Jan 24, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer
The early start to the day on National Geographic Explorer did not bode well. Thick fog surrounded the ship as we approached the northern end of the iconic Lemaire Channel – the narrow, steep-sided passage between Booth Island and the mainland. But good weather prevailed and the sun, as it rose over the tops of the mountains, quickly burned the fog away and we were treated to spectacular views all around as the captain threaded the ship through the ice in the channel.
Once through, we continued a short way to Petermann Island, where the ship anchored. Guests were taken by Zodiac to a landing site next to where Jean-Baptiste Charcot in 1909 moored Pourquoi-Pas? IV, the ship he used for his 1908-1910 French expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula. While ashore, the guests could walk marked trails to the far side of the island for a stunning view of the ice-filled bay and the distant mountains and glaciers, and then to visit rookeries of the gentoo penguin, Adélie penguin, and the Antarctic shag. All of them looked out towards Scott and Shackleton mountains, which dominate this area.
As only 100 people can be ashore at any one time, the remaining guests were taken on a short Zodiac cruise around the bay, where some were lucky enough to see a humpback whale quite close by.
Once all were back on the ship, National Geographic Explorer continued south for a few miles until we reached the Argentine Islands. Here, the guests were shuttled ashore in Zodiacs to visit the Ukrainian base of Vernadsky. The researchers and staff on the base were very welcoming and they gave us all guided tours of the station and explained to us the work they undertake, which mainly involves meteorology and biological studies. There was also an opportunity to try some Ukrainian vodka and visit the souvenir shop before returning to the ship. While on the Zodiacs, we were able to see a large number of crabeater seals that had hauled-out on the small floes all around the base.
The weather remained sunny and bright all day. We really have been blessed on this trip with superb conditions, which have added so much to the overall experience.
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