Jan 25, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer
An early wake-up call alerted us to what awaited outside for our blurry eyes. Mugs of coffee were gathered as people moved to viewpoints around the ship, which had been in the breezy, southern part of the Gerlache Strait earlier. Now it was passing through the Ferguson Channel, one of the entrances between various islands ending in the bay called Paradise Harbor, a name given by 19th-century whalers because it is protected from winds in almost every direction. That was the case when we finally got into the main part of the bay. High mountains and glaciers surrounded the landscape with masses of ice flowing down the steep sides or hanging on the ridges and peaks.
The day’s activities started soon after breakfast. Everyone would have a chance to hike ashore and/or travel around the bay by Zodiac. The landing was at an Argentinian base called Almirante Brown. Maintenance was being done on the buildings, so we just used the landing site and boardwalk up to the large snow field behind the buildings. Then most people trekked up the snow to a very commanding rounded peak for a panoramic view of Paradise Harbor. The return down was a bit faster for some who chose a slippery slide path.
While this first group of folks were on land, the remaining group went around the bay on Zodiacs. Glacier faces and cloud-shrouded peaks set the backdrop of this black-and-white landscape. A few smallish icebergs floated in the bay. A leopard seal occupied one as a comfortable sleeping platform and it was likely soundly dreaming of krill and penguin meals. Along the edge of another iceberg, a crabeater seal swam around looking for a spot to launch itself out of the water to its resting site.
In the middle of the morning the groups switched activities. During lunch, the ship moved out of Paradise and back into the Gerlache Strait. A strong northerly wind produced conditions not very conducive to finding whales, but a few people still searched the waves. A couple of lectures were given as we came up to the entrance of Dallmann Bay. A few humpback whales were spotted and then a very scattered group of killer whales. But the wind kept us from spending much time viewing. Late in the afternoon we turned into a protected fjord to spend the rest of the day in calm waters before beginning our transit northward in the Drake Passage.
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