If days are judged on a scale of 1-10, today was a ‘20’. We awoke off Booth Island (Port Charcot) to light rain, no wind, and clouds. By the time we stepped on shore, the rain had stopped. By midmorning, we were honored with mostly sunny skies…perfect conditions for the morning’s ops. One trek was a rather strenuous hike of 0.5 miles up a rise of slushy/soft snow to a cairn about 200 feet above sea level. The cairn was erected by members of the French Antarctic Expedition of 1903-1905 under the command of Jean Baptiste Charcot to investigate the Earth’s magnetic field. The other trek was up a gentler slope (again over snow) to a special penguin colony, one of the very few in Antarctica where three species (gentoo, Adelie, and chinstrap) mingle together and raise their chicks. We saw chicks of all three: newly hatched gentoos, older Adelies and chinstraps, and some gentoos still incubating eggs.
After lunch, we immediately began afternoon ops on Petermann Island. We again embarked on two treks: one overlooking the ‘Iceberg Graveyard,’ a small bay where bergs large and small accumulate at the whim of everchanging currents and winds. The other trek was to a shag colony that is surrounded by gentoos. We carefully circled a deeply sleeping Weddell seal. An Argentine emergency hut that was built in 1955 is now abandoned. The hut was near our landing site, and it was surrounded by gentoos with eggs and chicks.
Just before dinner, we began sailing through the spectacular Lemaire Channel. Almost immediately, a pod of 12-15 orcas ‘greeted’ us! After ‘leading’ us for a few minutes, they suddenly turned toward the ship. We were rewarded with a rare ‘swim-by’ right off the starboard side! And that wasn’t all! A bit later, we sailed through the Neumayer Channel, lined by high, jagged peaks and spawning glaciers that reach to the sea. Those on the stern witnessed (and photographed) the fiery afterglow of the sun exiting the day.
Truly, today was an unequivocal ‘20’!