Our last day on the white continent was a memorable one. The morning started with a continental landing in Neko Harbour. Towering peaks surrounded by glaciers made for stunning scenery. This landing can be challenging due to ice from frequent calving. Sailing aboard National Geographic Endurance, an ice-class Polar Code PC5 (category A) ship, allows us to reach remote places despite challenging conditions.
The still surface of the water reflected perfect images of the glacier and the mountains. After arriving on a cobble beach, we hiked up the icy steps and began following the trail. We beheld a magnificent view of the white continent once we reached the top. Along the path, which also serves as a penguin highway, we observed active gentoo penguin colonies. Nesting penguins occasionally left their nests, revealing an egg or two! Gentoos and skuas stole pebbles from one another and defended their territory.
In the afternoon, we noticed a Weddell seal resting on ice as we traveled back down the path. We listened to the breathing sounds of this fascinating phocid, or earless seal. Weddell seals sing to one another; they have an extensive underwater repertoire. They are also the most southern breeding mammal in the world and the only seal that overwinters in Antarctica.
After lunch, we went on a Zodiac cruise. Mysterious clouds covered the sky, and as true explorers, we toured the Melchior archipelago, full of massive bright blue icebergs. As we approached a narrow passage in the channel, we witnessed an iceberg break. The sound and speed of the process showed us how dynamic ice is.
Just around the corner, we found dozens of Weddell seals resting on fast ice in an enclosed bay between glaciers. As we explored a little more, we glimpsed the beginning of the Southern Ocean. We headed toward the Drake Passage, where a humpback whale lifted his fluke, wishing us well on our journey!