Cierva Cove & Hughes Bay, Antarctica

Nov 24, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


After a few incredible days in the Weddell Sea, National Geographic Explorer awoke on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula to dramatic ice and fog. Settling into the calm waters of Cierva Cove, we headed out for a morning of Zodiac cruising. As the ship disappeared behind us in the mist, we hugged the shoreline to enjoy views of the Argentine research station Base Primavera, rolling swell around dramatic icebergs, and an undisturbed colony of gentoo penguins going about their usual Sunday morning business. The unique microclimate of this bay made for fascinating views of dramatic cliffs covered in bright orange lichens and lush green mosses. Gentoo penguins porpoised through the waters as brash ice crackled around us, and we kept our eyes peeled for wildlife on the low-lying bergs. Highlights of the morning included great sightings of Weddell seals snoozing on ice and swimming curiously in the turquoise waters. As the fog began to lift, dramatic mountain peaks showed through the clouds and we were treated to stunning views of the surrounding glaciers and impressive icebergs throughout the cove. Dramatic sculpture-like structures made for fantastic photo opportunities, and it was tough to return in time for lunch from such a beautiful morning out on the water.

It wasn’t long before lunch was interrupted by announcements of whale sightings as we made our way through the Gerlache Strait. A small pod of pack ice killer whales charged through the waves close to the ship and blows and tails of humpbacks were seen scattered along the icy shoreline as the whales took advantage of the cold, nutrient-rich waters.

Tucking into Hughes Bay after lunch, we set out to explore around Sprightly Island both by Zodiac and kayaks, where we were lucky to enjoy views of gentoo penguins jumping into the water from icebergs and scattered sightings of Adélie and chinstrap penguins. Rounding out the day with an icy finish, over 30 brave souls celebrated another wonderful day in Antarctica with the polar plunge.

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About the Author

Maya Santangelo

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Maya was born and raised in Southern California, where her curiosity for the natural world was encouraged from an early age. Relocating to Sydney, Australia with her family at 11 years old, she learned to scuba dive, eventually becoming a PADI Instructor. Her fascination for the underwater world undoubtedly fueled her interest to study marine biology at James Cook University. Working as a professional guide in some of the world’s top dive destinations, including Palau and Mexico’s Guadalupe Island and Revillagigedo Archipelago, Maya realized a passion for sharing her love for the ocean with others, and the value of citizen science in the dive industry.

About the Photographer

Andrew Coleman

National Geographic Photographer

Photographer Andrew Coleman has traveled around the globe in search of amazing wildlife and landscapes. His images and travel stories have appeared online for National Geographic Travel and the @natgeotravel Instagram account, and he is represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Andrew has an insatiable appetite to be in the wild and, through his images, attempts to capture the extraordinary beauty of the natural world. Over the course of his career, he has traveled, camera in hand, to some of the world’s most remarkable places, including Alaska, Antarctica, Jordan, Easter Island, Kenya, Peru, South Africa, Bhutan, and Uganda. Having been to all seven continents, he has joined National Geographic Expeditions from Yellowstone National Park to the Galápagos, and from Borneo to Antarctica and beyond.

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