From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica
Dec 15, 2010 - National Geographic Explorer
Cuverville Island and Paradise Bay
The day started with an early announcement, calling us out onto the decks to see Humpback Whales sighted near the ship. Photographers clicked away as the whales surfaced time and again, flashing their flukes to us with each deep dive. Soon after, we were racing aboard Zodiacs which whisked us to Cuverville Island, home of thousands of Gentoo Penguins. We laughed together at the antics of the penguins as they collected rocks and traversed the deep snows between the beach and their crowded colonies. Just across the water, the Oceanites researchers clambered over an area called Georges Point, censusing the Gentoo and Chinstrap colonies. Looking out toward them, we saw a stunning landscape of icebergs glittering in the sun, and bright cloudless skies. The winds whipped up just as we headed back to the warmth and safety of the ship, and the Captain led us south to more protected waters.
In Paradise Bay, we boarded kayaks and paddled right up to the edge of cliffs laced with the colors of copper and malachite. Mosses clustered around melt-water streams flowing down to meet the bay, while brightly colored lichens paved the drier heights. Blue-eyed shags flew overhead to nests perched precariously along the rocky crags, some carrying kelps and mosses to fortify their nests, others bathing in the cool seas. Again, the Oceanites team could be seen peering up, carefully recording each nest in their notebooks. Zodiacs took us further afield to see the structures of Brown, the local Argentine station, and to explore the nooks and crannies of Paradise Bay, bordered by stunning slopes buried under cascading glaciers. It was a sweet treat to have hot chocolate brought out to us on the open water.
Before the day could end, crowds gathered to watch as a few intrepid travelers shed their bathrobes to plunge into the polar waters of the Antarctic, measured at a frigid 28¢ª F. The rest of us were left to ponder through the evening, if such a swim was fearless, or merely foolish.