Paradise Bay and Orne Harbor

Feb 03, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer


The day started wet and gray, but we were still in the most beautiful part of the world. National Geographic Explorer made its way into Paradise Bay, a very sheltered area surrounded by high mountains and glaciers. The rain had stopped and there was very little wind, so it was decided to have half the group ashore and half kayaking, the groups changing over after about one and a half hours. While the kayakers enjoyed moving around the steep coastline and in and out of the ice floes, those going ashore were landed at Base Brown, an Argentinian research station, where they made their way past the buildings and climbed an impressive snow slope behind the base, which finished with a short rocky climb to a summit that gave spectacular views over the bay. Rather than walk back down the snowy slope, the majority of guests chose to let out their inner child and slide down the snow on their backs. The whoops of joy could be heard echoing across the bay!

As conditions were favourable, the ‘Polar Plunge’ was announced and 52 hardy guests rose to the challenge and leapt into the frigid waters of the Antarctic. Their faces, as they emerged, told the story. Yes indeed, the water, with all the icebergs in it, was very cold.

We then sailed northwards to our afternoon destination of Orne Harbor. However, along the way we encountered a small pod of Type B1 killer whales. This exciting experience and the bright sunshine that had appeared, drew everyone out on to the decks to witness these magnificent animals. As if that was not enough, a number of feeding humpback whales joined in the party, one of which swam right under the ship.

A little later we entered Orne Harbor, a sheltered bay on the west coast of the peninsula, where the guests were offered either a Zodiac cruise or a hike up a steep snow slope to a chinstrap penguin colony. The cruisers went far out into the bay to see some of the humpback whales up close, and to enjoy the wonderful mountain glacial scenery. The hardy hikers followed the zig-zag trail up the soft snow towards a small saddle. The plan had been to pass through the saddle and visit a chinstrap penguin colony high up on a rocky ridge above the snow. Unfortunately, the staff team that had gone on ahead found some crevassing near the top, which barred the route to the penguins. The guests who made the hike to the top took the disappointment with understanding and good humour, especially when they were shown the crevassing. So, they returned the way they had come and enjoyed the magnificent views that were all around them.

Another “Wow!” day in Antarctica, and we are all looking forward to what tomorrow might bring.

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About the Author

John Pailthorpe

Naturalist

John spent the early years of his life in London, before an inspirational teacher took him to the highlands of Scotland on a school adventure trip. From then on the natural world has been his passion. After teacher training in Bangor, North Wales, John began a thirty-year career in outdoor education centres and schools, teaching and leading children and adults in such pursuits as mountaineering, rock climbing, kayaking, and sailing throughout the U.K. and Europe.

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