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.
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”.
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.
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!
We spend about an hour cruising around the bay, we see some more Weddell seals,
and on one iceberg, we found a leopard seal, who then swam all around our Zodiac.
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.
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!
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”.
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!