Spert Island & Cierva Cove

Jan 11, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

The guests and crew of National Geographic Orion were again blessed with wonderfully benign conditions, which allowed us to take Zodiacs to two spectacular locations.

We arrived at Spert Island, on the south west of Trinity Island, early this morning. This location is rarely visited by ships, due to it being very exposed in anything but very calm weather. The staff and crew were particularly excited, as none had been here before.

The ship could not anchor in a close location, as there were no soundings in the bay. So, the Zodiacs had to make their way through a very narrow passage among rocks, perhaps 300 feet high or more. A challenging swell added to the sense of awe. Once through, there was a bay full of grounded icebergs, some of them very large. Towards the end of the morning, some guests actually saw one of the bergs calving.

The bay is truly spectacular, with high cliffs all around and stacks carved from those cliffs by the relentless crashing of waves. It was even possible to sneak through one of the openings between stacks to catch a view of the awesome scenery on the other side. Both guests and Zodiac drivers returned to the Orion beaming after such a rewarding experience.

Anchor was weighed and lunch taken as the ship made her way to our next destination, Cierva Cove, a picturesque bay full of icebergs and brash ice, leading to a huge glacier that fills the head of the bay. Zodiacs were lowered once again, and guests were soon whisked off into a wonderland of bergs and ice that is a challenge to properly describe.

With the sun shining on calm seas, the Zodiacs pushed their various ways through the ice to find a number of leopard seals on ice flows. These creatures looked so peaceful lying there uncaring of our approach, which belied their true nature as the second largest predator in Antarctica, after killer whales. It was possible to approach these magnificent animals quite closely, without disturbing them at all.

Some of the boats also encountered a pair of humpback whales that were having their own cruise around the bay. All Zodiacs visited the “Hotel Boat,” that provided a welcome drink of hot butterscotch. Thank you to the hotel staff for coming out and bringing that to us!

But the day was not over. On returning to the ship, calm conditions were perfect for the “Polar Plunge.” Many hardy guests took the challenge and leapt into the frigid waters of Cierva Cove, to the cheers of the more sensible folk who watched from the aft deck.

It was a full day of unique and fulfilling experiences. After movie night (with popcorn), it was time to sleep and regain our strength for further adventures the next day.

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About the Author

John Pailthorpe


John spent the early years of his life in London, before an inspirational teacher took him to the highlands of Scotland on a school adventure trip. From then on the natural world has been his passion. After teacher training in Bangor, North Wales, John began a thirty-year career in outdoor education centres and schools, teaching and leading children and adults in such pursuits as mountaineering, rock climbing, kayaking, and sailing throughout the U.K. and Europe.

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