From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica
Dec 2, 2010 - National Geographic Explorer
Cuverville Island & Neko Harbor, Antarctica
Those of us who “slept in” and did not get up until 4 hours after sunrise (which was at 2:49 AM), were woken up by Expedition Leader Tim’s pre-breakfast announcement of humpback whales ahead of the ship. Out on deck, the bright sun, the tall mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula and the brilliant scenery was a better way to wake-up than any morning cup of coffee. Add to that the excitement of seeing a humpback whale cow and calf, and our day was perfect. But wait, we had not yet eaten breakfast.
Our first landing of the day was Cuverville Island. We split the morning in two and had a chance to go ashore and kayak. Kayaking allowed us to glide peacefully in the calm cove, take in the scenery, and marvel at the number of Gentoo penguins that swam toward, past, and under our kayaks. The speed with which they “fly” through the water made us feel a little slow and awkward in our yellow kayaks.
Onshore we visited a Gentoo penguin colony. It is still spring here for the penguins, which means that their nest sites are still under snow. But they are here staking their claims, reestablishing their bonds, mating, and patiently waiting for the snow to melt. There is a constant coming and going of penguins to and from the ocean. Those who have just come back from feeding follow the trails up the hills, often bringing a pebble (prized nest material) with them from the beach. Those going back to the ocean often look a little worse for the wear, with pink (krill-laced) guano staining their otherwise formal looking attire. Once we got to shore, we walked slowly and looked closely, sometimes sitting to take it all in. We sat by the colony to watch the interactions and listen to their calls, at the beach to photograph the daily commute, and up on a knoll above the colony to take in the beauty.
After lunch we made a landing at Neko Harbor. This was our first official visit to the continent itself. For many of us, our seventh continent! Here we saw more gentoos and hiked up the snow covered slope to an amazing view of a tidewater glacier directly below us. Going down was much easier than the way up, and for many of us very exhilarating too. Not only were these our first steps on the continent, but also our first chance to go “sliding” in many years. It turns out that our red Lindblad jackets are as good as any sled that we remember from years ago.
Words cannot fully describe the magnificence of the beauty we were surrounded by all day but our memories and photos have attempted to capture it to reflect back on in the future.