Vega Island and Devil Island

Jan 13, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer

Today was a windless day in the Weddell Sea. It was incredible. We traveled south along Vega Island and launched Zodiacs in the ice. We were immediately greeted by two very curious humpbacks. We sat rafted together against the brash ice with our engines off, just listening and watching. Eventually, after their curiosity had been satiated, they moved on. We continued to push through the ice and eventually found more humpbacks and then, an emperor penguin! It was a chick from this year that still had remnants of downy feathers.

After our morning in Zodiacs, we traveled back north along Vega Island. It felt unseasonably warm today and has for most of the trip. The elevated temperature was punctuated by the hundreds of waterfalls pouring off the cliffs into the scree slopes below. A sight few of us have witnessed on this island before.

After lunch, we arrived at Devil Island, and since there was no wind, it was perfect for kayaking. Here we found a leopard seal and had a chance to kayak among the ice. Meanwhile the galley crew put up an epic barbecue on the sun-drenched back deck.

We’re now headed north to the other side of the Antarctic Peninsula in glassy, calm water­—the perfect conditions for spotting whales of the black and white variety. Stay tuned!

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About the Author

Jessica Farrer


Jessica is a research associate with SR3, SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research ( in Seattle, WA. She is currently working on several projects that monitor the health of the critically endangered southern resident killer whale population in the Salish Sea and humpback, minke and killer whales around the Antarctic Peninsula. Her main research interests are the predator prey dynamics of the Southern Ocean and she will be starting a PhD in fall 2020 to investigate the effects of climate change and fishing pressure on the diet of killer whales and Weddell seals in both the Antarctic Peninsula and the Ross Sea.

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