The Real Antarctica

After a quiet night we woke to clear skies and calm weather, a perfect day for a cruise down Gerlache Strait to Neko Harbour, our first planned landing on the continent itself. Not only did we get to land and see the by now obligatory Gentoo Penguins, but we were able to climb up the hillside to the resident glacier for a spectacular view of where the MS Expedition lay at anchor. The Zodiacs were again cruising around the bay providing close up views of our first (mini) icebergs and the occasional Crabeater seal lounging about on them. They barely blinked at us as we idled past.

Then anchors were again lifted and the cruise continued down the Errera channel to Couverville Island. Once again waterproofs were donned for our trip in the Zodiacs to shore. Our walk this time led as past, through and over rocky outcrops on which Gentoo penguins were in various stages of age and molting. The walk went up quite a steep snow slope to another outcrop for a view down the bay. Spectacular is a word that will be used a lot and I need to look up a thesaurus for alternatives. Even though we had climbed about 100 meters vertical up from shore there were still penguins up here. Going down presented a small problem for some, with several expeditioners going for a slide until the slope decreased near some penguins and friction was increased due to the presence of penguin poo.

The most exciting thing about the cruise back to the ship was the sighting of a Leopard seal on an iceberg. He was even kind enough to yawn and show of his massive jaws.

Next stop that day was Damoy Point on Wienecke Island. This was reached through the phenomenal Neumayer Channel, with mountains and glaciers on both sides. Dinner that day was a BBQ extravaganza on the rear deck of the ship behind the Polar Bear Bar. What a fabulous day, and then for the icing on the iceberg, conditions were deemed perfect for camping. We collected our sleeping bags and tents and once again were shuttled to shore around 10pm. A stunning sunset distracted us from the task of setting up our tents. After that a short walk up a nearby gentle hill to the local penguin colony and an evening view across the Neumayer Channel and our anchored ship with its lights ablaze. Apart from the penguins it was quiet, very quiet.

Curfew was at 11.30pm, with it still being light enough to easily read my watch. The purpose fo the curfew was to give the local wildlife a rest from us interlopers. I don’t anyone told the penguins that as they certainly didn’t give us a break from their calls or braying. But otherwise the night was warm and restfull in the tent.



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