Wihelmina Bay and Neko Harbour, Antarctica

Nov 21, 2018 - National Geographic Orion


Our morning started with the traditional (and very pleasant) “Good morning, good morning” of our expedition leader Lucho Verdesoto. In Antarctica, every day seems to be a unique and different adventure, but today was even more different than before…it was Fast-Ice Day!

Our everyday search for ideal ice conditions paid off when we found a nice sheltered area within a location known as Wilhelmina Bay. After some ship-scouting, Captain Martin Graser directed National Geographic Orion into the fast ice. The bow of our ship rammed through the sea ice ahead and sliced it as if it were butter, however the massive layer of ice forced our ship to a full stop, in what seemed like a smooth maneuver for us, but for sure, a complex one even for our skilled Captain Martin.

After a complete inspection of the site, a full OK was given to walk on water! The two feet of powder-like snow covering the sea ice gave to the whole scenery an untouched and pristine appearance. After champagne (and mimosas!) on ice, the only hard decision for our guests was either to hike to a lookout point to view Weddell seals or to try on snowshoes for an exploratory walk on sea ice. The conditions were so perfect, that a third option was offered for the morning: cross-country skiing! This is the latest addition to our expedition activities onboard the Lindblad ships traveling on Polar regions. The whole idea of cross-country skiing while in Antarctica is quite surreal, but to do it on sea ice…was simply amazing!

Twenty-four brave expeditioners formed the ski party, and we headed into the whiteness of the sea ice ahead. To our surprise, Mother Nature granted us some bright skies, which truly enhanced our experience. It was so fascinating yet unreal to feel so warm in the middle of such cold place, so much that quite a few of our guests had to stop to take off some of their layers! We always recommend being prepared for rough conditions and a cold climate, but today weather conditions could not have been better!

While our hikers were enjoying photographing the seals, the skiers headed towards the mountains ahead, leaving behind the landscape of the ship “parked” on sea ice. After skiing for approximately 1 ½ miles, we turned to head back toward an iceberg literally frozen into the fast ice. The looks of the mountains surrounding us and eventually merging into a calm and vast sea was mesmerizing.

Close to lunchtime, it was time to wrap up the morning and move on to our next destination, Neko Harbour. However, we couldn’t go anywhere for a little while as the water surrounding the ship held us hostage for a couple of hours. Teamwork and the efficiency of our experienced Captain and Officers released the ship from her frozen temporary prison, and off we headed to Neko.

Although too late for an afternoon landing, the crews’ ability to change plans and adapt to new ones was outstanding.  Our expedition team coordinated with the hotel and deck departments to change timings and meals, and quickly a new plan was underway! Recaps were moved earlier, and so was dinner and the after-dinner landing at Neko was just as popular and successful. The added motivation…a continental landing with bragging rights included! What a spectacular and unusual day…but nothing less is expected from a true expedition in the White Continent…Antarctica.

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About the Author

Javier Cotin

Naturalist

Javier 's passion for birds and nature began as a child exploring the Pyrenees mountains with his father. The mystery that surrounds the Lammergeier silhouette triggered his curiosity and interest towards wildlife. 

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