Pleneau Island, Port Charcot and Port Lockroy

This morning began with an awesome approach through LeMaire Channel, with our intrepid Captain and crew dodging icebergs. The passage took place at about 6:30 am, but by 5:45, the observation deck was full with passengers watching and photographing the passage.

Navigating through LeMaire Channel

Navigating through LeMaire Channel

Navigating through LeMaire Channel

We are just offshore the Antarctic Peninsula, and our first expedition of the day will be a Zodiac tour of the bay off Pleneau Island, the so-called “graveyard of the icebergs”.

The Iceberg Graveyard

The Glacier Graveyard

The iceberg Graveyard

Because the bay is so shallow, after the icebergs calve from the glaciers; if they do not pass out to sea, they become grounded, and ultimately, break up or melt.

The expedition leaders were greeted in the bay by some Minke whales.

Minke Whale
Minke Whale
Minke Whale
Minke Whale

We loaded up the Zodiacs and set off to tour among the icebergs. It was raining, but awesomely still. From up close, you can see the depth and form of the icebergs. The colors are extraordinary!

The Iceberg Graveyard

The Iceberg Graveyard

The Iceberg Graveyard

The Iceberg  GraveyardThe Iceberg Graveyard

The iceberg Graveyard

The Glacier Graveyard

The Glacier Graveyard

The Glacier Graveyard

We spend about an hour cruising around the bay, we see some more Weddell seals,

The Glacier Graveyard

The Iceberg Graveyard

and on one iceberg, we found a leopard seal, who then swam all around our Zodiac.

Leopard Seal
Leopard Seal

The Glacier Graveyard

The Zodiac crews then landed us onshore at a place called Port Charcot. This harbor is another former whaling site.  There’s another large Gentoo penguin colony here, but also some chinstraps and our first sighting of some Adélie penguins.  As we land, we can see the Gentoos frolicking in the water and feeding.

Gentoo Penguin fishing
Gentoo Penguin fishing

Port Charcot

Port Charcot

However, by far and away the best part of this expedition was the opportunity to play with a young elephant seal.  As we approach him, he comes over to us and playfully begins butting people and rubbing his head on them. The only problem is that he clearly doesn’t know how big he really is. He almost knocks Jim over. Utterly darling!

Playing with an elephant seal
Playing with an elephant seal

Port Charcot  -fun with a young elephant seal

Port Charcot  -fun with a young elephant seal

Port Charcot  -fun with a young elephant seal

Port Charcot  -fun with a young elephant seal

Then we hike up up to a crest so we can see the bay behind us, and also, all three colonies of penguins. The Adélie chicks are just finishing the moulting of their baby coats leaving them with just a tuft of baby hair on their heads, so they look like “punk penguins”.

Port Charcot

Port Charcot

Port Charcot

Port Charcot

Port Charcot

Port Charcot

Gentoo & chinstrap; Adelie penguins

Port Charcot

Port Charcot

Port Charcot

Port Charcot

Finally, our last call of the day  was at Port Lockroy, a British station on the Antarctic Peninsula, which had not only a Gentoo penguin colony, but the only honest-to-Gosh post office and general store in Antarctica. As a world class shopper, you know I was not going to miss this opportunity.  I am happy to report that I scored on the ever-sought-after Christmas ornament to add to my collection of travel ornaments.  However, the weather was so adverse, I couldn’t even get my iPhone ourt of my pocket for a picture.

All in all, another spectacular day!

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