From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica
Jan 14, 2013 - National Geographic Explorer
Petermann Island and Paradise Bay, Antarctica
Through the night, our ship, National Geographic Explorer, had made her way north from the fast ice on the northern side of the Arrowsmith Peninsula back to the familiar territory of the islands just to the south of the Lemaire Channel. The anchor was lowered just off Petermann Island and our morning excursion began.
It was a little more overcast than we had been used to and a little cooler but still very comfortable with little wind. Ashore we found well-frozen snow to walk around upon and lots to see. The nesting Adelie penguin chicks were just about as big as their parents and looked adorable in their black fluffy down. The blue-eyed shag chicks were also almost full grown and ready to leave the nest. The gentoo penguin chicks were still quite small but seem to be doing well. Petermann Islands offers an opportunity for a splendid walk to a high vantage point where there are yet more nesting penguins and fine views out over the surrounding area. Humpback whales were seen feeding close to shore. Wherever there are penguins nesting you are sure to find skuas. Petermann Island seems to have more than its fair share and they all seemed to be actively hunting for penguin eggs and chicks during our visit this morning.
During lunch we headed north through the Lemaire Channel and out into the waters between there and the Gerlache Strait. There we came across numerous groups of orcas that were obviously hunting. Soon we were glimpsing their unfortunate victims. We were able to clearly see penguins caught in the mouths of the orcas as they came to the surface, not once but on many occasions. This was yet another extraordinary experience on our amazing journey. Mixed in amongst all this carnage we also were able to see numerous humpback whales apparently feeding close to the surface on krill.
It was quite late in the afternoon before we reached our planned destination, Almirante Brown Station in Paradise Bay. Here we were able to kayak or Zodiac cruise. There were Argentine personnel at the station who seemed pleased to see us out in their bay. A hardy group of guests seemed to enjoy paddling past the station amongst numerous shapely icebergs and on to the blue-eyed shag cliffs to the south of the base. The Zodiac cruisers were able to roam further afield into the spectacular bays formed by the huge glaciers that tumble down to the water’s edge. Paradise Bay was named by the whalers who were here over a hundred years ago, because it provided a perfect harbor. Today its name more appropriately describes the beauty of the surroundings.
After dinner our expedition leader, Lisa Kelley, announced that we were in “whale soup.” We were out in the southern end of the Gerlache Strait and there were whales everywhere. There were large numbers of killer whales out on the prowl and humpback whales feeding on an apparently never-ending supply of krill. Captain Kruess maneuvered our ship alongside many groups of the whales while we enjoyed the spectacle of these magnificent creatures hunting and feasting. What a wonderful day it has been.