Our extended ocean crossing through the western part of the Drake Passage was rewarded when we woke up this morning and found ourselves on the verge of crossing the Antarctic Circle. Not just a dotted line on the map, this latitude represents the tilt of the earth relative to our orbit around the sun, meaning that at this line on the summer solstice the sun never sets. While we are visiting well on in the summer season, we still plan to take advantage of the long daylight hours over the coming week to explore this unique part of the globe. Only a few vessels have the opportunity to travel this far south in any year, so we count ourselves lucky to follow in the tracks of heroic explorers such as Adrien de Gerlache and Jean Baptist Charcot.
National Geographic Resolution
This morning found National Geographic Resolution cruising through the spectacular scenery of the Gerlach Strait, sailing towards our first destination of the day, Mikelssen Harbour. This is a beautiful, enclosed bay with the small island of Mikelsson to one side. It is surrounded by glaciers flowing down to the sea and is home to gentoo penguins and a number of Weddell seals. Guests went ashore to see the gentoo penguin colony and to visit a beach, which has whale bones and the carcass of an old wooden boat. The whale bones are evidence of the whaling industry, which first brought people to the area in the early 1800s and continued well into the 20th century. The boat was used back then as the equivalent of the modern-day Zodiac, to ferry people from ship to shore and back again. Guests were also given the option of a second round of kayaking, which many leapt at the chance. The kayakers were treated to calm weather, and good views of the glaciers calving, from a distance, of course. After lunch, National Geographic Resolution moved a short distance to Spert Island. This is a venue that can only be visited in very calm conditions, as they were today. The Zodiacs were loaded with eager guests who set off to the first stop, the chinstrap penguin colony on the end of one of the islands. This completed the check list of all three brush-tail penguins that inhabit this area. From there, the Zodiacs moved into the bay behind Spert Island, which gave views of raw, vertical cliffs that rose out of the sea, and which had been carved and beaten by the waves into caves and sheer faces of volcanic rock. Also, this bay is a collecting point for many icebergs that had drifted along the channel. The bergs were of all shapes and sizes, adding to the wild feeling of the bay. Unfortunately, it is time now to leave Antarctica and head out into the Drake Passage once more and make our way north. But with the beautiful, calm weather and stunning light playing on the sublime scenery, Antarctica is bidding us a fond farewell. We’ll be back.