Day 5 – Whales, Icebergs & Penguins
Our morning was greeted by what was to become a very familiar voice, that of Morten Jørgensen, the Antarctica XXI expedition leader, urging us to rise from our bunks as there was “some really nice light outside“, and being we were all photographers it was something we “really shouldn’t miss“.
On deck, for those that took heed to the call, we were indeed greeted by some early morning, pale yellow light, and our first glimpse of the Danco coastline of mainland Antarctica with the occasional iceberg drifting by. That was soon followed by our first of many sitings of Humpback whales, which brought almost everyone to the viewing deck; a multitude of cameras snapping away like a veritable horde of paparazzo. For me this was the first time I’d really seen a whale up close … the trip was starting well.
Not long after the Ocean Nova was gliding into Cierva Cove littered with numerous icebergs from the surrounding glaciers. Impressive scenery indeed. The light was good too; a lovely covering of quilted cirrocumulus stratiformis clouds providing a natural soft box. Great light for photographing icebergs. Soon were were cruising in amongst them in our zodiacs, with almost flat, calm, waters providing great refections of icebergs and mountain peaks. Could it get any better than this? It did. A couple of Humpbacks were spotted amongst the bergs, and a Minke whale swam right along side of our zodiac. I saw his eye checking us out. Wow!
Time just flew by, and soon we were being urged to make an immediate return to the ship. In fact we were rather late and another Zodiac with approached with Morton onboard. Kevin Raber, our LuLa instructor was asked to switch zodiacs fully expecting a blocking from Morton for staying out too long. Instead he was given to opportunity to fulfil a long term wish – to drive a Zodiac in Antarctica. I think Morton just made his day!
After a most enjoyable lunch, dominated by chat about our fabulous morning, we headed for Hydruga Rocks for our first landing. A group of low rocky islands in the northern part of the Gerlache Strait named after the latin mame for the Leopard seal, Hydruga leptonyx. Funnily enough there are no leopard seals there. The islands, with lots of bare rocky outcrops, are home to a large colony of Chinstrap penguins, but we also saw fur seals, Blue-eyed Shags, Snowy Sheath-bills, as well as an elephant seal and several Weddell and Crabeater seals. After a couple of hours amongst the islands wildlife, the afternoon was completed with a cruise around the island on our return to the ship.
At 18:30 in the evening we attended what was to become another familiar feature of our voyage, our daily briefing and recap in the panorama lounge. Here the Antarctica XXI crew reviewed the days antics and wildlife that had been observed, but more importantly what was planned for the day to come. With fine weather prevailing, a decision had been made to heading south to cruise the famous Lemaire Channel at sunrise followed by a 5:30 am zodiac cruise around the icebergs of Pléneau Bay. Expect a wake up call at 03:45am!< Day 4