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Antarctica 2010 - Day 9

Monday, February 01, 2010 13:41

Antarctica just will not stop surprising us.

 

We get a call at 6.30am announcing that we have reached the Lemaire Channel and conditions are perfect with mirror like waters, blue skies and sunshine.

 

Walking out onto deck we were greeted with the most amazing scenery yet. As we sailed through the channel we were surrounded on each side by huge mountain which then narrowed at the end of the channel. The peaks at the end formed what looked like some mythical gateway.


Passing through this natural gateway we then arrived at an iceberg strewn bay with bergs of all shapes and sizes stretching out all around as far as the eye could see.

 

Everyone was now on deck with cameras clicking trying to capture the beauty and sheer size of our surroundings but it really is impossible to do this place justice with a camera or words. It really does have to be seen to be believed.

The plan for today was a zodiac cruise around Pleneau Island and the bay to get close to the bergs and some of the seals that haul up on the bergs to sunbath.

 

Close to the ship we spotted a Leopard Seal basking on one the ice floes. Once zodiacs were loaded people started to get a little closer for a look. As we were looking at the seal a single Gentoo penguin, the main diet of Leopard Seals, darted from the water landing on the ice but within a second was back in the water, a bad choice of ice to land on. Funny to observe but at the same time you are reminded of how tough life is down here. It's a constant struggle for survival every day.

 

The kayakers had set out at the same time and headed across the bay visiting some of the shallower channels not accessible by zodiac. They got to cruise one channel with gigantic ice cliffs on one side dwarfing the kayaks as they passed. It's these times when you really feel how enormous Antarctica is.

 

Both groups also got to see some young Elephant seals basking on the rocks after feeding. It's unusual for this area but sometimes they do wander great distances from their normal breeding and feeding areas so this was a extra treat for us.

The rest of the time was just spent cruising around the icebergs in their many shapes and sizes. The wind and water can act as sculptures down here shaping and changing the bergs. Beautiful forms, colours, ice arches, glaciers and caves surround the whole area. It's hard to try taking it all in.

 

Back on board everyone is swapping their experiences and browsing photos before heading for lunch and preparing for the next outing.

 

This time it's off to Port Charcot and Booth Island to see more Elephant seals and penguin colonies and cruise some more of the icebergs in the area. The bay is so large and there is so much to see.

 

Tonight was the night when the first group went ashore to camp. There was a group of 15 and they headed off about 8.30 Pleneau Island. The first job was to get the tents set up in a good location and then prepare the sleeping equipment including sleeping bags and bivouac bags. Using this equipment you can choose to sleep out under the skies instead of the tents. The tents are there for additional shelter if a storm comes in. There are also emergency provisions available in the event that the campers cannot be retrieved the following morning. This is Antarctica and things can change very quickly so every event has to be planned for.

 

The weather was in their favour, not too cold, no wind and very light sporadic snowfall. Once all was setup the zodiacs returned to ship leaving the group to enjoy one of the most amazing sunsets. They were in for a real treat tonight camping in Antarctica.

 

 



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