Cuverville Island, Neko Harbour and the Lemaire Channel


Cuverville Island

Friday, Jan 31st

It is Chinese New Year today and the first day of the Year of the Horse. And we had an absolutely amazing day. We woke up to a perfectly clear blue sky and sunshine and we are now officially in Antarctica! We crossed the Bransfield Straight overnight and have reached the mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula. We are surrounded by huge mountains covered in enormous glaciers and the waters around us are full of beautiful blue icebergs. No pictures will be able to get even close to capturing the beauty of this scene.

After a quick breakfast, we are in the first group to go sea kayaking. The waters around the boat are as flat as a mirror. We have a two-person inflatable kayak, which we were told is very hard to flip. However, we still have to wear safety sensors, which go off and alert the safety boat, if we fall into the water. You probably wouldn’t be able to survive much more than a couple of minutes in this water. The kayaking is amazing. The water is so clear that we can see all the way to the bottom. We paddle through lots of floating ice, which is a bit tricky to do when you hit ice chunks with your paddle all the time. The views around us are breathtaking. We were told to stay well away from the larger icebergs, since they can flip any time, and some of the icebergs are a lot bigger than our kayak. We also stay well away from the huge glacier walls, to avoid being killed by house size chunks of ice falling off or being swept into the ocean by tidal waves from calving glaciers. Occasionally we can hear roaring sounds of the glaciers moving and cracking. 

                    Kayaking near Cuverville Island

We spent a bit over an hour in the kayak. Afterwards we have another land outing to a Gentoo penguin colony nearby. We are on an island called Cuverville Island. There is a lot of snow here, and we can climb up and slide down the slope at one spot. Some of the penguins nest fairly high above the water, and they seem to have a tough climb up through the snow. They all walk along the same path, so there are well worn penguins trails going up the snow to the rocky patches higher up.

The weather is so nice and warm today, that we have a barbeque lunch on the outside deck. Hamburgers, beers and sunshine in Antarctica - a somewhat unreal experience.
                              Mount Francais (2760m)

Neko Harbor, Andvord Bay 
The boat starts moving again during lunch towards Andvord Bay. Along the way we see several whales, one of them coming within a few meters of the boat. For the first time we also see a couple of other ships. Apparently the cruise ships all talk to each other every day to arrange their schedules and landing spots so we rarely see any other ships. Our next land outing is the first onto the Antarctic mainland. We are at Neko Harbour in Andvord Bay.

Out on land we hike uphill for about 150 meters for an amazing view over the bay and the glaciers. In the distance we see the highest mountain on the Antarctic Peninsula, Mount Francais (2760m). It looks much smaller from here, because you lose any sense of perspective. You only see mountains, glaciers and icebergs with no other size reference, so the glacier ice walls dropping into the waters on the other side of the bay could be 10 meters high or 300 meters high. It’s impossible to tell.

There is a Gentoo penguin colony below with lots of cute little chicks. However, while walking through the colony, we also witness a brutal killing, as two skuas manage to snatch one of the chicks. Watching them kill the chick is fairly gruesome, as they keep hacking at its head and eyes while the little chick is still moving and whimpering. It is quite a brutal scene, but the little skua chicks have to eat as well.  

After the hike we go on a Zodiac cruise across the bay. We see lots of seals lying on icebergs, and penguins porpoising through the water. (Our goal is try to take a picture of the porpoising action, but they are really fast, and we end up with hundreds of pictures of water and waves, where the penguin had come out half a second ago.)

The Lemaire Channel

After dinner the boat passes through the Lemaire Channel. We all get out on deck again to watch the spectacular scenery as the ship navigates the very narrow passage between steep rock walls on either side.

Before we go to bed we hear the exciting announcement that we may be able to cross the Antarctic Circle tomorrow.

Previous Chapter                       Back to Main Menu                       Next Chapter

No comments:

Post a Comment