What an exceptional day it has been!!! Even though we were awakened with the news that the sea ice had again come in so close to shore that we would not be able to land at Penguin Point, we were instructed to load the Zodiacs for cruising among the icebergs of the Weddell Sea. The day was unbelievably calm and even slightly sunny. Almost immediately, we found some Adélie penguins close by on the icebergs, and then both leopard seals and Weddell seals resting on the ice. It is an incredible adventure just to be able to get into the Weddell Sea, as the sea ice is frequently so think and the icebergs so numerous that many of the crew and naturalists have never even made it this far. In fact, Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, sunk in the Weddell Sea. All around us, small flocks of Adélies frolic in the ocean.
After returning briefly to the ship, our captain makes a grand announcement: we are going to be allowed to go onto one of the giant tabular icebergs, and drink a champagne toast. Virtually everyone on board loaded up the Zodiacs, and clambered onto the ice mass. The scene was one of happy pandemonium, as it has been over three years since the ship has been able to perform this maneuver! Words can’t accurately describe how bizarrely cool it was to be standing on an iceberg in the middle of nowhere drinking a glass of champagne. Cheers!
However, the excitement for the day was not over yet. We spent the rest of the day cruising around the Weddell Sea, and shortly thereafter, we had our first sighting of Orcas. We slowly followed several pods around while they were feeding, and we saw numerous fur seals, leopard seals and Weddell seals out sunning on the icebergs. I am TOTALLY missing my camera, as I can’t get any good shots of the orcas! However, the tabular icebergs alone were absolutely magnificent, as they are utterly flat on top (like the mesas of the American Southwest) and some of them are miles long. We saw at least one which was over 20 kilometres (12 miles) long. Sometimes they are about 40 metres tall (above water). Because it was such a still and partially sunny day, the light playing on these icebergs was stunning.
Finally, we regretfully headed back for the Drake Passage as the sun was setting. We toasted our Antarctic adventure with cocktails made glacial ice likely at least 1,000 years old. Wish us a balmy trip back (not very likely), and we’ll check in again when we hit Buenos Aires.