From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica
Dec 3, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer
Port Lockroy and Pléneau Island, Antarctica
Our amazing run of absolutely perfect weather continued today on our 3rd full day here in the Antarctic Peninsula. Early risers (and I mean early, as official sunrise was listed at 02:30 ) were treated to a magical golden hour as National Geographic Explorer worked her way through the Neumayer Channel and into the protected waters surrounding the former British Base A huts on Goudier Island. This site of British Operation Tabarin has now been converted into a small museum and store offering something rather rare here in Antarctica: a chance to shop!
While some guests purchased many things penguin, other enjoyed the actual birds themselves. Gentoo penguins have literally taken over much of the available exposed rock surrounding (and underneath) the huts, and their antics kept us all enthralled. Blue-eyed shags and snowy sheathbills added to the scenery, as did Weddell, leopard, and even a lone elephant seal. The ice was blue and plentiful, and we took advantage of the situation to cruise and be out amongst the icebergs.
Afternoon found us anchored off Pléneau Island and surrounded by truly massive bergs in an area known simply as the “Iceberg Graveyard”. While some chose to hike on the island itself, others opted for a Zodiac cruise amongst the giant ice for a water-level view of these behemoths. Suddenly the call came out over the radio reporting minke whales. Not one or two, but four minke whales were spotted feeding between the bergs amongst the brash. Excitement was in the air as the whales led us on a merry trip north, all the way to Booth Island!
Evening after dinner had the ship starting to settle in for the night when the call came from the bridge of a killer whale sighting. Sure enough, three type “B” pack-ice killer whales were spotted looking for a seal dinner amongst the dense ice. Time and again one of these black-and-white predators would spy-hop near an ice floe in the hopes of eyeing a resting seal meal. As the hunt continued the sun slowly dropped, turning the ocean and all its floating ice into liquid gold. The killer whales continued deeper into the ice as the ship turned and headed back towards the north once again. The sun maintained its slide towards the horizon, absolutely setting the clouds in the south and west ablaze with reds, oranges, and yellows. The perfect end to a whale of a day!