this year. Tomorrow the station is closed till next summer and the last boat with cards already left. In the station lots of info about the people who lived here. Back to the boat and bbq on deck for lunch.

This afternoon another penguin colony to visit and a zodiac tour. The fur seals give a great show in the water, next to the boat, on the ice, all around us. They pop up to look if we watch or what we do. So unbelievable cool. This is wildlife. They just play with us. Astounding. The surroundings are also amazing. The ship goes between icebergs and everywhere you look there’s snow and ice and we enjoy a blue sky. Again a perfect day.

Wednesday 1 March. Early in the morning we cross the Lemaire Chanel. Afterwards experienced staff members tell us this is just the 3th time they cross it. Luckily we have a Russian captain who is used to navigate through ice. Often it seems we go to hit an iceberg. Then turn and go for the other one. At the narrowest point the channel is just 1 km wide. We see a big avalanche rushing down the mountain in to the channel. The mist of the snow goes halfway the channel. Woow. Today more penguins, crabeaters and icebergs. On Petermanns Island the Ghento penguins are waiting for us and a few Adélie penguins. On the top of the hill there’s a nice viewpoint and three funny penguins, who come to you and try to eat your backpack, jacket or boots. So funny. In the zodiacs to see icebergs everywhere and two leopard seals, lots of penguins and crabeaters. The penguins swim in a big group and jump out of the water. The crabeaters even make a bigger show. They circle around the boat and pop up next to it. They play around the ice and boat. Unbelievable. This is nature, but it could be Sea World. Between the icebergs there’s a Polish sailing yacht. Brave. In the evening a movie about Sheckelton’s adventure on Antarctica and how they survived the winter in a small boat. Nice touch is that a family member, Jonathan Sheckelton is on the cruise and he likes to tell the story.

Thursday morning a awesome zodiac ride at Cierva Cove. Lots of floating icebergs and pancake ice, frozen seawater. With the zodiac it takes us a few minutes before we see the first humpback whale, and another, and another, and… well we see many of them. Most are logging between the ice. One is scraping his head against an iceberg. Amazing. The sounds of the exhaling is also impressive. And we get so close. Within 10 m. We see how a 20 m long whale makes a turn on the spot. Impressive for a huge whale. More penguins, seals and Minke whales. What a morning. This afternoon rocky mountains and several hidden caves, passages and icebergs. It’s basically a fun zodiac ride. There are cross roads and passages full of ice. We see a few leopard seals and more playful furseals.

Friday morning we enter the bay of Deception Island. An active volcano filled with water. More fur seals, chinstrap penguins and a huge elephant seal. At shore the old whalers station. Old buildings and ovens on the beach. Surreal. Many fur seals walk around or rest on the beach. One is defending the spot and is coming to everyone in attack mode. Stand your ground and make yourself big. We do so and it’s working. This afternoon the Southern Shetlands, Half Moon Island. Just outside the island some fur seals and then a leopard seal next to the boat, no two. They are curious and circle around both zodiacs. Pop up, swim under the boat, disappear and come again. The leopard seal is almost as large as the zodiac. Impressive creatures. One pops up next to the other boat and opens his mouth. That are huge teeth. Good advice, don’t stick your hands outside the zodiac. We saw earlier what the leopard seal can do with a penguin. They crab it, shake it hard, so the skin goes of the penguin and they only eat the fat breasts. Afterwards the birds come in to finish the free food. On the island a ig colony of chinstrap penguins. We here there are macaroni penguins as well. We walk directly to the spot. But first we have to pass a fur seal defending the beach. Doctor Jo makes clear who’s the boss. On top of the hill marine biologist Jim tells were the macaroni is hidden. Lots of chinstrap penguins, but no macaroni. Take the binoculars, find the rock, the small one left of the big one, go down, find the chinstrap with the tomahawk of molting feathers, wait, wait, yes you can see it, no it’s down again… yes. Indeed some yellow feathers or the red beck, barely visual. How did he find it in the first place? Well the macaroni is on the list. Back on the boat and cruise to the Drake. Tonight, and the next days, we have a dance night and good fun. Sadly this unbelievable trip is over and I have to say good bye to Theo, Bernice, Sarah, Yassin, Tracy, Ron & Vicky, Christiane & Birger and many more…

But first we can see Cape Horn.

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