Jan 01, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer
2018 on the National Geographic Explorer began emphatically, as guests and crew danced and sang along to the fantastic Spice Boys, and vast, stunning tabular ice bergs drifted past the windows, until well past midnight. It was an unforgettable way to end 2017, and start a new year of exploration and adventure.
The following morning, bleary eyes adjusted to the breath-taking scenery of Cierva Cove. The slow start to the morning was no doubt appreciated by many, perhaps necessary to some, but one by one, zodiacs began exploring the glaciers and beautiful ice bergs throughout the bay. After cruising around the brilliant white, and alluring blue ice, watching Gentoo penguins porpoise and Weddell seals stretch on the ice floes, we encountered Antarctic Vikings! Our hotel manager Patrick and his crew, dressed as Viking raiders, boarded each vessel to distribute hot chocolate spiked with rum, or whiskey, warming us up before heading back to the ship.
In the afternoon we arrived at Mikkelsen Harbour. Most guest went ashore for a short walk among the Gentoos, spotting a few crabeater seals and even some whale bones along the shore, while others had a zodiac cruise around the scenic bay.
On return to the ship, excitement and nerves spread among the guests, as the polar plunge platform had been set up! An impressive number of guests took a New Year’s Day plunge into sub-zero Antarctic waters, a sign of a brave leap into the new year, or perhaps just as way of dusting off the last cobwebs from the previous night’s celebrations.
While this was surely enough to be the most memorable of starts to a new year, the excitement was far from over. Just as dinner was ending, our Expedition Leader Lucho announced that we had encountered breaching humpback whales. For over an hour we followed a group of four or five individuals feeding at the surface, displaying some thrilling behaviours, with one young calf in particular breaching spectacularly over and over again. Watching beautiful, majestic humpback whales breaching into the Antarctic sunset is going to be hard to top as a spectacle this year.