Another big day today! Morning starts quite early, in the middle of the night almost anywhere else, but it’s not very dark here when we heard the PA announcement: “Orcas! Killer whales, all around the ship.” These are smallish Type B killer whales and there are many of them. They hunt penguins and fish, and do not attack other whales in the area, such as minkes and humpbacks.
After breakfast we are at Booth Island. Lots of penguins, both gentoo and chinstraps breed here. Plus, there is snow with nice handmade paths and a hike. The hike is to the top of a hill with an almost 360° view. At the top is a rock cairn with a wooden pillar, like a huge street sign, commemorating the first French expedition led by Jean-Baptiste Charcot that wintered here in 1904. We also found a healthy and diverse community of lichens.
After kayaking, we have lunch as National Geographic Explorer transits the Lemaire Channel from north to south. It is a narrow waterway with steep snowy cliffs on either side, one of the most beautiful passages in the peninsula. There is much ice in the channel, but our ship nicely skims through the ice. The sun is out in full force and the world is a festival of sparkles. South of the channel, there is broken pack ice, including floes. These are flat puzzle-pieces with the imprints of penguins and seals. Some of the imprint makers are still here, lazing seals and inquisitive penguins.
What is next on this beautiful day? A BBQ on deck with grilled sausages and cold beer, camaraderie and incredible scenery.