Neko Harbor & Useful Island, Antarctica

Jan 13, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

We woke up to another beautiful bluebird day on the white continent. We were in Neko Harbor on the eastern shore of Andvord Bay. Neko Harbor gets its name from a whaling ship that sailed the area in the early 1900s. National Geographic Explorer nosed its way up to the shore. We landed on the mainland to explore the terrain around a gentoo penguin colony with its well-traveled penguin highways.

Afterward we used Zodiacs to explore the glaciers and icebergs of Andvord Bay. The clear waters afforded us excellent views of swimming penguins. One glacier was actively calving, and many of us saw large chunks of ice fall from the glacier face into the water, causing mini-tsunamis along the beach. The views around the bay were spectacular with steep-sided mountains and countless glaciers.

Many Zodiac cruisers were treated to excellent views of a leopard seal with its reptilian head and sharp teeth. One of the region’s top predators, leopard seals frequently ambush penguins as they come and go, to and from their colony.

In the afternoon, we traveled to Useful Island where guests enjoyed both a Zodiac cruise among the glistening icebergs on a glittering sea as well as an onboard presentation on penguins. And just before dinner, we had a magnificent encounter with the other top Antarctic predator—the killer whale. A pod of about 20 were spread out around the ship, some of them coming right up beside it. It was very special to be able to see the white patches beneath the clear water as they swam. Our evening concluded with a presentation by Global Perspectives Guest Speaker Lee Holtz entitled “The Big Melt.”

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About the Author

Michael Jackson


An experienced traveler, Michael has lived on several continents, including a year spent working as a naturalist and zoologist in Galápagos and three months in Kenya conducting a study of birds of prey. He is the author of Galápagos: A Natural History, a comprehensive guidebook which details the natural history of the plants and animals found on the islands. 

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