Classic Antarctica Trip Log (27 Dec, 2017 - 8 Jan, 2018) -Tuesday, Jan 2

Classic Antarctica Trip Log (27 Dec, 2017 - 8 Jan, 2018) -Tuesday, Jan 2
January 2018
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"Tongue and pen fail in attempting to describe the magic.." so wrote Ernest Shackleton. Indeed our activities today, in glorious weather, have presented scenes beyond description. These are the sort of days operators in Antarctica dream of, the sort of days that cement one's reputation as leader of the pack. During the night we sailed the scenic Gerlache Strait, first explored by Adrien de Gerlache on the Belgica in January/February 1898. An expedition which overwintered involuntarily in the Antarctic, with American Dr. Frederick Cook on board along with soon-to-be-famous, Roald Amundsen. For many there may be some sensory overload taking place, such is the magnitude and splendour of this extraordinary place.

The morning was spent at Cuverville Island, named by de Gerlache in honor of a vice Admiral in the French Navy. Freezing temperatures overnight created a most gorgeous environment, but such slippery conditions ashore that hiking to the high viewpoint above the bay was impossible. The snow was so frozen that it never even crunched beneath our boots. Many guests made their way up the slopes to enjoy the view, and tried to slide back down. Most guests battled so in getting up the slopes, that the idea of a hike was absolutely out of the question. The views were breathtaking with sunlight on much of the scene, Humpback Whales close to shore, and plenty of Gentoo Penguins. Antarctic wonderlands at their very best. Some cloud hanging low over the mountain tops, but generally a fairly clear sky, and no wind.

After the excitemenet and gandeur of Cuverville, ‘Le Lyrial’ sailed through the narrow, extremely scenic Errera Channel, separating the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula and Ronge Island. Rightly known as the Antarctic Alps, this piece of geography, with many icebergs, proved worthy of its reputation.

The afternoon was spent at Neko Harbor, a small bay indenting the eastern shore of Andvord Bay along the west coast of Graham Land. With its actively calving glaciers and lofty mountain peaks surrounding the small bay, it really is a dream destination. In deep, compacted snow guests were able to walk up the slope, via nesting Gentoo Penguin colonies, to a vantage point, Russ Manning having carefully checked first for crevasses. Some chose to slide down, creating much pleasure and amusement. Most just wanted to meander slowly absorbing Antarctica at her very best. Expedition Leader, Agustin Ullmann, tackled Historian Rob Caskie in front of a large group of guests, but being of much slighter build ended up being picked up and placed bodily in the deep snow by the larger South African, much to the guests' delight. The camaraderie and team spirit in this Expedition Team is magnificent. Naturalist Cobus Kilian found an extraordinary piece of clear ice, the size of a large Elephant Seal. We could not decide whether the hollowed ice looked liked a mammal's skeleton, or something out of Battleship Galactica. Two symmetrical openings at one end, looking like the afterburners on a fighter jet, responded with a drumming sound to the wake of the Zodiac. Everyone wanted to take a photograph of this natural phenomenon, like something we have never seen before. Humpback and Minke Whales put in appearances this afternoon, guests watched penguin eggs hatching, chicks being stolen by Skuas and Kelp Gulls raising their young. A stationary Weddell Seal on the landing beach happily obliged photographers and guests alike, looking like a huge sleeping sausage with a cat-like face. Once again stepping onto the Antarctic Continent adding to the magical afternoon.

Krill remains the foundation of much biology and ecosystem of the Southern Ocean. Eaten by very nearly everything, from Baleen Whales to seals, fish and seabirds. The exoskeleton has a very high concentration of fluoride. Penguins have a stomach lining to absorb this fluoride, before being regurgitated, which we regularly show our guests. If harvested for human consumption, the skeleton must immediately be removed to prevent contamination of the flesh, raising the costs of harvesting and processing markedly. On account of its color, most droppings in Antarctica tend to be pinkish, since the overriding component of the diets is Krill. As I write this piece 'Le Lyrial' is steaming along the Gerlache Strait proving what a capable, sleek and fast vessel she is. Earlier the propellers were stirring up much green diatomic algae, which in turn nourishes the Krill, hence our seeing so many whales today. We are heading for the Lemaire Channel (Fujichrome Fjord as it is known to many, and one of the most photographed spots in Antarctica) where internet access is impossible, so I shall send this off immediately, and pick up the tale tomorrow.


Click Here to read 'Wednesday, January 3: Charlotte Bay and Hydruga Rocks/Two Hummock Islands'

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