Cuverville Island, Paradise Bay

Dec 17, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

Today we started with a landing at Cuverville Island: a beautiful spot with everything you might wish for in Antarctica like gentoo rookeries, a snowy hike and opportunities to slide down the beautiful landscape on our bums. The gentoos cordially accepted our presence and many people just took a moment to sit and watch them go about their daily lives in the snow. The parents continued to ecstasy call and spin through the water around the coast at amazing speeds, whipping backwards and forwards like underwater fireworks. Skuas watched the other penguins, their dark eyes fixed on nests, their minds fixed on their owns chicks back in the nest (probably).

One smiling face that can often be seen about the ship is that of Jefferson. Part of the deck team, Jeff can often be found either on the bridge or on the marina deck – it is likely his hand you grabbed getting in and out of the Zodiac! A spare moment and a wiz in the Zodiac later and Jeff was among those marching up the hill to test out the snow slide – a great morning had by all.

After lunch, we visited paradise bay for a wonderful afternoon of kayaking or Zodiac cruising. Paradise Bay was so named by whalers in the early 20th century – it is a veritable paradise on earth, huge calving faces of imposing glaciers face into a beautiful bay cut into Graham Land on the Antarctic Peninsula – our first aquaintenance with the true continent. We passed by the Argentinian Brown base and watched the Gentoo penguins wheeling about in the water. Weddell seals watched on from shore-side; interested to a degree in the yellow bananas bobbing around the bay. Blue-eyed shags were nesting along the beautiful, striated cliff-sides. At this time of year, adults were returning to well occupied nests, frequently with two awkward looking fluffy black chicks. We listened intently to the beautiful sounds of chicks calling parents and parents returning with nesting material.

After kayaking came the polar plunge – not for the faint hearted – in this frigid degree water. A group of nervous, excited guests mustered on the back deck; many hands held whiskeys and others held still further hands for reassurance. Suddenly the stream of leaping commenced – splashes and screams and a mad dash for the ladder. A clamour of noise filled the air from all angles; onlookers above, those gasping to escape and those fearfully anticipating their turn. All the while Peter the undersea specialist bobbed at the sidelines, face half submerged and expression nonplussed. Occasionally he would suddenly appear to the side of a splashier guest before disappearing and popping up somewhere else. The cold bites into your bones and relief only really comes in the form of a Jacuzzi, bubbling away nicely on the top deck.

After dinner we visited our last fantastic space is called Neko harbor, a landing onto continental Antarctica. This locale is perhaps one of the most panoramic on the peninsula. Brash ice studs the mirror-like surface of the sea and the surrounding glaciers and mountains seem to gleam blue in the setting sun. Spirits were high and the sound of laughing filled the air as we headed up the hill to see the penguins. The perfect end to the perfect day.

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About the Author

Ella Potts


Ella’s passion has always been in marine conservation, with a childhood spent swimming, kayaking or boating in the chilly waters of the UK, or surveying the marine life of those waters from windswept headlands. She has numerous, distinct early memories of shivering adults, wrapped up in jumpers and cagoules, looking down at her with slight horror through sheets of rain and commenting on her short sleeves. A phenomena that persists to this day.  She graduated with a Masters degree in Marine Biology: Conservation and Resource Management from Swansea University, setting her up for a career protecting those marine ecosystems that she so loves. 

Ella has worked for several British whale conservancy charities, including ORCA and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) and is a British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) marine mammal medic. She has a real passion for lecturing, and during her time in these different organizations has presented to vastly ranging audiences; from groups of young children right up to filled auditoriums at the headquarters of HWDT partner, WWF. 

About the Photographer

Karen Velas


Karen Velas cares deeply about protecting the environment and its wildlife.  Over the last 15 years, she has been involved with numerous conservation projects, including working as the Lead Project Coordinator on the California Condor Project with The National Audubon Society, managing projects in the flooded rice fields of California’s Central Valley with The Nature Conservancy and surveying the distant cliffs of Iceland to aid in puffin recovery with the South Iceland Research Centre.

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