Well, today has been a great day, We are at the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsular in calm seas and brilliant sunshine. The weather has really made up for the windy and wild weather that we had during our crossing from South Georgia.
We awoke this morning to our first view of Antarctica – a scene of ice covered mountains all around us, a beautiful yellow sky as the sun rose and a temperature of -1C. The sea was black because of its depth and there were large icebergs nearby.
This morning, we were off in zodiacs at 9.00 am, after an early breakfast to explore Curtiss Bay. While there were no outstanding features of this little bay, we spent nearly two hours exploring icebergs, little inlets and the coastline around the bay. Everywhere we looked was interesting. The mountainous hills were covered in ice to a depth of well over 50 metres. In some places, it was smooth and in others large cracks had appeared and in the crevasses the ice was a brilliant blue colour. In other places, the ice looked as though it had been fractured in many different directions as it flowed over steep sections like a rock fall.. We found some icebergs with weathered cracks and crevasses where all the light had been filtered so that the only colour left in the entire spectrum was a deep blue. Our wildlife sightings consisted of a crab eater seal and two humpback whales.
We returned to the ship by 11.15 am and appreciated the warmth of being inside. After two hours of sitting on the edge of a zodiac, my fingers were numb and my feet were cold.
After lunch, the ship had repositioned and we set out for a landing at Mikkelsen Harbour. A little way off the shore was a small island with a red Argentinian Refugio hut (locked), a Gentoo penguin colony and some old whaling relics. We could walk around as long as we were careful not to disturb the penguins which were moulting. Most of these were standing on rocky outcrops rising out of the snow covered surface of the island and not in areas where would disturb them anyway.
At this time of the season, the penguin chicks are almost fully grown, but still being fed by their parents. We watched many of them hassling their parents for food and reaching right down their throat to get food from their crop. We saw six Weddell Seals, the first time I had seen any of this species of seal.
Among some of the historic whaling artefacts on the island (the name given to them by our expedition staff), were a number of old barrels and the skeleton of an old boat. They seemed to me to look more like junk!
We are expecting fine weather for the next few days and at our briefing tonight we learned that we will attempt three outings tomorrow. We are currently sailing slowly down the Gerlache Strait ready for our new adventures tomorrow.
We have just witnessed a spectacular Antarctic sunset. The sun set behind a mountain range in a burst of orange light and lit up the sky and mountains on the other side of the strait in colours of pink and purple. I took almost 50 photos of this event. I had already taken over 300 photos today, but this was a spectacular site and required more images through which to record it.
Bedtime now, and preparations for an early start tomorrow.