30/03/2015 Day 6 on Antarctica started early again at 06:30 with a delicious breakfast. We would have our coldest day so far and be surrounded by at least 20 whales while attempting to strike another landing at Cuverville Island.
After a lot of blue sky and sunshine in the last days, we were now surrounded by a thick layer of low hanging clouds, covering the icy peaks around us in mysteriously looking fog. I really loved the atmosphere and it was a great contrast to the previous days. We could also spot some humpback whales in the distance, occasionally pressing out water through their blow hole, but sadly never really appearing over the surface. It was freezing cold this morning and thoughts of staying in the warm bed rather than waiting for the Zodiac to venture out into the cold Antarctic Ice were present, but obviously, never really pursued. On the beach, the Expedition Team briefed us on the main attractions to be taken that morning: One to walk north to overlook the entrance to the Errera and see the busy Gentoo rookeries there and then another at the opposite end of the beach to overlook icebergs and more penguins.
Cuverville island contains the largest Gentoo rookery in the area and at an earlier stage of the season, we would now face a horrible smell from all the penguin poo. Luckily for us, it was freezing cold and most of it covered in ice or snow. We had to be pretty careful walking around on the icy patches and observed the Gentoo penguins minding their own business. This usually involved just standing around and watching at us, sleeping, swimming, lying down, eating or even disco dancing their muscles. Some of them grouped up in a small pool at the shore, having a little pool party while others joined us to stare at the ocean when groups of humpback whales came by to show a glimpse of their body. Again, they would not emerge further unfortunately, but it was certainly nice to have them around!
Some chicks were present among the penguins as well, looking pretty funny with their Iroquois hair style. And of course, we also had some seals around again. This time though, we had to be a bit more careful though because they seemed pretty aggressive according to our crew. So we watched them fight it out between each other from a safe distance while the penguins came to check us out. My feet got really cold after a while and I decided to head back to our Ship. Basically, we had the freedom to stay a bit longer or shorter in each place if we wished, because enough zodiacs (six in total I believe it was) were always around and waiting for passengers to pick up – pretty good organisation and the luxury of using a small Ship as well! Watching the amazing icebergs around us in the zodiac as we were brought back, I couldn’t wait to get inside and warm up my body.
Back on board for 11:30, there was not much time to warm up. I spent around 15 minutes inside before people starting to yell that we were having whales around, so of course, I was heading out again as well! All around the ship were humpback whales performing: sleeping, tail lobbing, rolling around lazily and slapping their fins in the water. I could count around (20!) whales around us, all of them humpbacks, some bigger, some smaller but most of them pretty tired as it seemed. Everyone was out watching around for over an hour in the still cold day, I was switching between the outside deck and the inside to stare out of the window while warming up my hands. At some point, the action increased and some humpbacks were actually jumping out of the water, right at the bow of our ship! It was so amazing to see it in this landscape, and I really would have loved to capture it on pictures as well. Sadly, my Sony A3000 was really much slower than my broken A6000 and messed up with the auto focus, denying me the shots.
The crew called for Lunch and no one went in to eat. The whale show was exceptionally exciting and I was pretty sure that they would keep the food warm for us. We would navigate into a snow storm soon after, abruptly ending it though. While the passengers enjoyed the great lunch, we were approaching our next stop: Foyn Harbour. Instead of a landing, we were supposed to have a Zodiac tour to get super close to the whales. To my big disappointment, it was cancelled though due to lack of time and poor visibility. So we sat at anchor, in silky seas, with pale grey light all round with occasional patches of low visibility in snow flurries. Most people now finally retreated to their cabins until another whale was sighted. After hours of watching them in the cold, nearly everyone stayed inside now though. I didn’t, in the hope to get some more good shots done.
Later on, I joined the presentation about whales and played a round of chess with one of the guys on the ship while the snow storm around us made sure that we could not see a thing. Around 18:00 though, it cleared up and put the scenery in an amazing light. One side of the Ship was highlighted by the last pieces of blue sky, while the other turned into a pinkish orange light, producing a breath taking evening panorama. At 20:00, we started our night-long sail through the Gerlache Strait and parts of the Bransfield Strait towards the South Shetland Islands. As every day, the crew would let us know what we would do the next day and for tomorrow, it really sounded great: We would pass through Neptune´s Bellows into Whalers Bay for a morning landing at Deception Island, the caldera of an active volcano.
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